Our hair is a reliable indicator of our inner health. It experiences constant growth and requires a matrix of nutrients to support its strength, growth cycle, and appearance.
Your hair is a product of your body and is produced by hair follicles situated in the deepest layer of the skin. It is composed mostly of dead protein and pigment. Changes in your body’s metabolism can be reflected by changes in the quality, thickness, and texture of your hair.
In this blog I will explore ways to improve your hair’s overall vibrancy, thickness, growth, and shine.
We delve into why your hair may not be as healthy as you’d like, nutrients and herbs to consider for healthy hair, lifestyle recommendations for healthy shiny hair and how hormones can help or hinder your hair.
What does it mean if my hair is dull and lifeless?
Changes in the look, texture, and thickness of your hair can be signs of underlining health conditions, such as high cortisol level (our main stress hormone), genetic conditions, thyroid dysfunction and nutritional deficiency.
As your body benefits from a healthy diet, eating well and getting some key nutrients ensures that your hair gets what it needs to promote growth while preventing breakage and dryness.
Nutrient considerations for healthy hair
Iron is an essential nutrient for oxygen transport around the body. However, it is also involved in many critical physiological processes within the hair follicle. While levels in the blood may be considered normal, there may be a chance that you have low iron storage (ferritin if you are looking on a blood test). Studies this this one have shown that deficiency in ferritin, contributes to hair loss as well as shedding and slow or halted hair growth.
We ideally like to see ferritin stores above 30 and ideally between 50-80 in women
When addressing hair concerns, be sure to include plenty of iron-rich food sources in your diet, such as oysters, lean beef, eggs, fish, soybeans, lentils, and spinach. You can also supplement with iron and iron co-factors which we can help you with in the clinic.
Your body uses proteins to build tissue cells, including the cells of your hair, skin, and nails. 85% percent of your hair is composed of a protein called keratin. Dietary proteins are your hair’s building blocks, making it strong while helping to keep it in its growing phase.
Without sufficient protein, your hair becomes brittle and falls out before it reaches its full length. This is one of the reasons why people with a low-protein diet often find their hair will not grow past a certain length.
Good sources of dietary proteins include fish, meat, eggs, tofu, poultry, legumes, nuts and seed.
We recommend approximately 1-1.2gm protein per 1kg body weight for the average woman.
To learn more about protein and how to get enough in your diet read out blog on protein requirements for women here.
Biotin is an essential B vitamin that helps the body get energy and nutrients from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It also plays an important role in the health of your hair, skin, and nails. When biotin interacts with cell enzymes, it helps produce amino acids; compounds that form those ever-important proteins mentioned earlier.
Legumes, eggs, almonds, walnuts, mushrooms, spinach, and cauliflower are all good sources of Biotin.
Numerous studies have shown that essential fatty acids, especially omega- 3 (EPA and DHA) primarily from fish oil, have anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant potential. A combination of essential fatty acids and antioxidant nutrients could impact hair health. Omega- 3 fatty acids play an important role in regulating oil production in the skin and can help reduce inflammation sometimes associated with hair loss.
Rich sources of omega 3 include wild fish and seafood, nuts and seeds, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
This mineral helps strengthen your hair follicles and prevent hair loss by binding its proteins. It also helps your oil glands to function properly, protecting your locks from dryness and dandruff.
Shellfish, like oysters, crab, lobster, clams, and mussels, have high zinc content, as well as legumes, seeds, and nuts.
Drinking enough water helps energize and support hair growth from root to tip. It can aid in preventing split ends and brittle hair texture, as well as help to foster a healthier scalp. This can lead to fewer chances of developing problems like dryness, itchiness, or dandruff. Just as water hydrates your body and your skin, it does the same for the scalp.
We recommend 2L of water per day + 1/2-1L extra for every hour of moderate-intensity exercise
here are some great herbs that may be useful to support healthy hair. Gingko Biloba and Ginger are excellent herbs to improve peripheral circulation, ultimately improving or maintaining hair growth.
Adaptogenic herbs, such as Withania, Rhodiola, and Licorice are wonderful for managing chronic stress, which can affect hair growth negatively by increasing cortisol production and potentially interfering with other hormones. These combined factors may lead to weak and damaged hair as well as hair loss.
It is important to work with a naturopath to better understand what herbs are best suited to you, I can help you with that.
5 NATUROPATHIC TIPS FOR MAINTAINING HEALTHY HAIR
1. FEED YOUR HAIR
Healthy hair starts within, make sure you consume enough protein in your diet as well as mineral and vitamin eg. biotin, zinc, fatty acids, iron.
Introduce collagen in your diet, collagen is a protein building block that hair follicle use to create keratin. Since it declines about 1% per year and far more significant after menopause, you may want to consider collagen supplementation. We recommend 15gm per day of collagen peptides.
Exercise regularly not only helps to keep your body healthy, but also promotes healthy hair growth. When we exercise blood circulation increases, allowing for more nutrients and oxygen to get to your scalp. The stimulated blood flow at the scalp will enrich your hair follicles with everything they need for added strength and health. Incorporate cardio or more gentle exercises in your routine to start to see improvements in the health of your hair, as well as your general health.
3. WORK ON YOUR STRESS RESPONSE
Cortisol is known to affect the function and cycle of the hair follicle. During periods of stress, cortisol dysregulation can disrupt cell, signalling, and oxidative stress can disrupt the normal transitions of the hair growth cycle.
Introduce stress relief techniques in your daily routine, such a breathing technique, meditation, walking, yoga or keeping a journal. Herbs like withania also assist in lowering cortisol, we recommend talking with a qualified naturopath to understand if this is righth for you.
4. CHECK YOUR HORMONES
Cortisol isn’t the only hormone that can impact your health. If you’re experiencing hair loss or changes to hair texture, you should check the levels of your other hormones as well.
For instance, imbalanced thyroid hormones can indicate an underactive thyroid. One the function of the thyroid gland is to regulate hair growth, however in times of stress the body will prioritise all the thyroid’s energies on more important functions such as regulating the body’s temperature and metabolism and leave more secondary functions aside, such your hair growth and vitality.
Besides cortisol and thyroid hormones, low estrogen, which may be a sign of perimenopause or other hormonal imbalances conditions, can also lead to hair issues. An estrogen imbalance can mean that androgens like testosterone have a stronger effect on hair follicles, leading to thinning hairs.
5. GUT HEALTH CAN BE LINK TO YOUR HAIRS HEALTH
Studies have found that the amount of bad bacteria in your gut affects the formation of biotin, an essential vitamin for your hair’s health. That means that it isn’t necessarily as simple as making sure you have consumed enough biotin, your digestion and absorption need to be working properly and your gut flora must be healthy.
If you feel you are experiencing dull, lifeless hair and want a comprehensive review of the ways you can improve it, we can guide you in the right direction. Book in with one of our qualified practitioners here.
Serena Di Modugno, Adv Dip Nat, Adv Dip WHM, Currently studying BHSc Nutritional Medicine
Serena is a qualified naturopath with a focus on MTHFR, allergies, anxiety
For speaking enquiries on this topic get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org