Coping with hair loss

Nutritional knowhow and lifestyle strategies for tackling hair loss

When we think of hair loss, many of us will think of men with receding hairlines or bald patches. But many women suffer with hair loss too, which can be a distressing and upsetting problem to cope with.

Professor Jan Wadstein, a hair loss expert with Pharma Medico (www.pharmamedico.com) explains: “While genetic hair loss, also referred to as androgenetic alopecia, is much more common in men, hormonal hair loss is something that many women experience at some point in their lives, whether it is after giving birth or going through menopause. Other factors, such as stress, diabetes and various medications can cause hair loss in both women and men.”

The hairs we shed each day start to grow back again from the same hair follicle and begin a new cycle of growth. This is known as the Hair Growth Cycle.

“The normal Hair Growth Cycle can be disrupted by a number of factors,” explains Professor Wadstein, “some of which are simply out of our control, such as illness, hormones and genetics. Other factors, such as stress, diet and overall health, we can somewhat control or at least try to improve, but it can take quite a while to see if lifestyle changes actually work. However, no matter the cause of the hair loss, the Hair Growth Cycle is always affected, which is why normalising it is the first treatment goal.”

Did you know?

On average we lose around 100-150 hairs a day. These will shed while sleeping, washing our hair, brushing our hair or simply walking down the street.

Be kind to your hair

Daily styling and the way that we generally treat the hair can of course have an impact on the health of the hair. “The most common type of hair loss caused by daily styling is Traction Alopecia, which is hair loss through breakage,” explains Professor Wadstein. “The best way to counteract this type of hair loss is by supporting normal hair growth and being careful with heat styling, tight hairstyles, vigorous brushing and general over-processing of the hair. The daily wear and tear is most easily combated with a daily supplement to maintain the health of the hair, rather than trying to repair the hair after the damage has occurred.

As a matter of overall health, using natural products greatly decreases the chances of allergic reactions and dangerous side effects. In fact, the concept of natural and drug-free products has gained a major foothold throughout the UK and Ireland as a serious alternative to conventional, chemically-based products.

For example when it comes to treatment of hair growth disorders, consumers are increasingly aware of the risk of harmful and dangerous side effects – which can even be permanent in some instances. Alternatively, there are a few supplements that can directly support the healthy Hair Growth Cycle, which is important, as this is the mechanism controlling hair growth and quality.”

As is the case with so many health issues, stress can play a big part in hair loss. Professor Wadstein explains: “A 2016 study showed that stress was among the biggest causes of hair loss in women and, quite often, the fact that women are experiencing hair loss will in itself cause stress, so the hair loss becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy! While it’s often easier said than done, taking steps to manage stress levels can help to get things back on a more even keel... simple relaxation techniques, mindfulness exercises, yoga and even just a good run or workout can all help in stress-busting, which in turn can go a long way to protecting the health of the Hair Growth Cycle.”

Did you know?

It is reported that 60 per cent of women will experience some degree of disruption to their hair growth at some stage in their life. This could be in the form of mild shedding and thinning of the hair, to significant/excess shedding, where the scalp becomes visible (female pattern hair loss).

6 top foods for healthy hair

Make sure you fill your plate with these foods which will help to support good hair growth. Tips courtesy of Mike Mirzaee of Amalgamated Euro Products UK (www.aepcorp.co.uk)

1. Salmon

This cold-water fish is rich in both protein and vitamin D, plus omega-3 fatty acids – all of which are key to strong, healthy hair. About 3 per cent of the hair shaft is made up of these fatty acids. Omega-3s are also found in cell membranes in the skin of your scalp and the natural oils that keep your scalp and hair hydrated. Other good sources of essential fatty acids include sardines, trout and mackerel, as well as avocado, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.

2. Walnuts

A significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids are found in these nuts. They are also good sources of biotin and vitamin E, which help to safeguard your cells from DNA damage. What’s more, insufficient biotin in the diet can lead to hair loss. Walnuts are also a good source of copper, the mineral that helps maintain your natural hair colour.

3. Oysters

Insufficient zinc in the diet can lead to hair loss as well as a dry, flaky scalp. Just 3oz of oysters contains a huge 493 per cent of your daily value of zinc. Other good sources include nuts, pumpkin seeds, beef and eggs.

4. Sweet potatoes

Low levels of vitamin A can lead to dandruff, as vitamin A is needed to produce the oils that protect the scalp. Sweet potatoes are a good source of the antioxidant beta carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A. Other good sources of beta carotene include carrots, mangoes, pumpkin and apricots.

5. Eggs

Eggs are not only a good source of protein, but they are also rich in zinc, selenium, sulfur, and iron. Iron helps the body’s cells to transport oxygen to the hair follicles, and low levels of iron (anaemia) are a major cause of hair loss, especially in women. Other good sources of iron include chicken, fish, pork, beef and dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.

6. Lentils

Lentils are a great source of protein, iron, zinc and biotin, all of which are needed for strong, healthy locks. This makes them a top healthy hair food for vegetarians and vegans.

Helping hair loss with herbs

Herbalist Henriette Kress offers some advice on how to manage hair loss issues with herbs.

Stress is often linked with hair loss, particularly bald patches in the hair (alopecia areata). Henriette says: “I like two herbs for the kind of stress where you wish to avoid conflict and say ‘yes’ although you really want to say no. They’re cinquefoil and agrimonia. Eat a small piece of the leaf of either every day or add them to your herbal tea; soon enough you’ll notice that your stress is lessened and your bald patches disappear.”

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