The hair and beauty industry is a multibillion-dollar industry and for many reasons. The health of your hair speaks volumes about who you are with many believing that your hair is a reflection of the physical state of your body, and signs of your age, sexual vitality and more.
If you are one of the unlucky ones whose hair is thinning, shedding, or simply falling out, take note, don't despair, there are things you can do to help.
Albeit genetics, lifestyle and age affect the health of your hair, diet and nutrition also play a huge part. There are certain key vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can make a significant difference (1).
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication (2).
Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant that helps support scalp health by creating an optimal environment for hair growth.
Research has shown that diets deficient in Vitamin A can lead to several health related issues, including hair loss (3).
Take note however, getting the balance right is important also as too much Vitamin A can actually lead to hair loss (4). It would be wise to work with your healthcare professional to better understand how deficient you may be to ensure that you do not over do it.
When it comes to going the natural route to tackle hair loss, you can't get any more natural than our diet.
Some Vitamin A rich foods include such items as sweet potato, beef liver, spinach, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe, sweet red peppers, mangos, black-eyed peas (also known as cowpeas) and apricots which form the top 10 as recommended by the National Institute of Health (5).
Work with your doctor to determine your level of deficiency to better understand what course of action you need to take. Your age will determine the appropriate RDA. Adequate vitamin A consumption through certain food intake may be enough to rectify any deficiencies. Alternatively, you may want to consider a quality Vitamin A supplement.
2. Biotin - Vitamin H
Biotin is a coenzyme that assists various metabolic reactions in the body which are important for the maintenance of healthy skin and hair (6).
Biotin is the most well known vitamin commonly associated with boosting a healthy head of hair. Often called Vitamin H, this is an essential vitamin that plays a significant role in promoting optimal hair health.
There have been numerous studies that link low levels of biotin to hair loss (7, 8).
Biotin works to promote healthy hair by increasing the hair's elasticity and protect against dryness, which also helps prevent breakage. In addition, Biotin helps produce keratin, a fundamental component of healthy hair. It has also been suggested by some experts that biotin may even reduce the pace in which graying occurs.
When it comes to consuming a healthy dose of Biotin through our diet, eggs are the way to go! They are full of Biotin. Other foods that are rich in Biotin include peanuts, almonds, wheat bran, salmon, low-fat cheese, and avocados (9).
B-vitamins in general are very much needed for assisting healthy blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicle and shaft as well as helping the body process critical amino acids, which are essential for keratin production (10). Keratin is the name for the protein found naturally in the hair strands. Keratin is an important structural protein, and it can certainly help with hair thickness.
Biotin is a significant vitamin when it comes to hair health. Biotin rich foods are an essential element to ensure that defincines don't occur. Check that your diet has a good balance of B-vitamins to ensure optimal keratin production.
3. Saw Palmetto
Traditionally, including by Native Americans, Saw Palmetto has been used for a variety of conditions including diabetes, prostate issues, inflammation, sex drive and hair loss (11). As such, there are many hair growth supplements out there that include Saw Palmetto.
Chemical analysis of Saw Palmetto shows that it contains mostly fatty acids (approx. 80%) and phyto glycerols. Saw Palmetto berries contain a range of nutrients including sodium, chromium, crude fiber, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, silicon and thiamine. They contain average amounts of cobalt, dietary fiber, fat, protein, sodium, vitamin A and a little calcium and vitamin C (12).
Saw Palmetto, also known as Serenoa repens is a key ingredient when it comes to addressing hair loss. This popular natural herbal hair loss ingredient has been subject to numerous clinical studies and research.
One such study that tested the effectiveness of Saw Palmetto and Beta Sitosterol on hair loss appeared in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2002. The research found that the group who took 400 mg of Saw Palmetto and 100 mg of Beta Sitosterol saw an increase in hair growth when compared to the placebo. That said, the result must be taken in context due to the limited number of participants; a lack of consideration for external factors and the lack of knowledge as to which may have a greater impact - Saw Palmetto or Beta Sitosterol (13).
The jury is still out on just how effective this natural herb is for hair loss, but it is definitely one that is worth checking out.
Does Saw Palmetto stop hair loss? We say, do your homework. There are studies out there to suggest it does and because it is all natural, with no noted side effects, we feel this is a strong contender for adding to your daily diet if you are looking to boost the health of your hair.
4. Amino Acids
Albeit not the miracle hair growth potion that you are probably looking for (and very likely does not actually exist), amino acids are a crucial element that play an essential role for healthy hair and stopping hair loss. When included as part of a healthy, balanced daily diet, amino acids encourage the growth of healthy, strong hair and are key to renewed hair growth.
Amino acids help create red blood cells to deliver minerals, nutrients and oxygen to the hair follicles as well as positively affect collagen and keratin production - both are essential hair proteins that are fundamental to strong, healthy hair.
There are four key amino acids that play a part in the production of keratin and collagen: cysteine, lysine, arginine and methionine (14).
Approximately a quarter of keratin is made from cysteine. Cysteine and methionine act as a precursor to the synthesis of keratin which is a hair protein important for building strong and healthy hair (15).
L-lysine is mainly present in the inner part of the hair root and is generally responsible for hair shape and volume.
Several studies have confirmed that cysteine supplementation can reduce the symptoms of androgenic Alopecia (16).
Collagen is a natural amino acid that is essential for healthy skin, nails and hair. It happens to be the most abundant protein present in the body and collagen and hair growth are linked closely together.
Collagen production relies on key amino acids such as lysine, methionine, glycine and proline, all of which can be sourced from our daily diet. In addition, other important amino acids for healthy hair growth can be synthesized by the body, although if the diet is poor, deficiencies may be present and low concentrations may be evident (17).
In total, there are 22 amino acids, 9 are essential and 11 are considered non-essential. Each amino acid is derived from various different food sources but there are several sources of amino acids, such as chia and hemp seeds, that offer all essential amino acids, making them a complete protein package excellent for boosting optimal hair health. It is essential that you ensure you do not become deficient in any important amino acid if you are suffering hair loss.
These key amino acids form an integral building block for ensuring optimal hair growth and condition. Any deficiencies can be easily addressed through diet. It is worth speaking to a professional nutritionist to ensure that you are maximizing your amino acid intake for top hair health.
Are Hair Supplements Enough To Stop Hair Loss?
We are what we eat and unfortunately, in today's world, that isn't great! Diets in today's fast paced world are often lacking the minerals and vitamins we need to keep our healthy locks in tact. The sad truth is, that we may not be able to get all we need from our diet anymore as more and more genetically modified food is filling shelves.
A quality hair growth supplement may be a good solution. Make sure to choose something that is tried and tested, read testimonials from those that have benefited from a supplement and as is the case with any supplement, do your research to make sure you are buying something that is going to get you great results. It is always a good idea to check with your healthcare professional or doctor.
Our Ultimate Take Home Message
Bottom line is that we are all different and the reasons for poor hair health differ between each of us so the key is knowing yourself and your body. There are many other factors that may affect hair loss including smoking and sunshine (18). So take note of your own personal circumstances because what works amazing for one person could be a disaster for another. If in doubt, do your research and talk to professionals.
Whatever you decide, a healthy diet and lifestyle is a strong foundation for living a happy and healthy life. Many aspects of how to stop hair loss and what to do to promote hair growth are up for debate, but a healthy balanced diet is definitely not one of them!