One key factor in maintaining a healthy head of hair is obvious. One must maintain a healthy diet. Although certain factors have been definitely identified as contributors to hair loss, we must keep in mind that hair is part of the complete biological system of the human body.
As a system, dysfunctions in one part of the system can contribute to dysfunctions in others. Chain reactions occur when one part of the body malfunctions, causing other parts of the system to falter.
Maintaining optimum health is best by maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen. Defining exactly what a healthy diet is when it comes to preventing hair loss can be a little more complex.
Here Are The Top Foods and Vitamins for Hair Growth
Vitamins, Minerals, and Nutrients
Principally, the main vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that one must ingest in some form to maintain healthy hair are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B-6
- Folic acid
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Essential fatty acids (EFA’s, formerly known as vitamin F)
- Lots of water consumption
A good diet is the best way to maintain a healthy vitamin and mineral intake. It is unnecessary or advisable to go out and buy a bunch of over-the-counter vitamin supplements to achieve your suggested nutritional levels. Many over-the-counter vitamins are chemically processed and are not completely absorbed into the system.
It is also easy to overdose oneself with over-the-counter vitamins, particularly when taking supplements of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, causing toxicity and adverse reactions.
The likelihood of doing this is far less with food. Therefore it is always best to obtain the bulk of your vitamin and mineral requirements from whole foods.
Vitamin A is a key component in developing healthy cells and tissues in the body, including hair. Additionally, it works with silica and zinc to prevent drying and clogging of the sebaceous glands, the glands vital to producing sebum, which is an important lubricant for the hair follicle.
Liver, fish oil, eggs, fortified milk, and red, yellow, and orange vegetables are good sources of vitamin A, as are some dark green leafy vegetables like spinach. Be particularly careful if you take vitamin A supplements, as vitamin A is fat-soluble, allowing the body to store it and making it easy for the body to overdose on vitamin A.
Vitamin A deficiencies
Vitamin A deficiencies commonly cause thickening of the scalp, dry hair, and dandruff. Air pollution, smoking, extremely bright light, certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, laxatives, and aspirin are some known vitamin A inhibitors.
Vitamin A overdoses
Vitamin A overdoses can cause excessively dry skin and inflamed hair follicles and, in some cases, ironically, can cause hair loss. If you choose to take supplements of this vitamin, consult with a specialist first. As mentioned above, the likelihood of overdosing by achieving your vitamin A intake by food sources is almost nil, so it is best to attempt to achieve this at all costs.
B vitamins work interdependently, and therefore, all B vitamins need to be sufficient to maintain proper health. Vitamins B-6, folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B-12 are all key components in maintaining healthy hemoglobin levels in the blood, which is the iron-containing portion of red blood cells.
Hemoglobin’s primary function is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues, so if these vitamins were deficient in one’s body, hair and skin would indeed suffer.
Fortunately, some of the tastiest foods contain these vitamins. Vitamin B-6 is found in protein-rich foods, which is excellent because the body also needs a sufficient amount of protein to maintain hair growth.
Vitamin B – 6 Food Sources
These are relatively low in fat when they are not fried.
Folic Acid Food Sources
- whole grains
- green leafy vegetables
- orange juice
- brewer’s yeast
- wheat germ
Vitamin B-12 Food Sources
- dairy products
Biotin deficiencies are rare unless there is a severe case of malnutrition or a serious intestinal disorder since a healthy gut produces biotin through good bacteria found there.
Note: if you have a known intestinal disorder and are plagued by hair loss, ask your doctor about biotin deficiencies and possible solutions.
Vitamin C is responsible for developing healthy collagen, which is necessary to hold body tissues together.
A vitamin C deficiency can cause split ends and hair breakage, which is easily reversible with an increase in normal vitamin C levels.
This vitamin can be found in foods such as:
- fresh peppers
- citrus fruits
- melons berries
- dark green leafy vegetables
This vitamin is necessary to provide good blood circulation to the scalp by increasing oxygen uptake.
Vitamin E is derived from foods such as:
- green leafy vegetables
- vegetable oils
- most ready-to-eat cereals, which are fortified with vitamin E.
