The foods you eat and their nutritional value play a critical role in the health of your scalp and the growth of your hair. There are approximately 120,000 hairs growing on the scalp at any one time, all needing nutritional support, but it’s a fact that hair is not a vital organ or tissue, meaning your body will never prioritise its nutritional needs. Therefore a nutritional imbalance will often show up first as a scalp issue and/or in the form of excessive hair fall or hair loss.
Scalp and hair problems can arise from either a deficiency or an excess of nutrients in your diet.
A deficiency in iron for instance or an excess of Vitamin A can cause hair loss, so keep this in mind.
We have compiled some dietary information to help you achieve both a healthy scalp and hair.
- Eat sufficient protein. Protein is used to build tissue cells and hair is composed of around 85% of a protein called keratin. The best sources of proteins are primary proteins or animal proteins, including fish, eggs, lean meats, red meat, poultry and cheese. Cheese and dairy products can cause or worsen eczema and dandruff in some people so be mindful of this. Beans, lentils, nuts, tofu, and pulses are secondary proteins or plant proteins. They are classified this way because they don’t contain the same amount of essential amino acids as animal proteins and are not as easily absorbed.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats our body cannot make and therefore must be obtained through our diet. Omega-3s are found in the cells that line the scalp and also provide the oils that keep your scalp and hair hydrated. Your diet should include oily fish such as salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel and plant sources such as avocado, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
- Vitamin A is needed by the body to make sebum. Sebum is an oily substance created by our hairs sebaceous glands and provides a natural conditioner for a healthy scalp. Without sebum we may experience an itchy scalp and dry hair. Include animal products and orange/yellow coloured vegetables which are high in beta-carotene (which makes vitamin A) such as carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Be cautious don’t overdo it with Vitamin A supplements.
- Don’t forget the Vitamin B complex, all eight B vitamins (B1 Thiamin, B2 Riboflavin, B3 Niacin, B5 Pantothenic acid, B6 Pyridoxine, B7 Biotin, B9 Folic acid, and B12 Cobalamin) play a large role in keeping us healthy. B vitamins affect our energy, metabolism, nerves, muscles, skin, nails, and hair. As a whole, vitamin B complex promotes cell growth and division, which is important for healthy hair growth. To make sure your body isn’t vitamin B deficient, it’s important to replenish your body’s supply daily. This is because this type of vitamin is water-soluble, meaning the body can’t store it. Vitamin B12 is the most important of the B vitamins, but for best results try to include them all in your daily foods. Biotin is a member of the B family and is known as Vitamin H - the "H" being derived from the German word for "hair". Biotin is found in small amounts in a range of foods including, egg yolks, liver, and yeast. Finally, research seems to suggest that a lack of B Vitamins, especially Vitamin B12, can speed up the hair greying process.
- Iron and Vitamin C. Ferritin (stored iron) levels are important in terms of hair growth. To help promote healthy iron levels, try to eat red meat at least twice a week or iron-rich foods such as spinach, beans & lentils, quinoa, white mushrooms, squash & pumpkin, dried apricots, sardines, salmon, oysters, mussels, chicken and dried thyme. Iron can only be absorbed effectively if you are consuming it alongside vitamin C. Have a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, or one of your favourite fruits/vegetables to help with iron uptake.
- Vitamin E is great internally and topically. The sun can damage our hair just like it can damage our skin so ensure you eat foods rich in vitamin E to provide protection for your hair. Nuts are nutritional powerhouses, providing zinc and selenium as well as vitamin E, so try to include them as part of a balanced diet. We also have Vitamin E in our Pure Shampoo & Conditioner range.
- Zinc is important. It supports the formation and balance of hormones and enzymes and assists to maintain our immune system and wound healing abilities. Zinc helps our bodies to process carbohydrates, fats and proteins which are the building blocks of hair and is found in a wide variety of foods including lamb, beef, liver, chicken, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, mushrooms, cashews and kefir.
- Complex Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are important because they provide energy and your hair cells need a lot of energy to grow. However, because hair is a non-essential tissue its needs are not prioritised and a deficit of carbohydrates is likely to show up first in the form of excessive hair shedding. Whole grains are the best, especially oats, peas, barley, legumes and brown rice.
- Iodine. Suboptimal thyroid functioning can lead to abnormal hair growth. Because iodine supports proper thyroid functioning, 112-225 mcg of iodine (in the form of kelp) per day is the recommended dosage.
- Drink plenty of water.Water plays an important role in the health of your body. This includes the condition of your skin and your scalp. When you don’t get enough water, your skin cells begin to dry up and can flake. This can cause itching and irritation and lead to conditions like dandruff.
Read an article on hair loss.