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Can your diet help prevent and treat hair loss and premature greying?

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Tackling hair loss? It's a real journey for many adults out there. With a boom in biotin supplements, it can be tempting to jump on the band wagon. But what does the science say? Can your diet help prevent and treat hair loss and premature greying?



 Can these nutrients help prevent and treat hair loss and premature greying?


Firstly, why do we start to lose our hair?


Okay, so hair loss is a pretty common concern. You've got your genetics, lifestyle choices, and other sneaky factors playing a role. But get this: popping some vitamin pills might actually make a difference. See, these tiny nutrients are super important for your cells to grow and function properly. If you're low on them, it could lead to different types of hair loss.


Why do we lose hair in the first place? Well, there's a bunch of reasons. Genetics is a biggie – blame those family genes for male-pattern or female-pattern baldness. Then there are hormonal rollercoasters (hello pregnancy and menopause!), medical treatments, stress (yup, it can make your hair peace out for a bit), and even your hairstyling habits.



Types of Hair Loss


1. Androgenetic alopecia: Sometimes it's called "male-pattern" or "female-pattern" baldness. This can be seen in conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome whereby hormones called androgens (such as testosterone) are higher.


2. Telogen effluvium: This is when your hair falls out more than usual because your body went through something stressful. It's like your hair taking a break because your body got worried or stressed about something big, like an illness, surgery, or a tough time in life.


3. Alopecia Areata: This happens when your immune system, which normally protects you from sickness, gets a bit mixed up and starts attacking your hair by mistake. It causes patches of hair to fall out, leaving bald spots.


4. Premature Greying: This is when your hair starts turning gray earlier than expected. Instead of waiting until later in life. It's often because of things like genes or not having enough of certain vitamins in your body.



Can your diet help prevent and treat hair loss and premature greying?


Vitamin D


Vitamin D is like a superhero for your hair. It talks to your hair follicles, tells them to grow and stay strong, and even keeps your scalp happy. Studies hint that low vitamin D might link to various hair issues. But here's the catch – extra vitamin D won't necessarily stop hair loss unless you're running low on it.


Studies have shown a possible connection between having not enough vitamin D in your body and seeing better signs in hair conditions like androgenetic alopecia (which makes your hair thin), telogen effluvium (when hair falls out more), and alopecia areata (which causes bald patches). However, there is no evidence that additional vitamin D can help to prevent hair loss in the absence of a deficiency!


As vitamin D deficiencies are extremely common, it is always worth getting a blood test from your medical doctor, if you suspect that you may be deficient. Common signs include: fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness or cramps, and mood changes.



Iron


Iron is another big player. It helps your hair grow and gets nutrients to those follicles. Low iron levels might mess with your hair's growth cycle and make it shed more. But too much or too little can be a problem – balance is key.


Always check with your medical doctor and/or dietitian before taking an iron supplement, they can ensure you are a eligible and support you with doses.


Otherwise, ensure sufficient iron intake through diet, alongside a balanced intake of supporting nutrients like vitamin C, can help to maintain vibrant, strong hair and minimizing the risk of hair loss. But here's the thing – just taking extra vitamin D might not stop hair loss if you don't actually have a shortage of it!



Biotin


Biotin, often hyped as a remedy for hair health, lacks solid scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness in treating hair loss.


Surprisingly, taking too much biotin can even mess up the results of blood tests, causing confusion for doctors trying to diagnose other health issues. It's essential to be cautious with biotin supplements because while they're popular for hair, they might not be as helpful as people think and could cause more confusion than solutions, especially in terms of diagnosing other health problems accurately.


Instead of relying on biotin supplements, making sure you eat enough foods rich in biotin is a smarter way to meet your body's needs without going overboard. Foods like: eggs, nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, and certain fruits contain biotin and can help maintain healthy levels.


The gaps


And what about other vitamins and minerals? Some show promise but need more research. There's a lot we don't know yet, so talking to a pro before downing those supplements is a smart move. Let's take a closer look:


  • Right now, there isn't enough evidence to support using zinc, riboflavin, folic acid, vitamin E, or vitamin B12 supplements as effective treatments for Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), Alopecia Areata (AA), or Telogen Effluvium (TE) when you're low on these nutrients.

  • The role of selenium isn't clear either, so taking extra selenium isn't recommended. Some studies hint at a possible link between too much vitamin A and hair loss, possibly tied to having too much selenium. But to be sure about this connection, more research is needed.

  • Not having enough iron, vitamin D, folate, vitamin B12, or selenium when you're young may make your hair turn grey early. Correcting these deficiencies for children and young adults might help with premature greying worries.


Knowing the limits of current research on specific supplements and how well they work for different hair problems is super important. While some connections seem promising, we need bigger studies to really say if these supplements are the answer. It's always best to talk to a pro (like a dietitian or medical doctor) before trying supplements, especially for anything related to your hair.


What about hair greying?

Embracing natural changes, such as the graying of hair, is a beautiful part of life's journey. As we age, our hair often undergoes changes in colour, and this is completely normal and natural. However, you might find it interesting to know that certain nutrients may play a part in bringing about these changes a little earlier than expected.


Deficiency in certain micronutrients like ferritin, vitamin D, folate, vitamin B12, and selenium has been linked to losing hair color prematurely. For people dealing with early greying of hair, it may be good idea to check if they're lacking these vitamins and minerals. If there's a shortage, we suggest giving supplements to make up for what's missing. This way, we can help keep the natural color of the hair for longer.


Here are some foods rich in these micronutrients:

  • Vitamin D: Fatty fish (like salmon and tuna), egg yolks, cheese, fortified milk or orange juice, and exposure to sunlight are good sources of vitamin D.

  • Folate: Leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), beans, lentils, avocado, and citrus fruits are rich in folate.

  • Vitamin B12: Animal products like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fortified cereals are great sources of vitamin B12.

  • Selenium: Brazil nuts, seafood (like tuna and oysters), sunflower seeds, eggs, and whole grains contain selenium.

Including a variety of these foods in your diet can help maintain healthy levels of these nutrients, potentially supporting hair health and preventing premature greying - without going overboard, which may be possible with supplementation in the absence of a nutrient deficiency.


Takeaway Tips for Healthy Hair through Nutrition


1. Assess and Address Deficiencies: Prioritise checking nutrient levels, especially vitamin D and iron, if experiencing hair loss issues. Consulting with a medical doctor or dietitian for appropriate supplementation is essential.


2. Eat a Mix of the Good Stuff: Opt for a well-rounded diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals rather than solely relying on supplements. Incorporate foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and lean meats for a nutrient boost.


3. Moderation is Key: Avoid excessive intake of vitamins like A, biotin and selenium, as they might exacerbate hair loss issues. Only take these if prescribed by a dietitian or medical doctor.


4. Holistic Approach: Remember, while supplements play a role, they're just a part of the overall approach to hair health. Factors like stress management, lifestyle choices, and genetics also impact hair condition.


Let me know if you would like support with your hair health in clinic - I would love to support.

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