For many people, hair loss is a natural part of aging. Genetics certainly play a role in this, as some people start losing their hair by age thirty, while others never seem to lose their thick, luscious locks. However, there are additional factors that influence the speed of hair growth or loss, including medications and dietary habits. You cannot change your age or genetics. But you can control your diet, as there are specific nutrients that promote healthy, shiny hair growth.
WHICH NUTRIENTS HELP PREVENT HAIR LOSS?
If you’re experiencing hair loss and want to stop it, you should start by examining your diet. Nutrition plays a huge role in the health of your hair, just as it does with any other part of the body. Nutrients truly are the building blocks of life. Hair loss is often caused by a deficiency in important vitamins, fats, minerals, and proteins.
Every cell in your body depends on Vitamin A for growth. It is no wonder that your hair, the most rapidly growing tissue in your body, needs plenty of it! This essential vitamin keeps your hair nourished by helping your skin glands create sebum. Sebum is a natural, oily substance that keeps your scalp hydrated and your hair strong.
A word of caution: don’t overdo it on Vitamin A supplements. Overdosing on Vitamin A has adverse side effects, including hair loss. It is best to get your daily intake of Vitamin A through whole, natural foods.
B Vitamins are also essential for healthy hair growth because they help your hair get the nourishment it needs by assisting in the production of new red blood cells that deliver nutrients and oxygen to your hair follicles and scalp.
You may have seen advertisements for something called biotin; biotin is simply one type of B Vitamin. Researchers have linked biotin deficiency with hair loss, so it definitely is important. Biotin helps your body produce keratin, which is an important hair protein.
Do you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet? If you’re struggling with hair loss, it may be due to a Vitamin B deficiency. This is because many animal products are the best food sources of Vitamin B. However, there are plenty of plant-based sources of Vitamin B, including nori seaweed, squash, walnuts, and tempeh.
As you age, oxidative stress can lead to damage from free radicals, resulting in hair loss. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that shields your body, skin, and hair from free radical damage. Additionally, Vitamin C promotes collagen synthesis. Collagen is another protein that comprises much of your hair.
Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron more efficiently. Iron deficiency and anemia can cause chronic hair loss, so it’s important that your body is absorbing iron effectively.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
One of the most common nutritional deficiencies in people who are experiencing hair loss is in omega-3 fatty acids. These are a type of fat that your body needs but does not produce on its own. This type of deficiency is more common in vegan or vegetarians, since fish and fish oil are the most popular food sources of omega-3 fatty acids. (However, there are plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as chia seeds and walnuts.)
Omega-3 fatty acids moisturize your scalp from the inside out. Scientists have discovered that consuming more omega-3 fatty acids may reverse hair loss. If you like to eat fish, fatty fish are especially good sources of omega-3 fatty acids for hair growth. This is because they contain other important nutrients linked to hair growth, including B Vitamins, protein, and Vitamin D3.
Iron is another nutrient that has been found lacking in people experiencing hair loss. Like Vitamin B, iron helps by promoting healthy red blood cells. The particular function of iron in healthy red blood cell processes is that it encourages the red blood cells to circulate throughout your entire body, including your scalp and hair follicles.
Zinc is a vital mineral that helps regulate hair growth and prevent hair loss by supporting healthy oil glands surrounding your hair follicles. Deficiency in zinc can lead to a condition called telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is hair loss that occurs because of nutritional deficiencies. This type of hair loss has been shown to be reversible when treated with zinc supplements.
Since your hair consists largely of a protein, it is important to include protein in your diet. In fact, diets deficient in protein may cause hair loss. Keratin and collagen are two vital proteins that comprise your hair. Foods rich in amino acids, compounds that your body uses to form proteins, assist your body in creating new keratin and collagen.
THE 11 BEST FOODS FOR HAIR GROWTH
Squash is a traditionally warm, comforting food. It’s versatile, too! You can serve it warm, with a little bit of brown sugar, or make a more elaborate dish like homemade squash soup. Whichever way you choose to prepare it, squash provides the Vitamin A, Vitamin B, and omega-3 fatty acids that your hair so desperately needs.
If you follow a low-FODMAP diet and/or struggle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), squash is a FODMAP-free food that’s a natural source of soluble fiber. The soluble fiber may reduce symptoms of IBS-related bloating.
Your mother was right: you should eat your broccoli! It is rich in fiber, zinc, calcium, Vitamins A and C, and selenium. These vitamins fortify hair follicles and help reduce hair loss by fostering natural oil production. Additionally, broccoli’s omega-9 fatty acid promotes healthier, more lustrous hair.
This leafy green vegetable contains a whole slew of important nutrients, like iron, folate, and Vitamins A and C. These are all important for good tissue and organ functioning in the body, including hair growth.
Spinach is somewhat of a miracle food for vegans, since it is a good plant-based source of iron. As an added bonus, spinach is an incredibly IBS-friendly food, since it’s easy to digest. It’s also another safe source of fiber for people adhering to a low-FODMAP diet.
4. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are an excellent vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain phosphorus, l-lysine, and essential amino acids, all of which support hair growth. The keratin in chia seeds helps promote thicker, stronger locks. An extra benefit is that Chia seeds contain prebiotics, which are essential for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
5. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are full of Vitamin C, providing a juicy protection against free radical damage. Oranges, grapefruit, and kumquats are a few examples of beneficial citrus fruits. Another way to work citrus fruits into your diet is to squeeze fresh lemon or lime into your water. This is a great way to satisfy your craving for a flavourful beverage while avoiding potential weight gain from diet drinks and/or the sugary beverages that are so popular today.
Kale just might be this decade’s most popular “superfood,” and for good reason! It is a good low-calorie source of Vitamins A and C, as well as fiber and iron. The Vitamin A hydrates your scalp, stimulating tissue growth. Furthermore, the Vitamin C supports healthy collagen production and helps your body absorb the iron.
If you struggle with chronic fatigue, you may benefit from this light, refreshing vegetable in more ways than one. In addition to improving hair growth, the high levels of iron in kale may help you feel more awake and energized.
You have probably heard that carrots promote better eyesight. But did you know that they are wonderful for preventing hair loss, too? These orange gems contain Vitamins A, B, and C – the perfect fertilizers for healthy hair. Moreover, carrots’ natural magnesium and phosphorus support better circulation of blood in your scalp, facilitating a healthy hair growth cycle.
8. Cold Water Fish
Cold water fish such as herring, salmon, cod, and mackerel are excellent sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Regular consumption of such fish, or fish oil supplements, will help shield your hair from damage and encourage healthy, shiny regrowth.
Oysters are one of the best food sources of zinc. The zinc found in oysters assists in stabilizing your body’s production of androgen, which helps keep your hair growing at a healthy rate. Although zinc supplements are an option, it is always best to get nutrients from food sources when possible. Oysters also provide the biotin and protein that your hair needs to grow properly.
Walnuts contain two of the “top three” nutrients for preventing hair loss: omega-3 fatty acids and biotin (a type of Vitamin B). They are also good sources of magnesium, fiber, and protein. In addition to eating walnuts, rubbing walnut oil directly on your scalp may increase hair growth. According to the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, applying walnut oil topically is an effective remedy for baldness.
Similar foods, like almonds, are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Flaxseed contains multiple nutrients that support hair growth: various B Vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, copper, and magnesium. These nutritious little seeds also contain antioxidants, which help shield your hair from free radical damage. You can mix flaxseed in with oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothies. Some people even like to make topical flaxseed hair masks, which typically consist of water, ground flaxseed, and tea tree or lavender essential oils.
ARE YOUR MEDICATIONS MAKING YOUR HAIR FALL OUT?
In addition to poor nutrition, many medications can cause hair loss. They do so by impeding your hair’s natural hair growth cycle. Although this hair loss can take a toll on your self-confidence, keep in mind that this particular side effect typically stops soon after you discontinue the medication. You may want to consider naturopathic methods to replace the medications, so that you can have effective treatment without the side effects.
The following medications are known for causing hair loss:
- Acne medications
- Antifungal medications
- Blood thinners
- Chemotherapy medications
- Cholesterol-lowering medications
- Epilepsy medications
- High blood pressure medications
- Hormone replacement therapy (Estrogen or progesterone for women; androgens and testosterone for men)
- Immunosuppressant medications
- Mood stabilizers
- NSAIDS (Anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen)
- Oral contraceptives
- Parkinson’s Disease medications
- Thyroid medications
If you take one or more of these medications and are experiencing hair loss, talk to your doctor about changing your dose or trying an alternate method of treatment. For drugs that you decide to continue taking for a fixed amount of time, such as chemotherapy medications, remember that following a nutrient-specific diet following discontinuation will likely speed up hair growth.
USING SCALP HYPOTHERMIA TO PREVENT HAIR LOSS DURING CHEMOTHERAPY
One method of preventing hair loss during chemotherapy is called scalp hypothermia. Scalp hypothermia refers to cooling the scalp with special “cooling caps” or ice packs throughout chemotherapy treatment. The belief is that by constricting the blood vessels in the scalp, you can reduce the amount of chemotherapy medication that reaches the hair follicles.
It is helpful to understand that chemotherapy medications are designed to target rapidly dividing cells. Therefore, cooling the cells slows down the activity of the hair follicles, making them less appealing to the aggressive chemotherapy medications.
Although results are varied, depending on each person and the type of chemotherapy drugs used, many studies do show a reduction in hair loss via scalp hypothermia during chemotherapy. Furthermore, new digitized scalp cooling systems show even more promising results.
TREAT YOUR HAIR LOSS AT THE DEMPSTER CLINIC- CENTER FOR FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE
If you are struggling with hair loss, I invite you to schedule an appointment at my clinic, The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine. I will work with you in order to develop the best plan to revitalize your hair, including measuring essential nutrients to optimize hair growth
Please take advantage of the Complimentary 15-minute Discovery Session that I offer for all potential patients. This “no strings attached” session can take place over the phone or at the clinic in person. It gives you a chance to learn more about the services I offer and how they can be of benefit to you.
Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment today! Your best health awaits.
Dr. John Dempster BSc., ND, FAAFM
The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine