So you’ve cleansed your scalp and you’ve started a new routine of daily scalp routine and generally better care for your hair. I like to call this the “exterior game” of hair care. It is absolutely essential if you want to conquer hair loss and frankly, every man should be doing it. But there’s another very important part of the puzzle that cannot be ignored and is what I like to call the “interior game”. Here’s an example.
The simple reason is that your hair is one of many barometers of your health. Even if you are not overweight, exactly what you eat is critical to maximising your hair loss cessation and the amount of new hairs that you can regrow. You simply cannot ignore it. As another example to consider, male pattern baldness increased sharply after WW2 in Japan, due to a higher calorie, higher fat diet.
The biggest constituent of your hair is a protein named keratin – this is what is manufactured by the follicle during the dominant anagen (growth) phase of your hair. Keratins are a family of tough structural proteins and are the second strongest biological proteins on the planet (only proteins found in crab shells are tougher).
You can help the manufacture of keratin by ensuring you get enough of the good amino acids in your diet that it requires such as alanine, for example.
A better diet also means a better bloodstream, high in all nutrients, high in good fats and low in bad fats. A poor diet will result in blockages and constriction of the blood vessels feeding your hair follicles. Constriction leads to impaired blood flow and denutrification of the follicle which we already know leads to hair loss.
Eating Your Way to Healthy Hair
Everybody knows that eating well is essential for a healthy heart, bones, and other key body systems, but you may not realize that a lack of protein, good fat, vitamins, and minerals can affect what grows out of the top of your head as well. Hair needs to be fed ? and fed well ? to keep growing and to stay put. A steady diet of junk food isn?t healthy fodder for your hair.
Pumping up calories and proteins
It?s well documented that a diet deficient in calories or protein can contribute to hair loss or hair that doesn?t look healthy and vibrant. For example, patients with anorexia nervosa, a disease in which the patient consumes too few calories to sustain good health, often experience hair loss. Hair without good luster doesn?t feel good when you run your fingers through it, or it may be brittle and break off easily ? all may reflect a nutritional problem with your diet.
You can get most of the amino acids your body needs from a proper, well-balanced diet, but others are harder to absorb from the diet, especially as you get older. For some people, protein supplements may have a beneficial affect on hair growth. Adequate protein intake is critical for hair growth including amino acids, which include lysine, arginine, cystine, cysteine, and methionine. These amino acids are created by the body from the proteins we eat. If you eat protein rich foods, you get enough of these essential amino acids, but if you don?t, supplements may provide some of them. The essential amino acids are found in lean meats, nuts, grains, soy, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
Two sulfur-containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine, are most important for maintaining hair health because human hair requires sulfur for normal growth. (The body also requires sulfur for healthy connective tissue formation.)
Methionine: Methionine is an essential amino acid that your body doesn?t produce, so it must come from your diet or from supplements. Foods rich in methionine include sesame seeds, fish, meats, and some other plant seeds. The current recommended dose of methionine is 250 milligrams per day. Taking too much of this amino acid can cause toxicity because methionine is broken down into homocysteine, which can lead to heart disease.
Cysteine: Cysteine supports hair growth by providing sulfur to replicating hair follicle cells. It?s a non-essential amino acid, which means that your body can make it on its own. Cysteine also is found in most high-protein foods, including eggs, milk, whey protein, some cheese, chicken, turkey, and duck. Vegetarian sources include red peppers, garlic, brussel sprouts, oats, and wheat.
The recommended dose of cysteine is 100 milligrams per day. Supplementing your diet with cysteine has the affect of increasing the sulfur percentage in hair, which has been reported to increase the thickness and the strength of the hair.
Fitting in the good fats
?Good fats,? or essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 oils, are essential for your body?s functioning but are only obtained through your diet ? your body can?t manufacture these. You can get these essential fatty acids from fish (salmon, sardines, tuna), plant (flaxseed, soybeans, pumpkin seeds), and nut (walnut) oils, as well as in fish oil capsules.
After two to four months of essential fatty acid deficiency, people report hair dryness, change of hair color, scalp redness, and flakes. Consuming unsaturated fatty acids, for example fish oil or evening primrose oil, has been found to improve hair texture and scalp redness after a few months.
In traditional Indian medicine, body weakness is believed to cause hair loss, and so one treatment consists of a diet rich in proteins, including meat, fish (source of essential fatty acids), and dairy products. Avoidance of fried foods (source of saturated fats) is also recommended.
Getting your daily vitamins
Vitamins are organic compounds necessary to sustain life. You need to get your vitamins from food or dietary supplements, because you can?t make them yourself. Most vitamins work to speed up critical chemical reactions in the body. Vitamins are important nutrients for healthy hair. Don?t start taking vitamins by the handful to make sure you?re getting your daily requirement, though; doctors have linked hair loss to both deficiencies of some vitamins and excesses of others, and some vitamins can be dangerous to your overall health if you take too many.
The following sections run through the vitamins you need and the quantities that are helpful for your hair ? and the rest of you!
