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We ladies love our hair, indeed for many women it is their crowning glory; so when those beautiful tresses start to thin, it’s panic stations. Fortunately, however, there is help at hand.
Hair loss in women is common but this does not make it any easier to bear. Society dictates that a good head of hair is an important part of your physical appearance. For a woman to lose her hair is therefore very distressing and can cause a serious blow to self-esteem and confidence.
Because there are so many contributing factors to hair loss, there is no simple single treatment. However, nutrition undoubtedly plays a key role, as malnutrition is known and guaranteed to compromise hair growth and condition.
CAUSES OF HAIR LOSSHair loss and dry and brittle hair may be the result of many factors including stress, hormonal changes and nutrient deficiencies. Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is characterised by the decrease in hair density and is commonly found in females after puberty. FPHL is believed to affect up to 50% of women over 50 and most commonly involve the crown and the frontal scalp. All the reasons for FPHL are not completely understood, but there seems to be a genetic link. Hormones, circulation and inflammation also seem to play roles in this condition. FPHL is often accelerated or exacerbated by acute stress, weight loss and pregnancy.
NUTRITION TO THE RESCUERecent research made a breakthrough in showing how supplementation can reduce hair loss. A study1 reviewed the effects of six months’ supplementation on hair growth, hair density and hair thickness. A group of 120 women aged 18 to 65, who suffered with stage 1 hair loss, received supplements of omega-3 from fish oil, omega-6 from seed oil, vitamin C, vitamin E and antioxidants for a duration of six months. Measurements showed a statistically significant reduction in hair loss in the supplemented group compared to the placebo. Improvements were noticed in hair density, hair thickness and a reduction in hair loss was also noticed. This study demonstrated a positive effect of a nutritional supplement on hair growth, which is believed to be the result of the positive effects of the supplements on hormone production, scalp condition and blood circulation.
Dietary sources Dietary sources of these nutrients that are vital for hair growth include: Omega-3 fatty acidsOily fish, such as sardines, salmon, pilchards and mackerel. Nuts and seeds, notably walnuts and flaxseeds (ground).
Omega-6 fatty acidsSeed oils, notably sunflower, canola, grapeseed and soya bean oil.Nuts and seeds, notably sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and peanuts.
AntioxidantsBrightly coloured fruit, notably blackcurrants, berries, prunes, plums and citrus.Brightly coloured vegetables, notably peppers, beetroot, spinach, avocado, tomatoes and carrots.
Did you know?Hair is non-living tissue made up mainly of a protein called keratin – the same material found in your nails. The health of your hair requires a plentiful supply of nutrient-rich blood to nourish the hair-follicles in the scalp, from which new hair sprouts.
The average hair grows about 1.25 cm per month. The average life of a single hair is approximately two to four years; however various factors, such as genetic programming, age, sex and health determine how long a hair will remain in the skin. The scalp of the average human contains approximately 100 000 individual hairs.
ReferenceLe Floc’h C, Cheneti A, et al. Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. [Abstract]. 8 January 2015. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jocd.12127/abstract
ANDREA DU PLESSIS, BSC (Dietetics), MPHIL (Exercise Science)
She is a registered dietician with a passion for healthcare through nutrition, natural remedies and a healthy lifestyle. As head of customer care at Vital Health Foods, she regularly presents talks and educational workshops on nutritional supplements and natural healthcare.
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