I admit that I am a bit skeptical when I hear claims that specific foods prevent hair loss. I always believed that hair loss was associated with your genetic makeup. According to a WebMD article, though, it turns out that while hair loss is genetic, it can also be due to anything that disrupts the formation of hair. Such disruptions can include medication, illness, infection, or chemicals. It can also include poor or improper nutrition.
And guess what? Hair loss is not a condition that’s unique to men—the American Hair Loss Association explains that women account for 40 percent of those in the U.S. who deal with the issue. While hair loss in men is fairly well accepted, the same condition in women can range from slightly embarrassing to extremely distressing.
So is there anything diet-related that a person can do to prevent, or at least reduce, hair loss? It turns out that the answer is yes, though it seems that only definitively if the causes have to do with poor nutrition. That makes sense; just as you wouldn’t expect to get a great crop of vegetables out of nutrient-poor soil, you can’t expect to get a good crop of hair out of a poorly nourished body.
But how does hair actually grow?
Interesting facts about hair and how it grows
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) explains that hair on your body begins to grow as a root that forms at the bottom of each hair follicle, little pockets under your skin. More root cells, which are made of protein, get added as the blood vessels in skin nourish them. The hair pushes out through your skin, getting a slight oil bath from an adjacent oil gland, and then dies by the time it pokes out through your skin.
The same AAD page notes that we all start off with around 5 million hair follicles, and that’s it—what we have at birth is what we’ve got to work with. About 100,000 of those are on our scalp. As we age, some of those follicles die, with some experiencing a greater loss of follicles than others over time. Every day, we lose about 50-100 hairs. That’s hairs, not follicles, fortunately.
How what you eat effects your hair
WebMD explains that eating too much vitamin A or too little protein can lead to hair loss. A separate article in WebMD suggests that iron deficiency can also cause it. Clearly, eating the right amount of vitamin A and making sure you eat enough protein and iron is key to healthier hair.
How much vitamin A is too much? That depends on the form of it that you ingest, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Vitamin A can be ingested as either beta carotene that the body naturally transforms to vitamin A as it needs, or as preformed vitamin A, or retinol. If you’re getting it from foods with beta carotene, you don’t have to worry, so eat foods rich in beta carotene like sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, and pumpkin.
Getting enough protein in your diet is easy, but doing so without overdoing fat consumption can prove a bit more challenging. The BBC food blog recommends foods such as eggs, yogurt, fish and seafood, nuts, pork, and poultry. Similarly, it’s easy to eat enough iron each day, but pay attention to the fat in many iron-rich meats. The Mayo Clinic suggests eating the following to get enough iron in your diet: red meat, pork, beans, dark leafy vegetables, peas and dried fruit such as raisins or apricots.
What experience have you had with reducing hair loss through your diet. How about just getting healthier hair? I’d love to hear.