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Why does nutrition affect our hair?

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Your hair is the second fastest growing cell in our body (second only to intestinal cells). To add to this, you have around 120,000 hairs growing from your scalp, all of which need nourishment to grow. But because hair is not a vital organ or tissue, your body doesn’t prioritise its nutrition needs. So, due to hairs expendable nature, nutritional imbalances will often show up first in the form of hair loss. Both deficiencies and excesses of certain things in your diet can result in hair loss. As an example many wellness clinics will often see hair loss resulted in iron and ferritin deficiencies, or an overload in Vitamin A (mostly found in oily fish, cheese and liver) BUT, there are many ways to combat hair loss or hair deterioration just through knowledge of nutrition. Such as: Eat breakfast: As they say “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. This is true in more ways than one. Energy to form hair cells is lowest first thing in the morning so eating a balanced and nutritious breakfast consisting of proteins and carbohydrates will give your hair a nutritional boost at the very start of the day. Stay hydrated: Just like your skin, your scalp can become dehydrated. Drinking at least 1.5-2 litres of water a day (depending on your levels of activity and surrounding climate) can help to rehydrate your scalp and make for an ideal growing environment. Healthy snacking: The energy to form hair cells drops dramatically 4 hours after your last meal. Sustaining energy levels to your hair follicles is an important part of keeping healthy hair. Between meals, snack on a complex carbohydrate such as fruit, vegetables or wholemeal bread/crackers. Eat enough protein: Hair is composed primarily of proteins, so consuming adequate amounts is vital to hair growth. Eating a portion of high protein food with breakfast and lunch is a great way to ensure you’re getting enough. Sources of healthy proteins would include fish, chicken, eggs, beans, quinoa, tofu, legumes and nuts. Eat enough iron: Ferritin (stored iron) levels are extremely important for hair growth. If your diet allows it, try eating lean red meat at least twice a week (especially for those menstruating). If your diet doesn’t allow red meat, try to add an iron supplement to your diet, unless recommended otherwise by a doctor or professional nutritionist. Vitamin C: Iron is only absorbed by the body effectively if you are ingesting it alongside vitamin C. To help with iron uptake, drink a glass of fresh orange juice, or eat a favourite fruit/vegetable. Be wary of dairy: While dairy products are a good source of calcium, if you’re prone to eczema, psoriasis or dandruff, fair can trigger the condition. Know your skin and if these conditions flare up, try limiting your consumption of whole milk and cheese. Eat a varied diet: Try not to eat the same or similar meals every day. Eating a varied diet will help to ensure you are getting a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. A warning to tea drinkers: Research has shown that black tea can increase the likelihood of anaemia. This is because, without milk, the tannins in tea are left free to bind to the iron in your body and can therefore deplete the iron stores in your body. Try adding a splash of skimmed milk or dairy free alternatives (such as almond, oat or soy) to your tea to avoid this. Keep in mind that if you feel you have a balanced diet but are still experiencing hair loss it is recommended you see a healthcare professional as there can always be underlying conditions that cause this.

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