Whether your hair is dull and lifeless, or seems to be falling out, know that what you put into your body, and leave out of it, can affect your hair's health and thickness. The usual culprits behind any changes in your hair are thyroid, iron and B12. If blood tests for these come back within normal range, there's still a lot you can do to get a salon-free shine. Here's six go-to suggestions:
1. Get a bite on biotin
Aside from being found in certain foods, biotin is manufactured in our intestines by "friendly" bacteria making it essential to take a probiotic daily. In some instances a biotin deficiency can cause hair loss, which can progress in severity to include loss of eyelashes and eyebrows (it can also cause nails to break, chip, or flake easily).
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Bottom line: Consume foods high in biotin like swiss chard, carrots, almonds (and other nuts), whole eggs, goat and cow's milk, halibut, strawberries, raspberries, and vegetables such as onions and cucumbers.
2. Stock up on selenium
A potent micronutrient, selenium is essential for healthy thyroid function. It's required in the transport of thyroid hormones into our cells and has been shown to lower thyroid antibodies. Since a sluggish thyroid can contribute to poor hair quality or thinning, I recommend including selenium-rich foods in your diet daily.
Bottom line: Reach for brazil nuts, crimini mushrooms, cod, shrimp, tuna, halibut, salmon, scallops, chicken, eggs, shiitake mushrooms, lamb, and turkey. It only takes 1-2 brazil nuts per day to improve your selenium status.
3. See healthier hair with vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential to producing collagen, a connective tissue that gives structure by holding tissues in the body together, including hair, skin and nails. A vitamin C deficiency can cause the hair to split and break, though the good news is its reversible. And since stress can deplete vitamin C levels in just 20 minutes, it's important to replenish often.
Bottom line: Foods that are highest in vitamin C include strawberries, acerola cherries, citrus fruits, kiwi, bell peppers, brussel sprouts, dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and even some fresh herbs such as cilantro, chives, thyme, basil and parsley. Be sure to eat your fruits versus drinking them as the latter is too high in sugar.
4. Boost your intake of iron
An iron deficiency is perhaps the most common culprit behind hair loss. If you have a very heavy menstrual cycle you can pretty much guarantee that your iron levels are taking a hit. Low iron can be easily diagnosed with a blood test and often has other symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and general poor health. It can lead to a condition called anemia, possible hair loss or hair shedding.
Bottom line: Add in iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, turkey, egg yolks, dried beans, dried fruit, and whole grains to your diet. You can also incorporate 500-1000 mg of lysine daily as it improves the absorption of iron levels.
5. Add a zest of zinc
Zinc is a mineral that promotes cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair. It also functions in the maintenance of the oil-secreting glands attached to hair follicles. Both hair loss and dandruff can be linked back to a zinc deficiency.
Bottom line: Top up your plate with good sources of zinc including oysters, nuts (walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds), beans, beef and lamb.
6. Try a healthy hair growth cocktail
Try adding the following to your daily supplement regime: Zinc (15mg), magnesium (400-600 mg), silica (2 pills by Biosil) or a scoop of collagen powder (by Neocell), vitamin C (2000 mg) and a mix of healthy fats including Omega-3 (6000 mg) and Evening primrose oil (1000 mg).
If you are low in iron or B12 look for an iron citrate or pick up a pre-natal vitamin which is loaded with nutrients, including iron and folic acid, and add 2000 mcg of B12 daily. To top it off, add 1 tbsp of ground flax seed twice daily, which has been shown to slow hair loss. Also remember to have protein with each meal as lack thereof can lead to weak and brittle hair.
Lastly, for a homemade hair mask that will add some shine without extra chemicals, try organic coconut oil. Simply melt the oil in a saucepan, let it cool slightly so it isn't scalding, apply to your hair and leave it on for 20-30 minutes (you can wear a shower cap to continue about your tasks). Then wash the mixture out and condition your hair. A tablespoon a day will also boost your thyroid function.
If you're suffering from hair loss see more all-natural cures here.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.
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