Have your nourished your hair today? I’m guessing you have done something with it already – washed it; brushed it; tied it back; styled it; worried about how it looks; thought about where it looks too patchy, grey or thin; or even wished for it to be straighter or curlier.
Needless to say, we have A LOT of thoughts about our hair every day! If you’re reading this, it’s my guess you’re hair conscious in some way.
I get it, you want it to look nice. May I warn you, this isn’t your traditional hair health article.
Let’s start with the basics, likely where most of us already feel pretty conscious. The health and growth of our hair is linked to a variety of complex factors such as genetics, age, illness, stress, the food we eat and many other factors.
Hair loss is actually pretty common and inevitable for the majority – about 80% of men, and 50% of women experience hair loss in their lifetime1.
Knowing that many of our population experiencing hair loss, I’m sure you’re already wondering if there’s any way to prevent losing your precious locks? Or, are there any trust worthy recommendations on the topic of hair health?
Enter, the beauty industry! Hair care accounts for 24% of the market share within the 56.2 billion dollar beauty industry1.
Of course these companies are making claims that their products will restore hair health, yet they are also responsible for making their stockholders happy by making lots of money.
Do they actually have your best interest at heart? Supplementation companies have also capitalized on a large group of individuals’ hair loss and health concerns by advertising certain products as hair loss treatments2.
The problem with these claims is that we have minimal scientific evidence to know whether or not these supplements actually work1.
When it comes to hair health, what does the evidence say? Can certain nutrients delay or even prevent hair loss? Perhaps.
What’s important to remember, is it is quite unlikely that your hair loss is solely linked to nutrition unless you are deficient in specific nutrients1.
For example, malnutrition can occur when you are not eating enough calories and/or protein, which can cause hair loss3.
This can often occur for folks who are caught up in chronic dieting or fad diets, often unaware of the side effects of these restrictive diets.
Iron deficiency anemia is another well-known cause of hair loss in women2, which may be the result of chronic dieting, heavy menstrual bleeding or high activity levels.
Other nutrient deficiencies including zinc, B-vitamins, vitamin A, D and E, biotin or essential fatty acids may slow down hair growth or even cause hair loss, but evidence supporting this claim is limited2,3.
Many of these deficiencies can be avoided by eating a variety of nourishing foods every day1.
Incorporating some of these foods into your daily meals in a mindful fashion may have an effect on your hair loss and promote overall hair health (see suggested list below).
In pregnancy and when breastfeeding, it is normal for some hair loss to occur as a result of hormonal changes including higher estrogen levels5.
In most, cases, hair growth often returns to normal 6 months to 2 years postpartum4.
In pregnancy, you have higher needs of many micronutrients to support you and your baby, which is why it is recommended to take a pre-natal vitamin5.
Iron, folic acid and zinc needs are increased, and deficiencies in these nutrients have been liked to hair loss2.
Iron needs are also higher in premenopausal women due to blood loss from menstruation and in postmenopausal women in cases with gastrointestinal blood loss2.
If you are in any of these life stages and concerned about a deficiency, consider working with a Registered Dietitian.
There are no strict eating guidelines for hair growth, or in my opinion – for anything! Ultimately it’s an experiment to find what works best for your body! Working with a holistic and mindful eating nutrition therapist, like myself can help you learn to eat a variety of nutrients that nourish your body and may improve the health of hair4.
Eating mindfully goes beyond your roots and plate.
It means to look at food in a way that’s respectful of all aspects of health, abilities, considers you and your needs not just from an illness and disease state but also you culturally, your taste buds, your emotions, your thoughts so that food isn’t another thing to worry about, “Am I eating the right foods for my hair!?”.
Eating mindfully for your hair health sounds more like a self-compassionate statement, “Today I will set the intention of taking care of my body within my abilities, to provide it nourishing food, as I am able to, and to be present to savour and enjoy these moments when I can.”
Let’s return to supplements.
There is not enough evidence to recommend supplementation as a hair loss treatment, and too much of certain nutrients can also harm your hair1.
Over-supplementation of selenium, vitamin A and vitamin E has been linked to hair loss1,2.
Speak with your Registered Dietitian if you are considering starting a supplement.
If you have concerns about your hair loss, book an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist.
They will help you to navigate the potential root cause.
If you think your hair loss may be related to your nutrition, consider booking an appointment with a Registered Dietitian.