While genetics plays a role in the majority of hair loss sufferers, other factors such as medical conditions, hormonal imbalances, medications and even certain hair grooming and styling practices can lead to hair thinning, shedding, or balding. Another important factor that is frequently disregarded is proper nutrition. Your diet is just as important as your shampoo and conditioner when it comes to maintaining or restoring healthy hair.
Like any other part of the body, hair needs a variety of proteins, vitamins and minerals along with proper oxygen and blood circulation to live and grow. Your hair is affected by your overall health. As a result, if poor health conditions or nutritional deficits occur, hair quality may be negatively impacted and hair loss may result.
Below is a list of important vitamins, nutrients and proteins necessary to optimize your hair’s health.
Vitamin A rich foods help the body produce sebum, an oily substance that is required to moisturize and lubricate the skin and hair. Those who are vitamin A deficient may find that they have a dry, itchy scalp.
Recommended Foods: Carrots, green and yellow vegetables and fruits, pumpkins, sweet potatoes
When it comes to your hair, there are few vitamins as important as vitamin B. Vitamin B is actually a complex of vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12. Due to your body’s inability to store most B vitamins, it is important that you consume food sources or supplements that are rich in B vitamins. Without these complex vitamins you can end up with dry, brittle hair and even a dry, flaky scalp.
Your body needs vitamin B1 to process and distribute the food you eat throughout your body. If you do not get enough vitamin B1, your hair follicles may become malnourished, which can lead to poor hair health or even hair loss.
Recommended Foods: Asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, green beans, mushrooms, peas, spinach.
Vitamin B2 is a powerful antioxidant that plays an integral role in the production of energy. As a result, vitamin B2 can improve the health of your scalp, contributing to healthy hair growth. You also need vitamin B2 in order to digest vitamin B6. A deficiency in one typically leads to a deficiency in the other.
Recommended Foods: Chicken, dairy products, eggs, fish, green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, turkey, whole grains.
B5 (PANTOTHENIC ACID)
Vitamin B5 has been shown to give hair strength, flexibility and shine, while preventing hair loss and possibly graying.
Recommended Foods: Avocado, beef, broccoli, cauliflower, chicken, corn, duck, egg yolks, kale, legumes, lentil, salmon, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turkey, wheat germ, whole grains.
Along with vitamin B9 and B12, vitamin B6 is essential to the normal formation of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to tissues in the body, including the hair. In addition, vitamin B6 supports healthy hair growth because of its role in protein metabolism. Vitamin B6 also ensures that hair cells have access to the amino acids (building blocks of protein) needed to make hair proteins. While more research is needed, there is also some evidence to suggest that vitamin B6 may regulate hair growth because of its effect on hormone activity. By controlling hormone signaling in your body, vitamin B6 may battle hair thinning.
Recommended Foods: Bananas, beans, carrots, cheese, chicken, fish, lentils, milk, shrimp, spinach, sunflower seeds, whole grains.
Limited studies have shown that vitamin B7 helps with preserving hair strength, texture, and function. However, biotin deficiency has been proven to cause hair loss and that supplementation improves hair. Biotin is made by the friendly bacteria in our gut, which produces more than the daily amount needed. In addition, the average American gets enough intake of biotin from their diet, so there is little risk of biotin deficiency in this country. It is not known if biotin supplements, which are marketed to help with hair loss, can actually help, if you are not deficient.
Recommended Foods: Brown rice, eggs, green peas, lentils, nuts, oats, onions, salmon, soybeans, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, walnuts.
B9 (FOLIC ACID)
Vitamin B9 aids in hair follicle cell division and growth. Since folic acid helps your hair cells work and grow, it is essential that you receive an adequate amount of folic acid on a daily basis.
Recommended Foods: Avocado, beans, beets, citrus fruits (grapefruit, orange), strawberries, green leafy vegetables, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains.
Like vitamin B6, vitamin B12 promotes healthy hair growth by assisting in the formation of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the hair cells. Vitamin B12 is one of the few B vitamins that your body can actually store. Nevertheless, it can be one of the more difficult ones to get through your diet, especially as you get older.
Recommended Foods: Beef, chicken, dairy products, egg yolks, fish, liver, milk, shellfish.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps in the production of collagen that helps strengthen the hair shafts to prevent breakage. In addition, Vitamin C is good for proper circulation, hair growth and hair color.
Recommended Foods: Blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, guava, kiwi, lemons, limes, oranges, papaya, strawberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.
Vitamin D is produced in your body naturally when you are exposed to the sun. Your body is usually able to get all the vitamin D it needs if you regularly expose enough skin to the sun. However, vitamin D deficiency is more likely to occur in people with darker skin, little exposure to sunlight, people who cover their skin while outside (sunscreen, long sleeves), countries with less available hours of sunlight, increased age, obesity and pregnancy. As a result, some people may require supplementation despite daily intake of vitamin D containing foods.
Recommended Foods: Dairy products, eggs, fish, mushrooms, tofu, whole grains.
Vitamin E enhances oxygen uptake and blood circulation, thereby nourishing damaged hair and preventing hair breakage.
Recommended Foods: Avocados, dark green vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains.
Just like muscles require protein to grow, hair is mostly made up of protein and is essential to stimulate hair growth and help maintain healthy hair, by providing strength to the hair shaft. If you aren’t eating enough protein in your diet, you will most likely have hair that is weak, brittle, dry and lifeless. In addition, extremely low levels of protein can result in major hair loss.
Recommended foods: Chicken, dairy products, eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, soy, tofu, turkey.
Iron helps transport oxygen-filled blood to hair follicles. Without enough iron, hair follicles can become deprived of oxygen and result in poor hair quality and eventually hair loss.
Recommended Foods: Beans, chicken, clams, dark leafy vegetables, egg yolks, fish, lentils, mussels, oysters, red meat, turkey, whole grains.
The cells lining the hair follicles require magnesium to live and grow. Studies have shown that a lack of magnesium can prompt hair loss. Alarmingly, magnesium deficiency affects at least 68% of Americans, according to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Recommended Foods: Almonds, brown rice, cashews, green leafy vegetables, halibut, lentils, spinach, whole grains.
Potassium is necessary for the proper functioning of the body’s cells, including hair. If there is a deficiency of potassium in the body, hair cells may not function properly, resulting in hair loss.
Recommended Foods: Acorn squash, avocado, baked potatoes, bananas, beets, dried apricots, green leafy vegetables, lima beans, mushrooms, salmon, sweet potatoes.
Selenium stimulates hair follicles to encourage new growth, while preventing or eliminating dandruff.
The foods to eat: Brazil nuts, halibut, salmon, sardines, shrimp, tuna.
Zinc boosts hair growth by building proteins that become building blocks of hair. It also regulates testosterone and DHT (“hair killer”) and helps maintain production of oil-secreting glands on the scalp that help your hair grow. A lack of zinc has been shown to lead to hair loss and a dry, flaky scalp.
Recommended Foods: Beef, eggs, fortified cereals, legumes, mushrooms, oysters, pumpkin seeds, spinach, sunflower seeds, whole grains.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that cannot be made by the body. Therefore they must be obtained from our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in the cells that line the scalp and also provide the oils that keep the scalp and hair shafts well hydrated.
Recommended Foods: Brussels sprouts, fish (herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna), flaxseeds, rapeseed oil, walnuts.
PROMOTING HAIR HEALTH
While the speed of hair growth is generally based upon genetics, ethnicity, gender, age, and certain hormones, it may also be reduced by nutrient deficiencies. Regularly incorporating these healthy foods in your daily diet will lead to a promotion of hair health, leading to stronger, better-looking hair.
Just as important, adding supplements you don’t need in excessive amounts may cause you to lose more hair, so there is no need to purchase hair health-promoting supplements if you are getting your recommended daily intake (RDI) of proteins, vitamins and minerals from dietary sources. You may go online and search for the RDI for each hair growth nutrient.
Dr. Patel offers micronutrient testing to scientifically assess the intracellular level of micronutrients in your blood cells. In addition, this test will measure the biochemical function of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants, providing a comprehensive nutritional analysis. Based on your results, a personalized micronutrient report is provided offering specific nutrient repletion recommendations, if deficiencies are identified. Also included is supplement information that explains the role and importance of each nutrient found deficient, deficiency symptoms, food recommendations, and toxicity and RDI levels for adults.