There is no getting away from Donald Trump, Covid19 and the shenanigans in the Dáil with everything looking a little hairy to say the least! No better way to introduce this week’s article and take your mind off things for a moment, than to “comb” through some noteworthy tips to keeping your locks in good shape!
Much like the skin, the condition of your hair can be an outward sign of your inside health. In times of illness, trauma or major life events it is not uncommon to see dramatic changes in hair condition in the subsequent weeks or months. With time, the hair usually recovers following such upheavals depending on our ability to adjust and cope. For most people the loss of hair condition is a gradual process that has more to do with the everyday stuff rather than any single traumatic experience. Genes, ageing, certain medications and hormones have a significant influence on hair quality, but dietary involvement should not be “brushed” aside when you want to give your hair some TLC.
From an evolutionary aspect, we were much hairier when we were bent over half-naked on all fours as hair helped protect us from the sun, kept us warm and trapped dirt. Being hairy back then was a plus for our survival. As we evolved upright, onto two legs and knitted ourselves a few jumpers we no longer needed so much body hair. We developed other strategies to protect ourselves and keep us warm and soon enough our head hair became more aesthetic than functional. For modern day humans hair has been relegated to a non-vital status and is one of the last ports of call when all the good nutrients, vitamins and minerals are being dished out. Nutrients from our diet are allocated to the most vital of organs first and to fuel the most demanding body systems. When it comes to glossy, lustrous locks our nutrition must be more than adequate for the essential functioning of the body to have something left over for the less important things like hair.
There is no “one” super vitamin or mineral that will ensure continued growth and condition of the hair. Our hair, hair follicles and scalp utilizes a variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats as long as they are plentiful and consistent in the diet. Today’s diet has become deficient in many of the key nutrients our hair needs and this coupled with the added stress of modern living has wreaked havoc on our hair.
Hair is mainly made of protein and the quality of the protein we eat can influence the hair life cycle and its ability to grow and renew itself. Lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds in their most natural form are good sources of proteins. Sulphur is the third most abundant mineral in the body, after calcium and phosphorous. It is needed to produce keratin and to strengthen hair follicles, as well as having plenty other roles in the human anatomy. Found in low quantities in foods such as garlic, onions, broccoli, leafy vegetables, swiss chard and watercress it is also available in powder or capsules. Some studies demonstrated hair quality improvement when subjects supplemented with Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) – although these studies are small they are promising. MSM is commonly included in joint, bone and skin supplements and has some good science backing it up.
Low iron stores (ferritin) is a major cause of hair loss as it disrupts the nutrient supply to the hair follicle affecting the growth cycle and resulting in excess shedding. Iron rich foods include red meat, liver, eggs, lentils and blackstrap molasses which need the assistance of vitamin C for optimum absorption of iron. The collagen that surrounds the hair also relies on vitamin C so ensure you are getting plenty of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables all year round. Zinc and Silica are two more minerals important to hair health. While they can be supplemented, food sources of silica include cucumber, mango, green leafs, beans, celery and asparagus. Silica is also found in horsetail (herb) and nettles which are often used as a hair rinse for weak, brittle hair. Among some of the foods high in zinc are pumpkin seeds, organic meat, fresh oysters, brazil nuts, eggs and pecans.
Vitamin E is required to protect hair from UV light and prevent breakage. Vitamin E foods include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, pinenuts, spinach, avocado and olives. B-complex vitamins particularly biotin and vitamin B6 can boost rejuvenation, prevent thinning and increase scalp circulation. B-vitamins are almost always lost through refining of grains so choose wholegrain foods such as unrefined buckwheat, pot barley and whole wheat products. Rosemary essential oil is also noted for scalp circulation and can be added to organic hair products or mixed with a little coconut oil for a homemade hair mask. Omega 3, an essential fat found in oily fish, flaxseed, walnuts and avocado helps strengthens and hydrate the hair shaft.
It is remarkable that as we have become less hairy through the ages, we have become more precious about the little bit of hair on our head. We often try to mask our lack-lustre hair with increasing amounts of chemicals and harsh hair treatments - which eventually can become more of a cause than a solution to a bad hair day. A truly nourished head of hair is the by-product of great inner health and well-being which is ultimately our finest feature!
Researched and written by Irene :)
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