Vitamin E deficiencies are rare in people in North America and Europe.
Dietary supplements are available in the rare cases of vitamin E deficiency, usually caused by the inability to absorb oils and fats.
Copper is a trace mineral that is also necessary for producing hemoglobin. As mentioned earlier, hemoglobin is vital to carrying oxygen to tissues such as the hair. Obviously, hair is alive and cannot grow without proper oxygen, yet it does not breathe as other components of our body do because the oxygen must get to the shaft of the hair.
Good sources of copper are:
Another key mineral vital in the production of hemoglobin is iron. Iron is found in two forms, heme, and non-heme; heme iron is much easier to absorb into the system. This is where the problem lies. Of course, most people know that red meat is a good source of iron. However, red meat is non-heme iron and is difficult for the body to absorb, as are many iron supplements.
Good heme iron sources are:
- green leafy vegetables
- kidney beans
One can increase the absorption of non-heme iron into the body by consuming non-heme food sources and vitamin C sources in the same meal.
Zinc is another vital component of healthy hair, being that it is responsible for cell production, tissue growth and repair, and the maintenance of the oil-secreting glands of the scalp. It also plays a large role in protein synthesis and collagen formation. For this reason, zinc is important for both hair maintenance and dandruff prevention.
Most Americans are deficient in zinc. Most foods of animal origin, particularly seafood, contain good amounts of zinc. Oysters are particularly rich in zinc. Zinc is also found in eggs and milk, although in much smaller amounts. Zinc from sources such as nuts, legumes, and natural grains is of a different type than those found in animal sources and is not easily used by the body, although oats are a good source of zinc that is readily used by the body.
Protein is found in most of the aforementioned animal source foods, particularly:
There is no need for a person eating the average Western diet to eat additional protein. Too much protein, even though the hair is made of protein, will not improve hair growth and may cause other health problems.
A challenge for vegans is maintaining healthy protein levels, as complete proteins containing all nine essential amino acids necessary are found mostly in animal sources. Legumes, seeds, nuts, grains, and vegetables do not contain the same form of protein necessary for a healthy body.
There is only one common non-meat source of complete protein: the soybean. Fortunately, soybeans have been made into tofu and texturized vegetable protein (TVP) so that they can be made into various dishes.
Additionally, one may eat from a wide variety of vegetable sources in order to obtain all the essential amino acids. Iodine is vital to the growth of hair. Sheep farmers long ago discovered that vegetation void of iodine due to iodine-depleted soil would adversely affect the growth of wool in sheep.
Our hair needs iodine to grow. Iodine is synthetically added to table salt; however, in this form, it is not assimilated well into the body and can, therefore, cause iodine overload. An excess of iodine in the body can adversely affect the thyroid.
Using non-iodized salt and retrieving your iodine from natural food sources is best. These include seaweed, salmon, seafood, lima beans, molasses, eggs, potatoes with the skin on, watercress, and garlic.
One of the most difficult nutrients for hair growth in one’s diet is the trace mineral silica. Silicon is a form of silicon and is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust, second only to oxygen.
The Earth provides everything we need for health, and with silicon being so abundant, it would seem that there would never be a problem with silica deficiency. Unfortunately, trace minerals are rare in Western diets because our food is processed, and our soil is depleted by chemical treatments so often that trace minerals are lost.
Silica is vital to the strength of hair, and although it will not necessarily stop hair from falling out from the follicle, it will stop hair breakage.
It stimulates cell metabolism and formation, slowing the aging process. Foods that are rich in silica are:
- sunflower seeds
- Swiss chard
Note that many of these foods, particularly rice, are a large part of Asian diets, and Asians tend to have the strongest and healthiest hair. Be sure to seek out all the above foods from sources that grow food organically. This is vital to obtaining the trace minerals that are usually not present in North American soil and, therefore, not in American foods.
Additionally, these foods should be eaten uncooked, or in the case of rice-unwashed, as trace minerals are easily cooked and washed away. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are fatty acids that are needed by the body yet not produced by the body. EFAs are a key component of healthy skin, hair, and nails.
