Luscious locks. Flowing tresses. Who doesn’t want to have a full head of shiny, gorgeous hair? Society certainly views beautiful hair as a symbol of youth and beauty.
However, particularly as we age, many of us find that the soft, full hair we may have taken for granted in our younger days starts to fade and becomes thinner and more brittle. These changes happen to both men’s hair and women’s hair.
How Much Hair Loss is Normal?
Did you know that it is considered normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day? While this seems like a lot, the greater concern is to lose this much hair and not have enough regrowth of new hair.
Is Hair Loss Permanent?
Whether hair loss is permanent or temporary depends on the cause of hair loss. Where hair loss is most likely to be permanent is if the scalp is scarred, as in scarring alopecia. If the root cause of hair loss is found and addressed, hair loss can be reversed in most cases. Hair loss treatments like minoxidil are only temporary measures that result in hair loss once they are discontinued because they are not fixing the root cause, only masking it.
As You Age, So Does Your Hair
Of course, it makes sense that our hair is damaged as we age. Your hair only grows less than half an inch every month. Because hair grows so slowly, if your hair is long, the hair at the ends experiences years of damage from hair treatments and the elements. Your hair is also affected by hormonal changes in our bodies. Hormones play a role in hair loss or growth, fine hair, changes in texture, and the presence or absence of those pesky grey hairs!
Searching For The Fountain Of Youth for Your Hair
What’s the solution for thinning hair? The beauty industry tells us the secret to beautiful hair is finding the right “products.” It’s definitely possible to spend hundreds of dollars trying to find something that works.
However, no matter how many shampoo reviews you read, you can only find so much hair magic in a bottle. In fact, many shampoos and other hair products actually damage your hair because they contain harmful chemicals.
The truth is that a full head of beautiful hair starts from within. As a result, a good diet for healthy hair is far more important than topical remedies for hair.
How to Have Stronger, Fuller, Faster-Growing Hair
To fully understand the impact of diet and lifestyle choices on your hair, it helps to know more about your hair’s composition. What is hair made from anyway? The main building blocks that give your hair its strength and structure are a protein known as keratin, and a B-family vitamin called biotin. In terms of molecular composition, your hair is made up of 45% carbon, 28% oxygen, 15% nitrogen, 7% hydrogen and 5% sulfur.
Hair strands are composed of a fibrous protein called keratin. In fact, so are your finger and toenails. One of the primary components of keratin is choline. Choline is an essential vitamin-like nutrient with many different roles in your body. It is found in a variety of foods such as eggs, salmon and cauliflower.
What About Doing Keratin Treatments?
There is no evidence that keratin treatments are an effective means of improving hair texture or quality, at least not over the long term. In fact, these products often contain chemicals, like formaldehyde, that are harmful.
Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, contributes to the formation of keratin. Because of this relationship, it’s not surprising that scientists have found that being deficient in biotin leads to hair loss. In fact, one study found that supplementing with biotin helps to slow hair fall in women with thinning hair, leading to fuller, shinier hair as well as smoother skin after 6 months. Deficiency of biotin has also been linked with inflammation that adversely affects your scalp, and therefore also your hair.
The Gut Health Connection To Good Hair
Interestingly, scientists have also found that the amount of bad bacteria in our gut affects the formation of biotin. That means that beautiful hair isn’t necessarily as simple as making sure that you have consumed enough biotin. Gut bacteria also play a role in hormone balance. Your microbiome, digestion, and absorption need to be right for great hair too.
Factors that positively influence your gut bacteria, and in turn improve your biotin production, include managing your stress levels, getting good sleep, regular exercise, keeping sugar and refined carbs in check and ensuring your nutrition is balanced.
Common Causes of Hair Loss
The following are common reasons why your hair may be falling out:
- Iron deficiency or low iron
- Hypothyroidism or low thyroid function
- Androgenetic Alopecia, also known as male or female pattern hair loss
- Alopecia Areata, this is patchy balding caused by autoimmune disease
- Lupus or other autoimmune diseases
- Post-partum, losing hair after having a baby is quite common. This is caused by the sudden change in hormones that accompanies childbirth triggering sudden hair loss.
- Telogen effluvium that is often triggered by stress, iron deficiency or hypothyroidism.
Top Tips For Healthy Hair
Now that you have a clearer understanding of the factors behind healthy hair, how can you prevent hair loss, and overcome the effects of aging and environmental damage? Check out these natural remedies and diet changes to reverse hair fall, fine or thinning hair and damaged hair.
