In our daily lives, it is natural to find that when we are washing, combing and/or tying our hair, we tend to shed some of it. Losing 50-130 strands a day is generally considered to be normal but losing anymore than that could be deem as excessive hair loss. Excessive hair loss can be very embarrassing for some people and lower self-confidence especially if they believe they have a growing ‘bald spot’ on their head. Most of the time however, the triggers of excessive hair loss comes down fundamentally to health factors which one can control. Thus, it is important that you’re enjoying a healthy lifestyle and optimum nutrition to ensure that you do not suffer this health problem.
To demonstrate how most of the time your health fundamentally affects hair loss and how preventative measures are more successful & effective than reactive measures, I will outline the main causes of hair losses.
1. Diseases or illnesses
An average human head has around 100 000 hair follicles which is a skin organ that produces hair. These follicles are very sensitive to any imbalances in the body. Hence for example, people who have lupus and thyroid disease normally find that they tend to have slower hair production and increasing hair loss. This is because illnesses like these cause a hormonal imbalance which interferes with the normal hair growth cycle. Normally however, most diseases/illnesses are temporary and the excessive hair loss are thus temporary and hair growth and loss will return back to ‘normal’ when the illness has passed. However, should you suffer from long-term illness, excessive hair loss will continue to occur.
Some medications may cause temporary hair loss for some patients. Prescription drugs that are used for illnesses such as arthritis, gout, heart problems, acne and high blood pressure have been known to cause hair loss as a side effect.
When people have a nutrition deficiency and/or have extreme abnormal eating habits, hair loss may occur due to malnutrition. For example, people who have low protein in their diets will cause their body to reduce hair growth in order to ‘save’ the body’s protein storage. Though hair stops growing, the body will continue to shed hair as per normal, leading to overall hair loss. Common health problems such as iron deficiency, anorexia and bulimia result in hair losses as the body doesn’t have the right nutrients, protein, vitamins and minerals to sustain and support hair growth and strength
4. Alopecia Areata
This illness is a condition that causes round patches of hair loss, and can lead to total hair loss. It is thought that this condition is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking and destroying healthy body tissue, cells and organs in the body… including the hair follicles.
Physical or mental stress can cause hair loss to people and often occurs 3 months after the stressful event occurred. This is because hair follicles will enter a telogen phase prematurely which will stop the growing of new hairs and the shedding of hair. Normally, hair loss resulting from stress is temporary but it is possible that stress could trigger an onset of genetic hair loss. Stress may result from a major illness or surgery, or the common everyday work, family, friends and life dramas.
6. Hair treatments/styling
Dying, bleaching, perming and straightening of hair can cause hair damage and cause hair loss and breakage. Normally this is temporary, but excessive chemical treatments to your hair could result in permanent hair loss and damage. Also, tying your hair too tightly can also place tension to the scalp and damage the follicles, resulting in weaker hair and hence, hair loss.
‘Now, depending on the cause of hair loss, there are various ways you can go about trying to reduce, hide and/or cure your hair loss. For example, if a particular medicine is causing your hair loss, it may be as simple as asking your doctor to prescribe you an alternative one. There are also hair transplants, laser hair treatments, wigs and medication available. But these treatments are expensive and potentially harmful (ie. scarring from hair transplants) and do not tackle the root of the problem. As you can see from above, 4 out of the 6 causes of hair loss are fundamentally due to sickness (ie. health problems that are fundamentally due to unhealthy living and/or diets), nutritional deficiency effects and/or inadequate vitamin intake. I do personally believe (and please feel free to disagree) that enlisting the help of vitamins, healthy foods and changing your lifestyle will be a much cheaper, safer and more effective means of not only improving your hair appearance, but also your overall health and wellbeing. The only disadvantage of this approach is that the effects and results of healthy eating, healthy living and vitamin intake will not be seen overnight. It does require patience and at least 2 months of consistent usage to see any effects. It is a long-term strategy for healthy hair, not a quick fix!
To assist you with ensuring you have adequate nutrition to ensure optimum hair health, I have listed the ones that are most effective when it comes to combating hair loss. Remember… Not all vitamins are equal!
