Tips, Tricks and Nutrition to help achieve your hair goals.Posted on January 23, 2017
Posted by: Sophie Manolas
Along with skin and fingernails, hair is one of the first parts of our bodies to show signs of nutrient deficiency, as your body takes nutrients needed for ‘not essential’ body parts to concentrate them on the vital organs. Here are some important nutrients to include in your diet as well as lifestyle tips to help if you find your hair brittle, breaking easily, thinning or dull or simply want to maintain a gorgeous, glorious full head of hair!
Hair (like fingernails) is made up primarily of keratin, a protein which is itself made up of a wide range of amino acids. When you either don’t eat enough or a wide range of different forms of protein, your body doesn’t have the ‘raw materials’ to make a long, strong strand of shiny, brilliant hair, which in turn leads to breakage of the hair strand, thinning of the follicle and not producing as many follicles. Including a wide range of good quality, organic protein sources like legumes and whole grains, sustainable seafood, nuts and seeds and pastured eggs and meat will ensure your body has those raw amino acids to form keratin, meaning beautiful hair for you!
Mineral & vitamin deficiency
Vitamins and minerals play a big role in hair production and lustre too; silica, iron, copper, biotin, vitamin E, selenium and zinc in particular can all affect just how well your hair grows. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that our bodies use in the synthesis of proteins (meaning the body needs zinc in order to knit those amino acids together to make keratin), while selenium also plays a role in the building of keratin out of the ‘building blocks’ of aminos. Silica helps to maintain connective tissues and blood flow to the hair follicle, encouraging good growth. Severe iron deficiency anaemia can also result in hair loss as the body takes that iron (and resulting oxygenated blood) away from hair follicles, causing them to stop functioning. The easiest and best way to ensure you are getting enough of these nutrients to your scalp and hair is to eat a wide range of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and pastured organic eggs and sustainable seafood.
It is well known that chemically overloading the hair is not good for it (or the rest of your body for that matter!) and over bleaching and colouring, heat styling and chemical processes like perming and straightening will weaken the bonds of the hair, making them dull and prone to breakage, but regular use of shampoo and conditioner (and other hair products) can strip hair of it’s natural oils and encourage dandruff or the overproduction of sebum. Cheap, industrial chemicals like sulfates and silicon can give the short term illusion of clean hair but the long term affect on your hair is dull, depleted, weak hair and they can be irritating to more sensitive skin types. Inflamed, irritated scalps lead to unhappy hair follicles! Silicon used in conditioners coats the hair creating an impenetrable surface, causing dry hair as your own natural oils can not penetrate into the hair shaft. Give your hair a break and choose hair products with natural, plant-derived ingredients tailored to your hair type and condition. 100% Pure’s Burdock & Neem shampoo and conditioner can help treat a dry, itchy scalp that has been stripped and depleted, while the kelp and mint range can bring luscious strength and volume to limp, lank locks.
Medical conditions can also cause hair loss, such as hypothyroidism. Low T3 (active thyroid hormone) can cause hair to thin and fall out. If you suspect you may have an underactive thyroid, consult with a qualified health practitioner and have your thyroid levels checked. You can read more about Hypothyroidism and its symptoms here.
Essential Fatty Acids
When we don’t get enough essential fatty acids in our diet, symptoms can be very similar to hypothyroidism and so hair loss can result. If you have ruled out hypothyroidism (ie your thyroid hormone levels are normal) but you are experiencing similar symptoms like fatigue, dry skin and hair loss, essential fatty acid deficiency could be the answer.
We are all familiar with the tearing-your-hair-out image of stress but stress-related hair loss is a very real condition that is tied to vitamin and mineral deficiency as our bodies re-route those skin and hair-nourishing nutrients to meet our greater nutrient requirements to deal with stress. If you are going through a period of mental, emotional or physical stress, ensure you are getting enough macro and micronutrients in your diet by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as including good fats, complex carbohydrates like root vegetables and protein and take care of your digestive health by eating probiotics foods like full fat plain yoghurt or fermented foods like kombucha or sauerkraut or take a probiotics supplement. Supplemental B complex vitamins and vitamin C can also be beneficial at this time. Try to introduce a ‘sleep hygiene’ routine into your everyday to make sure you are getting plenty of sleep as well! My personal strategy for getting a great quality 8 hours of sleep each night can be found here. Sleeping is when our bodies do their very best repair work and can make a huge difference in regulating our inflammatory stress hormones and ability to cope with stress.
Sophie is a qualified Clinical Nutritionist, best-selling author of ‘The Essential Edible Pharmacy’ and passionate permaculture principle farmer. She lives in Australia with her partner, 4 horses, 3 dogs and a bunch of chickens and rabbits and is probably cooking something amazing right now as we speak. Follow her adventures at theediblepharmacy.com or on instagram @theediblepharmacy