Common skin diseases, such as eczema and seborrhea, are partly caused by deficiencies in EFAs. Including deep-water fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, or herring approximately three times a week will provide sufficient amounts of EFA’s. However, if for some reason you cannot eat deep water fish or have an extreme dislike for it, it may be necessary to take a supplement to obtain the required amount of EFA’s.
Last but not least, make sure to include the proper amount of water in your diet. Water is vital to proper hydration, which is necessary in order for all nutrients to be utilized properly by the body, not to mention the proper function of every cell in the body, including hair follicles. The suggested amount of water intake daily is eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily, or 64 ounces daily.
High-Fat Diets and DHT
The effects of high-fat diets and the increase of DHT (Dihydrotestosterone), a chemical produced by the body found to cause hair loss, is not conclusive at this time. However, there does seem to be a connection. In societies that consumed relatively low-fat diets, such as pre-World War II, Japan experienced almost no pattern baldness, whereas in post-World War II Japan, there is an increase in pattern baldness as their society consumed a higher fat diet.
In fact, Asian and African men in their native countries traditionally suffer very little Male Pattern Baldness (MPB).
Although when the same peoples come to North America, they begin to develop MPB. Because people of all races and ethnicities tend to develop MPB or androgenetic alopecia yet do not exhibit these tendencies before moving to America, changes in diet may be a leading contributing factor. Diets high in fat increase testosterone, the main component in DHT. More research needs to be done on this topic to reach conclusive evidence, although it certainly could not hurt to lower one’s fat intake.
Fiber ensures undigested food moves through the body and to the bowels properly.
Failure of foods to move through the bowels in a reasonable amount of time can cause fermentation of undigested food in the bowels and blocking of nutrients being absorbed through the body. Beyond causing degrees of malnutrition, this can also cause a level of toxicity that will overwork systems in the body such as the adrenal glands, and contribute to hair loss.
Healthy amounts of fresh vegetables, fruits, and legumes consumed daily will ensure proper dietary fiber.
Although nutritional remedies were those that were discussed here, supplements can be used if one feels they are simply unable to eat properly due to work schedules or dislike of certain foods. Nutritional supplements containing these same vitamins and minerals can be taken, with the exception of water of course. Be sure always to take supplements that are naturally chelated, meaning that the supplements were developed on a natural base.
This will ensure that the supplements you consume will be more readily absorbed in the body. There are some cautions to taking supplements of certain vitamins and minerals, particularly those that are fat-soluble, because the body stores them.
Vitamin A can be highly toxic, and supplements of vitamin A should be avoided unless recommended by a doctor. It is best to achieve one’s vitamin A requirements with food or a naturally chelated multivitamin. Also, remember that smoking and second-hand smoke can cause the blocking of vitamin A assimilation, so it is best to avoid smoking and remove one’s self from areas and situations where second-hand smoke is present if at all possible.
Also, vitamin E supplements should always be taken at 400 i.u. Per day to start and work your way up to 800 i.u. Always take vitamin E in its natural form, which is D-alpha tocopherol. Avoid taking these supplements in the synthetic form dl-alpha tocopherol, derived from petroleum and less available for assimilation into the body. If you have high blood pressure or other serious illnesses, consult a physician before taking vitamin E supplements.
Zinc is one fat-soluble mineral that can cause harm if an overdose is taken. It can rob the body of copper, mentioned above as a key nutrient in hair growth and health, not to mention in other functions of the body. Zinc supplements should be taken in low doses, such as 5mg at a time.
These can commonly be found in the form of zinc lozenges designed for sore throats. There is a “trick” to tell if you take too much zinc. When the zinc levels in the body have surpassed the level at which they can be used, a metallic taste begins to form. If you pay attention to the metallic taste, you will know when enough zinc has been consumed, and you can then stop consuming zinc immediately.
Iron supplements are not recommended unless a doctor has diagnosed you with a severe iron deficiency. If you do take an iron supplement, avoid ferrous sulfate, which you will find as the most common over-the-counter iron supplement in drug stores.
Ferrous sulfate is hard for the body to assimilate, and because iron is not water-soluble, it will sit in the body and can cause severe liver problems over time. Further, ferrous sulfate causes constipation, which can trigger a great deal more problems besides being extremely unpleasant. One iron supplement that does not contain ferrous sulfate is called Floradix and is available in both liquid and pill form.
