Nutrition and Hair Health
Nutrition can have an enormous benefit on the health of hair. Good nutrition can show in hair growth and hair fibre being thick, strong, shiny in appearance and poor or deficient nutrition typically correlates with hair loss symptoms, hair thinning, gloomy dry or fragile hair.
Nutrients for hair are received from the blood supply which brings both the nutrients and oxygen to the dermal papilla which are projections based at the bottom of the hair bulb which supplies blood to the epidermis through a network of sensory nerve endings to which it is associated.
Malnutrition can affect the hair cycle by slowing down the rate hair grows and by affecting the fragility of the hair shaft.
Nutrient Deficiency leading to temporary hair loss may occur by crash dieting, or eating disorders, medical conditions such as anaemia, thyroid disease or polycystic ovaries which will cause a diffuse hair thinning of the hair known as telogen effluvium.
As any other body cells, hair cells need a balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates, iron, vitamins and minerals to function at their best.
The following vitamins are important for hair health;
Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A as the body needs it. Vitamin A acts as a natural antioxidant and important to bone development and hair growth and forms a protective sheathing around nerve fibers, promotes healthy nails and skin. If taken as supplement, the recommended daily dosage of Beta-carotene is 10,000 to 15,000 IU.
Is one of the most important nutrients for hair strength, texture and function. It is found naturally in a high protein diet such as Liver, eggs and soy. If taken as a supplement, the recommended daily dosage of d-biotin is 500 – 1000 mcg.
- Vitamins B1, B2, Niacin & Pantothenic acid
A Reduced levels of vitamin B1 (thiamin) , vitamin B2 (riboflavin), niacin and pantothenic acid lack of these vitamins can leave the hair follicles under nourished.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Contributes to hair strength, hair flexibility and lustre. This vitamin helps to prevent hair loss and contributes to the retention of melanin which stops hair from turning grey.
- Vitamin B6
This vitamin can naturally be found in egg yolks, liver and cereals and helps to prevent seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff).
- Vitamin B12
This vitamin can naturally be found in chicken, fish, milk and eggs and helps to prevent hair loss.
- Vitamin D
Low vitamin D can affect the severity of patients with Alopecia Areata a non-scarring alopecia.
- Vitamin E
If taken as a supplement, the recommended daily dosage of selenium is 25 – 50mcg.
- Folic acid
Folic acid is essential for the maintenance of methionine levels within the body. A lack of folic acid will result in a decrease in hair follicle cell division and growth. Other symptoms of low folic acid are fatigue, premature hair greying, apathy and anemia.
If taken as a supplement, the recommended daily dosage of folic acid is 400 – 800 mcg.
Cell mediators that act on cell membrane phospholipids in hair follicles are stimulated by a portion of the bodies calcium supply. High doses of calcium can also be harmful, therefore it is recommended that should you be calcium deficient and a supplement is required it is taken as magnesium with supplemental calcium as the magnesium creates a balance. If taken as a supplement, the recommended daily dosage of calcium is 100 – 200 mcg.
Zinc plays an important role in mitosis as it is essential for DNA and RNA production. It also acts as a stabilizes for cell membrane structures and helps to break down and remove and superoxide radicals. Generally zinc intake is low, it can be found naturally in seafood, meat and eggs.
If taken as a supplement, the recommended daily dosage of Zinc in the form of zinc amino acid chelate is 15 mg.
Topical zinc applications have proven to be effective in the reduction of hair loss activity for 5 alpha reductase type 2 (5-AR type II), enzymes involved in steroid metabolism. Low calorie diets are usually an indicating factor in young females that zinc levels maybe low.
Iron deficiency causes anaemia, which affects the most organs and pilosebaceous follicles. Hair loss caused by a deficiency of iron, appears in the form of male or female pattern baldness, however, hair loss due to iron deficiency is not permanent.
A ferritin level blood test is used to assess the ferritin (protein) levels which helps the body retain iron. Iron can naturally be found in; liver which should be avoided during pregnancy, meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit, wholegrains, soy, fortified breakfast cereals, dark green leafy veg such as kale.
Should levels be low then it can be taken as a supplement the recommended daily dosage of iron is 8.7mg for males over 18 years, l14.8mg females 19 – 50 years, 8.7mg for women over 50 years.
Iodine supports thyroid hormone production, any disruption can cause slower hair growth. If iodine is needed it can be taken in the form of kelp tablets, the recommended daily dosage of iodine is 112 – 225 mcg.
- L-Methonine is one of four amino acids that contain sulfur. Sulphur is needed by the hair cells to support hair strength and growth. it promotes healthy connective tissue formation.
- L – Cystein is one of the four amino acids that contains Sulphur. High levels of this amino acid play a vital role in hair, nails and skin. Should a deficiency occur, hair loss may be an indicating factor.
- L Lysine is one of the four amino acids that contributes to males pattern baldness should a deficiency occur. A typical Asian diet is rich in L – Lysine therefore affecting the 5 – alpha-reductase enzyme levels which reduces the effects of male pattern baldness.
- L-Taurine is one of four amino acids, this is regarded as one of the most important for hair health. It is a building block for proteins such as keratin which is what hair fiber is made of. L – Taurine can be found naturally in fish and meat. A deficiency in L -Taurine can causes hair to lose its colour, keratin strength and even result in hair loss.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)
Fatty acids are vital nutrients essential for hair growth, thus finding low or non fat diets can result in hair loss as the lack of fat causes the skin and scalp to dry up. Bad fats can also encourage the production of DHT. DHT derives from testosterone, in large quantities it can attack the hair follicles, causing it to narrow and shrink which causes hair loss and or hair thinning. PUFA’S can be naturally found in walnuts, flax seed or fish oil, they play an important role in cell structure, barrier function, lipid synthesis, inflammation and immunity.
Complex carbohydrates play a major role in converting protein into the hair cells that hair is formed from. They provide the energy in which is needed as hair is the second fastest growing cells in the body. Hair is regarded as a non-priority organ, so should carbohydrate levels drop the hair is fed last as it’s not seen as a priority and this may show externally by a premature shedding of hair.
Prolonged lack of carbohydrates may result in the body converting stored proteins such as muscle into energy, which causes stress on the kidneys and liver which can also result in hair loss.
Complex carbohydrates can be found naturally in; baked beans, whole grain cereal, peas, parsnips, Jacket potatoes, barley, oatmeal, brown rice, pasta, legumes, fresh fruit.
Once consumed energy to hair cells drops 4 hrs after eating, regular snacking on complex carbohydrates in between meals will sustain energy levels.
Aging is an inevitable process in which our bodies functions start to slow down in their processing and the body begins to become undernourished. Hair then becomes may change in colour, structure and density. It is important to get regular checks to maintain healthy levels use supplements where needed and gain nutrients from foods which have been suggested within this essay for optimal hair health. Water is also essential for a healthy body as it quenches thirsts and aids the digestion of food. Superfoods may be effective in the control of biological aging. Items such as blueberries, broccoli, sprouts, garlic, ginger, super green mixes or medicinal herbs are all beneficial to health.
Water – is important in general bodily health and potentially good hair health. Water quenches thirst and aids food digestion.
Treatment and Prognosis
A blood test combined with a clinical hair examination and questioning will ascertain which nutrients are deficient. It is a case of replacing those deficient to the levels in which they will function correctly. Once the optimal levels have been reached, the hair loss will cease, hair growth restored to normal functioning, hair will gain back it’s lutre, thicken and regain its strength. Should these levels relapse the hair loss, hair thinning, dull, dry or weakend hair will reoccur.