Nutritional Support for Healthy Hair

Our hair gives away more information about our state of well-being than we think. The practice of hair analysis for determining nutrient deficiencies has long been used by alternative health practitioners because hair cells reveal the quality of a person’s diet over the last few months. For instance, oily hair can sometimes be due to a lack of vitamin D while dry, brittle hair could be in need of essential fats for deep down conditioning. Hair that’s prematurely turning grey may be lacking copper.  As with skin, beautiful hair starts from the inside out with the building blocks of lean protein, whole grains, vegetables, and healthy oils. Here are a few other nutrition tips to support a healthy mane.

Eat natural plant sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols (saturated sterols) are the plant version of cholesterol, which is only found in animals. When consumed, sterols and stanols prevent cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream, thereby lowering the amount of circulating cholesterol. What does this have to do with hair? Well, in the body, cholesterol is used to make hormones including dihydrotestosterone (DHT). An excess amount of DHT shifts the hormonal balance in the body with widespread effects on because many cells, including hair follicles, have DHT receptors. Researchers have found that people with thinner hair have high levels of DHT in their hair follicles. So, if decrease the amount of cholesterol in your body by eating more plant sterols and stanols, you can decrease the amount of DHT binding to hair follicles and give your locks a thicker, fuller look. Good sources of plant sterols are avocadoes, corn oil, sunflower seeds, peas, beans and foods fortified with plant sterols.

Load up on B vitamins. In particular, B2 (riboflavin), B3 (naicin) and B5 (pantothenic acid) are useful for keeping the scalp and hair healthy. A lack of riboflavin, which is found in almonds, wheat germ, mushrooms and milk products, has been found to promote sebum production in the hair follicle, which results in oily, flat hair. Niacin and pantothenic acid work systemically to strengthen the adrenal glands and maintain a constant blood flow to scalp and hair follicles, clearing build up that can tarnish the look and health of hair. The adrenal glands play an indirect role in hair health because of the hormones that secrete when under duress. Food sources of niacin and pantothenic acid include salmon, asparagus, cremini mushrooms and tuna.

Favour foods with folate. Folate, which is the name given folic acid when it occurs naturally in plants as opposed to synthetic supplements, is another B vitamin that deserves special recognition because of its role in cellular regeneration. Hair is basically another form of skin made up of much the same proteins and connective fibers. Like skin, it is constantly regenerated which, of course, is why we need to get it cut every few months! For proper hair growth, you need folic acid at the cellular level to support the activity of hair follicles.  For foods that are high in folate, just think of “foliage” or leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, collard greens, Romaine lettuce and rapini.

References
Hair Loss Help by John Austen. Vista Magazine, Volume 66, page 42.
Natural Superwoman by Rosamond Richardson. Select Publications, Burnaby BC, 2003. page 182.

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