No doubt you’ve heard the old adage “you are what you eat,” but what you eat affects more than your weight. The nutrients that food contains, especially from fresh meat, produce, and whole grains, are important for the overall health of your body, including your hair.
However, Americans eat less than the recommended amount of produce, whole grains, dairy products and oils. The way people eat and certain medical conditions can affect the health and appearance of hair.
Nutrients Hair Needs
Your hair needs certain nutrients to grow and be healthy. Since hair is primarily made up of protein, it is important to make sure you eat enough protein to keep it healthy. Of course, protein is also an important building block for muscles, the body’s structures, and its functions.
On average, women need to consume about 46 grams of protein per day and men need at least 56 grams per day, and that’s if they are sedentary. If you have a more active lifestyle, then you need to consume more protein to keep your energy levels up and your body functioning properly. Good protein sources include:
- Lean Meats
- Greek Yogurt
The Omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon, and other fatty fish, is important for the health of hair, but they are also heart healthy and can lead to healthy nails too.
Biotin, which is vitamin B7, is a water-soluble nutrient that is essential for hair growth. Eggs are a good source of this vitamin. Other foods rich in biotin that will help with hair growth include:
- Whole Grains
- Oily Fish
A lack of biotin not only affects your hair, but it can be the cause of brittle nails as well. If you feel you don’t get enough biotin your diet, you could also take a 30-mcg biotin supplement every day.
Iron and Zinc
These essential minerals are necessary for many bodily functions, including the healthy growth of hair. Iron and zinc help hair follicles to grow, which allows them to help produce hair.
To ensure you get enough of these minerals, a dermatologist from the Cleveland Clinic recommends eating lean beef twice a week. Also, consuming non-meat sources like soybeans and lentils with foods containing vitamin C will help your body absorb iron.
Other foods containing both minerals include:
- Seeds, like pumpkin and flax.
- Kidney Beans
Studies show that vitamin D can help hair grow, but not very many foods naturally contain it. While you can generate vitamin D by exposure to the sun, you can also get it by taking a 1000 IU vitamin D supplement every day.
Cereals and milk are often fortified with vitamin D, and other foods containing it include:
- Egg Yolks
By eating healthy whole foods, you can help your hair grow and improve its appearance. Your nails and skin may benefit from the infusion of minerals and vitamins as well.
Medical Conditions Causing Hair Loss
Although hair loss is primarily hereditary, there are some medical conditions, including vitamin deficiencies, which can cause hair to fall out. Some of these conditions may also cause hair to be brittle or break easily.
One of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid is losing hair. Some people will experience their hair coming out in clumps when they brush or comb it. Others may notice their hair is suddenly thinning without knowing why.
The thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces hormones that help with the body’s growth and development. If it’s underperforming, then it can contribute to hair loss. If your doctor diagnoses you with hypothyroidism, then he may prescribe a synthetic thyroid medication to regulate your system, which will also help your hair return to normal.
About 10% of women from the ages of 20 to 49 have anemia from being iron deficient, which is the most common form of anemia. It can cause hair loss, but it is an easily fixable problem. After diagnosing it with a blood test, your doctor may prescribe an iron supplement to help bring your iron levels back to normal. You can also eat foods higher in iron like beef, liver, pumpkin, or lentils.
The stress that pregnancy puts on a woman’s body and the fluctuation of hormones can cause hair loss. Pregnancy hair loss is more common after giving birth due to the trauma it can cause the body. However, it doesn’t require any intervention because, within a couple of months, your hair should be back to normal.
Lupus can result in hair becoming brittle and falling out in patches. A condition known as “lupus hairs” can also occur in which short, broken hairs appear on the top of the forehead. Also, scars can develop on the scalp that can cause hair loss as well. Usually, hair loss due to lupus is temporary, so it doesn’t require treatment.
Autoimmune Related Hair Loss
Sometimes the body’s immune system becomes too active, and it can end up attacking hair because it is seen as a foreign object invading your system. This condition is called alopecia areata, and it can be treated with steroids. The condition is unpredictable because hair may grow back and fall out again.
The chemotherapy drugs that help fight cancer can cause hair loss in patients. These drugs target rapidly dividing cells in their effort to kill cancer cells, but they can kill other rapidly dividing cells, such as hair cells. When a patient has completed chemotherapy, their hair will grow back, but it may be another color or texture.
Vitamin B Deficiency
Although it is rare in the United States, having low levels of vitamin B can cause hair loss. Fortunately, it is easily resolved by taking vitamin B supplements and consuming more foods rich in vitamin B can help your hair grow back.
Undergoing too much stress, especially physical stress, can cause hair loss. Trauma from surgery, a car accident, or a chronic illness can trigger a condition called telogen effluvium, which is shedding hair. Hair has a life cycle that includes phases of growing, resting, and shedding.
Sometimes a traumatic event can shock hair into its shedding phase overnight. It usually takes three to six months after a trauma for the hair loss to be noticeable. Fortunately, the hair grows back once the body recovers.
One thing you cannot control is getting older, and aging can cause your hair to thin. Since there isn’t a known cause for this type of hair loss, experts do not recommend treating this condition. Fortunately, there are many cosmetic solutions for thinning hair or hair loss, such as wigs or hair extensions.
Many women who have thin hair or are losing their hair opt for hair extensions to make it look thicker and longer. Hair extensions are made with real human hair, so they look natural and, if properly taken care of, they can last several months. There are five ways to put extensions in hair:
- Hot or Cold Fusion
Hot or Cold Fusion
Hair extensions using this technique provide hair volume and additional length with little need for maintenance while the extensions are in place. They are fused to individual keratin bonds, which can be time consuming and expensive. These extensions can last about four months, and it takes two to three hours to insert them.
One of the more cost-effective methods for inserting hair extensions is sewing them in. Since the client’s hair needs to be tightly braided for the extensions to be sewn in, not everyone’s hair can handle this treatment.
This method wouldn’t work well for those with brittle or easily breakable hair. However, for those with healthy, but thin hair, these extensions could last up to four months, but the hair needs to be retightened during that time.
Clip-in extensions are one type of temporary extensions that people with hair problems can easily use to give their hair more length and volume. They are easy to put in and take out, plus the way they are made takes the weight off the natural hair. They are available in several colors, textures, and price ranges.
Also known as micro-locks, this technique gently adds extensions to your hair, and they can be easily taken out. It involves placing a silicone bead in the base of the hair and attaching a single extension strand to it. No heat or glue is necessary, and it adds both length and volume to hair. This method lasts about four months.
These extensions can easily add volume and length to hair, and they are easy to insert. A tape-in extension has a strip of tape on one side of the weft, or extension, that is placed on the natural hair. A heating tool helps attach it, so it stays in place. These extensions can be reused several times before new ones are necessary and they can last up to eight weeks before they need to be re-inserted.
By taking care of your health and consuming healthy foods, your hair will reap the benefits. Of course, if you have issues with thinning hair, or if it is naturally thin, you can have extensions put it, so your hair is immediately longer and fuller.