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I used to have hair that would break easily, be absolutely riddled with split ends and I would have to get it trimmed very regularly for it to maintain a somewhat healthy appearance. I am not sure whether things would have changed naturally with age, or it truly fixed the underlying cause by changing my diet, correcting nutrient deficiencies and switching to natural hair care. Who knows! But something truly changed and the only reason to get my hair trimmed now is due to it getting too long, not because it has become dry, straw-like and riddled with split ends. Your hair is predominantly made up of keratin and collagen, which are both types of protein formed by varying amino acids. Not only do we need these proteins in sufficient amounts, but we also need many vitamins and minerals to support the production of these amino acids, and the result is healthy hair!
Zinc deficiency is correlated with hair loss, and the replenishment of zinc has shown to result in the regeneration of hair growth. The exact mechanism of how this occurs isn’t clear, though it may be due to the it’s role in protein synthesis, cell division and its critical role in pathways that control hair follicle morphogenesis. Much of our hair is made up of collagen, and zinc is a cofactor in the production of collagen, also proving its importance! In those with alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease where an individual suffers hair loss), increasing zinc levels proved therapeutic. Foods rich in zinc include meats, shellfish, seeds, nuts and eggs.
Iodine is required for the production of your thyroid hormones, so without enough iodine your thyroid cannot function optimally, and a symptom of this is hair loss. Other symptoms can be fatigue, dry skin and weight gain. A urinary iodine test can be organised with your doctor to determine a deficiency, however it is easy enough to incorporate true food sources, such as kelp or dulse flakes, oysters, and other seafood.
Iron deficiency is a well-known cause of hair loss, so if you’re suffering brittle, dull hair it is worth getting your iron levels tested through a simple blood test with your doctor. If you’re deficient in iron, there are a few things you need to do. Of course, ensure you’re eating enough, and foods rich in iron include meats, organ meats (particularly liver – think pate!) and other sources that are recognised though aren’t as absorbable include apricots, dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, legumes and broccoli. You also need to increase your vitamin C, which you can see why below!
Vitamin C is required for collagen production and iron absorption, both being critical for healthy hair. Vitamin C, although well recognised as important for our overall health, can sometimes be put to the wayside as it needs to be replenished every day. Be careful not to heat vitamin C rich foods, as it is heat sensitive. Incorporate foods such as berries, citrus fruits, parsley, papaya, kiwi fruit, broccoli and capsicum. Foods incredibly rich in vitamin C that you can source in a powder form include camu camu and kakadu plum, which are great to have in your natural medicine cabinet.
Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t get enough protein. Aim to have a variety of quality, easily digestible protein with each meal. When it comes to meats, try and incorporate slow cooked meals from gelatinous cuts of meat, like lamb shanks, osso bucco, oxtail and more. You can make seriously delicious meals with these. Otherwise, gelatine made into jelly, panna cotta, gummies or blended into hot drinks provides you with amino acids that can increase the health of your hair. This is something I personally noticed when increasing my gelatin intake.
Omega fatty acids
These have been shown to promote hair growth and hair density, so try to regularly incorporate fatty fish like salmon along with chia, hemp, flax and inca inchi seeds and oils.
There’s the obvious reason; you may not be eating enough of the foods mentioned above, but then let’s dive a little bit deeper. Nutrient deficiencies can be caused by stress, gut imbalances (such as not enough good bacteria, an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria, or the presence of parasites), food intolerances, lack of a balanced diet. That last point also seems obvious, however let me give you an example; we need vitamin D in order to absorb calcium, we need vitamin C to increase iron absorption, and we also need good fats in order to absorb vitamin A, D, E and K as they are fat soluble vitamins. Make sure you are getting an array of different foods in order for your body to function optimally.
Consulting Qualified Nutritionist