Since there are so few foods to mention that are grown in North America and contain a good amount of silica, supplements may truly be needed. Horsetail is an herb that is a rich source of silica. It is highly important to never take horsetail directly, however, or take a supplement made from unprocessed horsetail, as this herb can be toxic when ingested whole, ground, in tablets, or capsules. Horsetail must be taken in an aqueous extract of the herb only.
Ask someone at your health food store or someone knowledgeable about herbs to help you find this form. Silica gel is suspended in water, although it is not an aqueous solution and should be avoided. Nettle is also a good source of silica, and Nettle Root Extract is readily available at health food stores.
Supplements of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
These are easily found in most health food stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies. These include Evening Primrose Oil, Wheat Germ Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Cod Liver Oil, and other oils from deep water fish.
It is not recommended to rely on Cod Liver Oil as a source for EFA’s because it contains high levels of vitamins A and D, and the amount of Cod Liver Oil necessary to achieve proper amounts of EFA’s would cause overdosing on these vitamins. The recommended supplements are Evening Primrose Oil and Flaxseed Oil. Both these oils are available in oil form or capsules. Keep in mind that high amounts of saturated fat block the effectiveness of EFAs, counteracting their effectiveness, so there need to be adjustments to your diet if there is a high amount of saturated fat in it.
Juicing is a natural way to obtain many of the vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals mentioned above. When using organic fruits and vegetables, juicing can provide quite a boost to the system and encourage the health of hair. Juices are very readily assimilable by the body and provide the same content as whole food.
Fresh juices have a high enzyme content, which is beneficial because these enzymes are stored by the body and can be used by the body when cooked foods that have been robbed of enzymes are consumed. Storing the juice or purchasing pasteurized juices from the store diminishes this benefit, although the benefits of the minerals and vitamins are usually still available. All the above-mentioned fruits and vegetables can be juiced to obtain the maximum benefit from them.
For example, a great deal of silica, sulfur, iron, and potassium is extracted from organic carrot juice. In fact, carrots being roots, contain most trace minerals the body needs. The effects of carrot juice are enhanced when adding cucumber juice to it because of its high silica and sulfur content.
Organic spinach juice is highly recommended, as it is high in iron, vitamin A, and other vital vitamins and minerals; it is often combined with lettuce and carrot juice, two very good sources of silica and vitamin A. Non-organic spinach juice can be extremely high in pesticides and should, therefore, be avoided. Spinach juice should also be avoided if one suffers from kidney stones, as it contains a large amount of oxalic acid, exacerbating kidney stone growth.
There are a number of foods and substances to avoid and limit the intake of. Substances such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and nicotine can deplete the body of nutrients and raise adrenal levels, which will cause a chain reaction of producing more androgen and causing hair loss. High levels of saturated fat and cholesterol-rich foods are also linked to increased DHT levels, and their consumption should be limited.
Salt – Beware of Sodium
Additionally, common table salt has been linked to hair loss. And the average diet provides the recommended amount of sodium intake; therefore, salt should never be added to food. However, when using salt for seasoning during cooking, be sure to use salt with Iodine being that it is a nutrient that is vital to hair growth as well, unless you are a regular consumer of seafood, which contains high levels of Iodine.
Toxemia can cause a great deal of dysfunction in the body’s systems, including hair-loss related illnesses such as eczema, psoriasis, seborrhea, and possibly several others. It is vital for one to cleanse the body of impurities to maintain a healthy system and avoid such illnesses, as there is no cure for these illnesses beyond cleansing and maintaining a healthy diet to allow the body to heal itself.
Cleanse & Detox
Regular cleansing should include a diet rich in fiber, as mentioned earlier, and the use of added fiber, such as provided by consuming psyllium husk as a bulking agent along with laxative agents.
Although many other variables can cause hair loss, a lack of proper nutrition will assuredly cause hair loss in many people. Fortunately, adopting a proper diet that includes the above nutrients can reverse hair loss caused by malnutrition. One thing for certain regardless of whether your hair loss was caused by malnutrition or not, adopting a healthier diet will help the function of other areas of the body.
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