Vitamin A protects hair follicles from damage by free radicals, which are atoms with an unpaired electron. A diet deficient in vitamin A is also known to cause dry hair.
Too much vitamin A has been linked to hair loss. Vitamin A is a fatsoluble vitamin, which means that excess amounts are stored in the body and not washed out in urine, so it?s essential to keep vitamin A intake within normal limits.
Foods high in vitamin A include carrots, broccoli, and liver. The current recommendation of daily vitamin A intake is 900 micrograms (mcg) (3,000 IU) for men and 700 micrograms (2,300 IU) for women.
The B vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, cobalmin, and pantothenic acid. B vitamins are believed to contribute to the nourishment of the hair follicle.
You can get B vitamins from foods such as potatoes, bananas, tuna, and turkey. Deficiency in B vitamins has been associated with anemia and neurologic problems.
Biotin: Also known as vitamin H or B7, biotin is a water soluble B-complex vitamin that?s required for cell growth, the production of fatty acids, and the metabolism of amino acids. An adequate amount of biotin is about 30 to 100 mcg daily. Biotin is found in many foods including beans, bread fish, and legumes.
Biotin deficiency has been strongly linked to hair loss and, when severe, can even lead to loss of the eyebrows and lashes. Deficiency is rare but can be caused by excessive consumption of raw eggs, which contain high levels of the protein avidin, which strongly binds biotin.
Folic acid: This is the synthesized form of folate, which is important to maintain hair follicle cell division and growth. Rich sources of folate include leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, dried beans, and other fruits and vegetables. The current recommendation for folate intake is 400 mcg per day. However, if you?re pregnant or nursing, you should ask your doctor for a recommended dosage.
Signs of folic acid deficiency include anemia, increased fatigue, sore tongue, and graying hair. There?s evidence that exposure to ultraviolet light, including the use of tanning beds, can lead to a folic acid deficiency. In addition certain medicines, such as methotrexate used to treat severe psoriasis and some forms of cancer, can lead to deficiency.
Vitamin C is required to maintain healthy collagen in the connective tissue in your body and also around hair follicles. It also protects your cells because it?s a strong antioxidant (a substance that reduces damage caused by free radicals, which contribute to aging changes and can cause problems in many body systems). Citrus fruit is a rich source of vitamin C. Currently, the recommended dose of vitamin C is 90 milligrams per day and no more than 2 grams per day.
The most famous condition associated with vitamin C deficiency is scurvy, which results when collagen stops functioning properly. Symptoms of scurvy include bleeding gums, nose bleeds, sunken eyes, dark purplish spots on the legs, pinpoint bleeding around hair follicles, as well as unique ?corkscrew hairs.? Fortunately, this disease is rare in industrialized countries where fruits and vegetables are plentiful in the diet.
Vitamin E is the collective name for a set of eight related fat-soluble vitamins with antioxidant properties. Vitamin E provides physical stability to cell membranes, including cell membranes of hair follicles. Nuts, corn, and asparagus are just a few foods with high vitamin E levels. The daily recommendation of vitamin E for adults is 8 to 10 mg.
Vitamin E deficiency is rare and usually manifests first with neurologic deterioration, such as loss of reflexes.
I do not recommend a diet that is biased towards ingredients for hair regrowth. There is no need for a bias and it could also lead to deficiencies of other essential nutrients.
Instead, you should adopt a balanced diet as follows:
? Limit your intake of meat to only one meal a day. You simply do not need any more meat than that. Many proponents of Eastern medicine say that too much meat leads to hair loss.
? Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
? Try not to cook all your food (obviously you need to cook meat, however). Cooking destroys nutrients. Aim to eat at least 50% of your food “raw”.
? Limit dairy intake. Unfortunately, most of the milk and cheese that we consume is rich in growth hormones that are given to cows to boost their yields. These hormones play havoc with your own endocrine system.
? Limit sweet foods. Most people eat way too many foods containing refined sugar. Try to get your sweet flavours from the food themselves e.g. fruits, sweet potatoes etc.
? Flax seed oil. Try to get this into your diet. You can either press your own using a pestle and mortar and then just add it to your breakfast or you can buy it in a bottle (needs to be kept refrigerated).
? Vitamin C. This vitamin improves scalp circulation and there is no danger of overdosing on it because you will urinate out any excess. Citrus fruits are the best way to get this vitamin. I advise eating the whole fruit rather than simply just the juice.
? Avoid soya or soya derived products. Theoretically they might actually reduce male pattern baldness but this would be at the expense of playing havoc with your hormonal systems and developing breasts! My advice is to just avoid it altogether.
? Do not bother with vitamin and mineral supplements in pill form. You simply cannot reduce the nutrition in fruits and vegetables into a tiny pill! Your digestive tract will treat it as if it were inert material like cardboard!
Treat your body right and feed it with the right foods, the ones that it really wants, and it will operate in peak condition. Not just your hair but also your cardiovascular health and lowered risk of cancers. You need only follow the above instructions if you are serious about your hair. Optionally, if you are interested, the single best diet for good hair and overall peak body condition is the raw food diet.