Biotin – Biotin is a ‘B’ vitamin (B7) that is well known for its hair and nail strengthening properties. Research has shown that biotin plays a part in ensuring healthy strong hair (ie. less breakage and higher elasticity) by ensuring hair follicles become thick and strong. Though this vitamin can be found in the food we eat (ie. oats, eggs, nuts, brown rice, etc), it is hard to consume enough of it to significantly make a difference to your hair loss, hence, I do recommend taking a biotin supplement or at least, a multivitamin that has a higher concentration of biotin in it. The normal recommended daily allowance for biotin is around 30mcg per day. However, for hair growth and hair loss treatment, a higher intake of biotin is needed with 2-3mg a day being recommended to ensure optimal effectiveness.
Vitamin B3 – Another vitamin from the ‘B’ family and also known as biotin, vitamin B3 has a dilating effects on the body’s blood vessels and capillaries, causing an improvement in the scalp’s circulation, stimulating faster hair growth and promoting hair regrowth. Vitamin B3 has also been shown to work extremely effectively when it is taken in conjunction with Biotin. Vitamin B3 can be found easily in foods such as beef, chicken and fish, but only much higher doses of the vitamin have shown to be helpful and effective. Normally the average RDA is around 14-16mg, but to see the best results of what Vitamin B3 can do, around 1500 – 3000mg a day is needed. If you’re wishing to take this vitamin in such high doses, please consult your doctor first.
Vitamin B5 – Similar to vitamin B3, B5 promotes hair regrowth but comes with the added bonus of helping to alleviate/preventing the growth of gray hair. Normally, deficiency of this vitamin is rare as it is available in foods such as meats and egg yolks and the daily recommend dose is around 4-7mg. However, this deficiency may still occur due to certain diet choices (ie. vegan diets) and it is thus important that you take other foods such as whole grain cereals to ensure adequate nutrition.
Vitamin B9 – Also known as folic acid, vitamin B9 is essential for cell growth. As the primary components of healthy hair are healthy cells, vitamin B9 is an essential vitamin in ensuring healthy hair growth. Folic acid can be found in oranges, spinache, strawberries, beef, leafy vegetables, etc. However, as folic acid is easily destroyed during the cooking process, it is important that we supplement that loss via taking either enriched foods, fresh fruits, or a vitamins/supplement. The recommended intake of vitamin B9 is 400mcg per day.
Vitamin E – This vitamin is well known to have moisturizing properties and is great in helping combat not only dry skin, but dry and brittle hair too. Similar to the effect of a hair conditioner, it promotes healthy hair and reduces the chance of hair loss. In addition to this vitamin E increases the intake of oxygen and promotes blood circulation to the scalp area, stimulating the healthy growth of hair. Furthermore, it enhances the immune function and slows down the ageing process and preventing grey hair. Vitamin E can be found in broccoli, eggs and soya beans and it the daily recommended intake is around 8-10mg per day. However, please note that deliberately taking too much of Vitamin E can actually be bad for your body as results in blood thinning. Small but adequate doses of vitamin E are most optimum in boosting and ensuring overall health and healthy hair growth.
NOTE: Too much of vitamin A has actually been known to cause hair loss, thus, be careful if using a multi-vitamin product. It may be safer and more effective to buy individual supplements (ie. biotin supplement, Vitamin B5 supplement, etc) instead.
Coenzyme Q10 – This has not been officially proven, but research has suggested that coenzyme Q10 may help in the improvement of scalp circulation which stimulates higher hair growth. Coenzyme Q10, as an antioxidant compound, also has anti-aging properties which includes preventing your hair from ‘ageing’. Nevertheless, whether proven or not, Coenzyme Q10 is important for overall health and can be found in foods such as chicken, nuts, seeds and corn oils. If illness-free, the recommended daily dosage for this nutrient is 30mg, but this nutrient can also be effective in combating other diseases in higher doses.
Magnesium – Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to the maintenance of healthy muscles, teeth, bones and hair. A research done with lab rats showed that when the rats were fed a diet that was deficient in magnesium, they shed large amounts of hair which was easily reversed when the researchers starting feeding them a diet with magnesium. Foods that are rich in magnesium include milk, tuna, banana, black beans, cashews and spinach and the recommended daily intake is 350mg per day.
In conclusion, having the right nutrition and food is not only vital to your health, but to your hair as well. Vitamins and nutrients do not only assist in ensuring healthy hair and reduced hair loss; it also has many benefits to your body and overall health which you can read about in the other articles of my site. Hence, if used in combination with a healthy diet and a balanced lifestyle; consuming the right and adequate amount of nutrients may be extremely effective in combating hair loss problems. Furthermore, it does not require any introduction of dangerous chemicals or surgery and has a permanent positive effect on your overall physical and mental wellbeing. So why not give it a go and experience the difference?