Hormone Balance and Hair
Cortisol affects hair health, but it isn’t the only hormone that has an impact. If you’re experiencing hair loss or changes to hair texture, you should do thorough hormone testing.
For example, low levels of the thyroid hormone T4 indicate stress or a malnourished thyroid. One of the thyroid’s “lesser” jobs is to regulate hair growth. However, in times of stress your body will focus all of your thyroid’s energies on more vital functions such as regulating your body’s temperature and metabolism. Hence, thinning hair is one of many possible symptoms of low thyroid function.
Low estrogen, which may be a sign of perimenopause or other hormonal imbalances, also leads to hair troubles. While slower growth of pubic and underarm hair might easily go unnoticed, an estrogen imbalance means that androgens or male hormones have a stronger effect on hair follicles. This leads to thinning hair on your head, and even those unsightly, rogue chin hairs. Supporting the healthy function of the endocrine or hormone-producing system helps to maintain optimal levels of estrogen for hair growth.
These are just a few reasons why the best start to improving your hair’s texture and fullness begins with testing to see where your hormonal levels are. Once we have all of the information, we then ensure that the appropriate hormones are balanced naturally.
Make sure that you consume enough biotin
Good food sources of biotin for hair include:
As an added bonus, biotin consumption will also strengthen your nails!
Smoking increases the speed at which your body breaks down and excretes biotin, reducing the amount of biotin in your blood and leading to weaker hair and nail growth.
Eat plenty of protein
This may seem like a no-brainer since hair is mainly composed of protein. Keep in mind that your protein sources don’t have to be meat-based. The protein found in plant sources is just as effective.
In addition to biotin, the amino acid cysteine assists in the formation of keratin. Good sources of cysteine include garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oats, sprouted lentils and eggs.
Watch your mineral intake
One of the many roles of minerals in your body is growth. Iron and zinc in particular contribute to keratin formation which helps your hair to grow strong.
Zinc also protects your hair from sun damage just as zinc oxide in sunscreens protects your skin from sunburn. Zinc helps your body reduce excess insulin too. Good sources of zinc include shellfish, beans, egg yolks, beef and pumpkin seeds.
Reduce your sugar consumption
When you eat a lot of sugar or carbs, your blood sugar rises. In response, your body produces more insulin. This increases androgens such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone or DHT, that have a shrinking effect on your hair follicles. That means that your hair starts growing finer, falls out more easily or becomes more brittle.
Avoid high-mercury foods
Consumption of food with high levels of mercury has been linked to hair loss. Certain fish like tuna, swordfish, and shark all contain high levels of mercury. Large fish like these consume smaller fish. In the process, they concentrate toxins like mercury that the smaller fish have been exposed to. Smaller fish like mackerel, herring, and sardines are safer to eat and contain Omega 3 fatty acids that help keep your hair healthy and shiny.
Choose hair products carefully
Many shampoos, conditioners, and styling products contain ingredients like formaldehyde that are hard on your hair and unhealthy for you. The reality is that many of them don’t address hair problems where they originate, that is, in the protein structure of the hair itself. Instead, they “gloss” over any problems with superficial coatings. Plus, many substances used in hair products are absorbed by your skin, and are linked to cancer. In addition, many are also harmful to the environment. So, avoid products with sulfates, parabens, and silicones. Your hair and the planet will thank you!
Boost your intake of fruits and veggies
To protect your hair, you want to reduce the damage that is caused by free radicals. These are compounds that damage your cells through a process known as oxidative stress. Free radicals are created by environmental factors and your body’s internal processes that are triggered by stress. Vitamin deficiencies cause higher levels of these harmful free radicals.
Free radicals lead to lifeless, gray hair. Antioxidants fight free radicals and restore your hair’s shine. Fruits and vegetables provide the key antioxidants for healthy hair, vitamins A and C, while nuts and seeds provide vitamin E.
Consider collagen supplements
Choline, one of the building blocks of keratin, is found in collagen. Collagen also strengthens the layer of your skin that contains hair follicles. This layer of skin is called the dermis. With a stronger anchor point, hair is less likely to fall out. Collagen is taken as a powdered supplement that is added to smoothies or protein shakes. Collagen is also obtained from bone broth. Another cheap way to get collagen is by using powdered gelatin that is available from the grocery store.
If you’re experiencing issues with your hair, it may be time to test your hormones and make sure your gut health is supporting your hair goals not impeding them!
Give our office us a call at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online here, we are happy to help.
Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor