Women face several hair-related challenges. From losing a lot of hair and lots of split ends to hair that becomes dirty right away and hair that’s hard to brush, wash or maintain. More serious issues might include overall thinning and bald spots, or even handfuls of hair falling off. There are a number of reasons for these occurrences, from stress to menopause, and hormone imbalance to scalp infections, crash diets, and eating disorders.
But there may be more than genetics and family history at play here!
Vitamins and Supplementary Issues
Aside from hereditary reasons or serious underlying medical conditions, the most common reason for lack of healthy hair relates to nutrition. More specifically, your body might not be receiving the appropriate nutrients, vitamins and proteins to sustain a healthy set of hair. For instance, if you are relatively young (in your early 20s or 30s), and you find yourself graying prematurely, that may be a sign that you have a vitamin deficiency.
Hair Health and a Healthy GI Ecosystem
It’s true that what you eat often dictates how you look and feel – including the health of your hair. However, eating healthy alone may not help if you have a poor gastrointestinal ecosystem. That’s because, regardless of how healthy your diet is, a compromised GI tract will prevent the absorption of key components of that healthy diet, such as vitamins, minerals, supplements, and protein.
For instance, published literature and studies link biotin (a B vitamin) deficiency to hair loss. Physicians often diagnose the condition from its symptoms – one of which is hair loss or thinning hair. While biotin food sources include dairy products like eggs and milk, fruits like bananas also contain small amounts of the vitamin. However, if your GI system prevents absorption of biotin, or if you follow a dairy-free diet, you may only get your intake of biotin using appropriate supplements.
Alphabet Soup for Healthy Hair
So, what supplements do you need for a healthy set of hair? Well, here’s a list that most nutritionists, trichologists, and dermatologists will agree upon:
Vitamin B (B6, B5, B7, B9, and B12)
The range of B vitamins is vast – from B1 through B12. These vitamins have a diverse set of benefits – from promoting bone health and building muscle to boosting energy levels and enhancing brain health. However, one particular function of Vitamin B is that it helps red blood cell growth. One outcome of healthy blood cells is the adequate flow of oxygen and nutrients to various parts of the body, including the scalp. The free and unobstructed flow of vital minerals and blood to the scalp often manifests itself in healthy hair.
Great sources of Vitamin B include whole grains, meat, fish, almonds, and dark leafy greens. If you are a strict vegan or vegetarian, then your only option to receive B12 is through supplements, because that’s one vitamin that both diets have limited quantities of.
Vitamin A is yet another source of promoting cell growth – including cells that aid in hair follicle growth. The key to promoting healthy hair lies in an oily substance called Sebum, which moisturizes our scalps and helps maintain hair health. Vitamin A helps the skin glands to produce Sebum. Vitamin A-deficient diets lead to several health issues, including hair loss.
Balancing your Vitamin A intake is important because too much of it may contribute to, instead of preventing, hair loss. Beta-carotene (which converts into Vitamin A) high dietary options include carrots, potatoes, pumpkin kale, and spinach. Cod liver oil, as well as dairy products like eggs, milk, and yogurt, are also good sources of Vitamin A.
Although a rare condition for North Americans, zinc deficiency can cause hair loss as well as a host of other serious health problems. Poultry and red meat are great sources of zinc. Seafood, such as oysters, crab, and lobster are also a significant source of zinc. Zinc is also found in nuts, whole grains, and beans. People with seafood and nut allergies, or those following a vegan diet, may therefore get their supply of zinc via supplements.
A study of the effectiveness of Omega 3 (and 6) supplements found that these vitamins, combined with antioxidants, are highly effective in slowing/preventing hair loss as well as enhancing hair density. Other studies show Omega supplements as an effective means to combat hair thinning and hair shedding in women. The proportion of subjects (89.9%) that reported experiencing Omega-related hair growth improvement in 6-months confirms the efficacy of the vitamin.
The best source of Omega 3 fatty acids is through eating fish such as mackerel, salmon, and herring. These fish also provide vitamin D3, B, protein, and selenium, all of which contribute to strong and healthy hair.
One enemy of healthy hair is the presence of free radicals in our bodies, which leads to premature hair aging. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant that also produces a protein called collagen that helps block free radicals. It also aids in the absorption of minerals such as iron, which are key to hair growth. Citrus-based fruits (oranges, nectarines), strawberries, and guavas are a good source of Vitamin C, as are vegetables like peppers.
The color of our hair is the function of a process called melanin formation. Lack of copper can retard the formation of melanin, and can manifest itself among young people in the form of premature gray hair. Coper imbalance might be a result of a lack of copper-based foods, such as oysters, crab, sunflower seeds, and cashew nuts. Other choices may include broccoli, bananas, pasta, and whole-grain breads.
Excessive intake of zinc might also add to copper deficiency, in which case it’s best to consult a nutritionist on the appropriate dosage of zinc and copper.
Balancing Foods with Vitamins and Supplements
We all love a full and healthy head of hair, and the food items indicated above can help us maintain hair health. However, many of us are also conscious of the diets we maintain. Some of us might only survive as meat-eaters, others are vegan or vegetarian in their dietary choices. People on specific diets, or who avoid or dislike certain foods that are essential to healthy hair, may use vitamin supplements to maintain hair health-friendly nutrition.