The foods you eat every day fuel all the metabolic processes in your body. Food provides the energy needed to lift heavy boxes and run marathons, the calories required to maintain organ function, and the vitamins and minerals necessary to grow fingernails and heal cuts and scrapes. So it should come as no surprise that adequate nutrition is also essential to catalyze growth in one of the most metabolically active cell groups in the human body: hair follicles.
At any given moment 80-90% of the roughly 100,000 hairs on your head are in the active phase of a hair growth cycle. And like any other cell in your body, hair follicles need the nutrients you ingest from food in order to sustain growth. A deficiency in calories, protein, and/or micronutrients can impact the hair growth cycle and lead to hair loss.
One of the most common forms of reversible hair loss is acute telogen effluvium (TE), which can occur following sudden and significant weight loss or a decrease in protein intake. The body does not consider hair to be a vital organ and will not prioritize its nourishment needs in the setting of a nutritional imbalance; this is why one of the first symptoms of a protein or calorie deficiency is excessive hair loss. Click here to read more about the causes of TE and how to treat it.
Hair follicles need a balance of the macronutrients protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, along with micronutrients from vitamins and minerals, to promote healthy hair growth. Not all “good” diets are necessarily good for the maintenance of your hair – meal plans that eliminate carbohydrates cut out one of the essential macronutrients your hair needs to stay healthy. And because hair is made up of the tough protein keratin, a protein deficiency in your diet can contribute to hair loss. Additionally, not all fats make you fat – consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to stronger, healthier hair.
In addition to heavy-duty macronutrients, you need a balance of vitamins and minerals that aid in protein production, keep scalp oils circulating, and strengthen hair follicles. Vitamin C is used in the manufacturing of collagen, a major protein that makes up the connective tissues of skin, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Collagen is responsible for giving skin its structure, and it helps maintain the strength and elasticity of hair. Vitamin C also allows iron to be better absorbed into the body – a low level of the mineral iron is a cause of hair loss. That’s because iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body – and fresh oxygen fuels metabolism, growth, and repair to skin cells in the scalp. Vitamin A is necessary for the production of sebum, which is the oily substance that keeps the scalp moisturized. The B Vitamin biotin is one of the most important vitamins for hair growth; biotin is a key nutrient for the development of keratin, the protein that makes up hair and nails. Scientific studies link a biotin deficiency to hair loss, and many people who are thinning or balding take a biotin supplement to increase their levels. Many vitamins – including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E – also contain powerful antioxidants that protect hair from free radical damage. Trace minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, and selenium, are also necessary for healthy hair and continued growth.
Preventing nutrition-related hair loss is all about the balance of macronutrients and micronutrients: Just as Vitamin A Vitamin E, selenium, and zinc deficiencies can contribute to hair loss, over-supplementation of these vitamins and minerals can also cause hair to fall out. Many nutritional supplements marketed as hair loss treatments could cause further loss if you are not aware of the macronutrients and micronutrients you are already ingesting through food. The best method to prevent nutrition-related hair loss is through a balanced plate filled with fresh, whole foods.
- Scramble up a few eggs for a healthy dose of protein and iron;
- Boil up a batch of quinoa, lentils, or other whole grains for a complex carbohydrate kick and an extra helping of iron, zinc, biotin, and B vitamins;
- Satisfy your sweet tooth and increase your Vitamin C with citrus fruits, watermelon, berries, and mango;
- Fill up on omega-3 fatty acids with baked salmon and a handful of nuts and seeds;
- Snack on carrot sticks for a serving of Vitamin A;
- Mash up an avocado on toast for a hit of Vitamin E;
- Prepare a spinach salad to slip in your Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and iron – mix in other dark leafy greens to add a serving of B Vitamins; and
- For desert, nibble on a square of dark chocolate for a boost of iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and powerhouse antioxidants.
If you have questions or concerns that your hair loss is being affected by nutrition, contact Florida Hair Restoration at 800-842-4735 to speak with one of our medical professionals.