Ever feel like you are doing everything physically possible to your hair but it’s still falling flat, dull, and lacking vibrancy? Try looking beyond the hair care products! The solution could be found from looking toward your diet and nutritional intake instead of what you’re putting topically on your hair. For some people, this might sound shocking (why would something I’m eating change how shiny and soft my hair is??), but it’s true.
As Mary Beth Janssen explains in her book Naturally Healthy Hair: Herbal Treatments and Daily Care for Fabulous Hair, the root of each hair on our head is buried in the dermis and is in direct contact with the bloodstream via capillaries, “any imbalances or toxicity in the body are interpreted and transferred to the hair through the blood supply.” I’m sure you’ve noticed that in times of stress, hormonal fluctuations, illness, and poor diet or when you’re exposed to pollutants, your hair registers these challenges much as the rest of your body may.”
~Stephanie L. Tourles, Organic Body Care Recipes.
In my clinical practice, I always observe patterns in the hair itself including hair loss, hair that takes a long time to grow, early greying, dryness or excessive oil, dandruff, and more. Ready to reverse some of your hair symptoms from the inside out? Read on to discover my top nutritional tips for healthy hair.
Eat a balanced diet rich in foods that contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin E, Biotin, Silica, Zinc, Antioxidants, Protein, Sulfur, Iron, and Selenium. Know your nutrients and follow the nutritional tips within:
Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin which helps regulate our metabolism of fatty acids. Dandruff and dry hair are some of the tell-tale signs of biotin deficiency. Find it in egg yolks, organ meats, dried fruit, molasses, chard, lettuce, walnuts, almonds, legumes, peanuts, salmon, and tuna.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids help decrease inflammation, improves our hair’s “shine factor,” and helps achieve balanced oil production (which is normal for healthy hair). Since we should all take into account the high levels of contamination in most seafood, it is best to take a good-quality fish oil supplement instead of relying on eating seafood every day to reach this level. Chia seeds, flaxseed oil, and algae oil are all good vegan and vegetarian sources of omega-3s.
Silica is a trace mineral that is one of the vital building blocks for repairing hair and hair regrowth. While supplementing with collagen itself has its own benefits (including being a popular smoothie add-in!), silica is the foundation for our body to create its own collagen and connective tissue (which arguably is better than supplementing). Find it in leeks, almonds, oranges, fish, cherries, chickpeas, apricots, green beans, celery, asparagus, strawberries, cucumber, mango, and rhubarb.
Vitamin E directly fights free radical damage and carries powerful anti-inflammatory effects. A sign of vitamin E deficiency is hair that is dried out, frizzy, and dull. You can find vitamin E in many leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, avocado, kiwi, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, and olive oil.
Zinc is a mineral which helps the body form proteins and enzymes, assists the immune system, and has potent anti-inflammatory effects. Find it in most animal sources, pumpkin seeds, and most nuts (I recommend soaking these first if possible to get the most zinc and other nutrients out of them).
Selenium is a trace mineral that many people are deficient in without even realizing it. It is essential for the antioxidant function of glutathione, which helps protect us against damage from free radicals and inflammation. Find it in organ meats, seafood, brazil nuts, and other meat.
Sulphur is the third most abundant mineral in the human body and is vital for our overall wellness. It helps the body assimilate collagen which is essential for hair regrowth and repair in addition to strengthening our hair. You can find it in egg yolks, red meat, chicken, turkey, kale, asparagus, fish, garlic, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, bok choy, kohlrabi, and leeks.
Iron is a vital mineral for the hair. A common sign of iron deficiency is hair loss and thin hair since the hair follicle and root are fed by a nutrient-rich blood supply. Heed caution before you dive into supplementing with iron (beyond food sources) until you have received a recent blood panel confirming you are deficient or low in iron. You can find iron in beets, oysters, dark leafy greens, lamb, cashews, mussels, eggs, prunes, liver, chicken, fish, lentils, sesame seeds, chickpeas, fava beans, kidney beans, and olives.
Antioxidants are essential for protecting our hair against free radical damage (commonly caused by chemicals in topical hair products, chlorine, environmental toxins, and heat damage). We need to take in a broad range of different antioxidants in order to neutralize and protect against the wide range of free radicals we are exposed to every day! Luckily, antioxidants are quite abundant in vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables, green tea, seeds, mushrooms, and some meats. When in doubt, eat the rainbow!
Protein is the main component of our hair! When our hair is exposed to harsh chemicals, or when it is poorly cared for, the amino acid chains that make up our hair can become broken up, leading to dull, damaged, and brittle hair. By eating a diet rich in protein, we can help fortify healthy hair growth from the inside-out. Protein is commonly sourced from meat products, but can also be found in seeds, nuts, legumes, beans, and some vegetables.Take a multivitamin.
Take a multivitamin.
As you can see above, our hair needs an abundance of different nutrients in order to stay healthy. Day-to-day, our dietary intake can vary greatly (especially if you are an adventurous eater or get bored eating the same thing twice!). Even if you eat well-balanced meals rich in fruits and vegetables, there can still be some “nutritional holes,” or deficiencies that occur. One of my top nutritional tips is to take a good-quality multivitamin on top of eating a balanced, whole foods diet every day to help fill in those gaps and ensure you are at least reaching the baseline of nutrients needed every day.
Consider taking a Vitamin D supplement.
Aside from being a common nutrient deficiency in the winter months, vitamin D has also been shown to help create new hair follicles. It promotes hair growth, repair, and prevents free radical damage. Although you can source vitamin D from some food sources, one of my top nutritional tips for healthy hair is to take a high-quality vitamin D supplement of 2,000 IUs per day. Vitamin D is only absorbable from the Sun during certain months of the year depending on where you live (and the angle of how the sun hits). Be sure to look up what these months are depending on your location so you know when supplementation is especially necessary.
When in doubt: stick to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to analyze exactly which nutrients are coming from which foods at each meal! When in doubt: stick to eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The greater the variety, the better your chance of receiving all the vitamins and minerals you need. Processed foods and sugars do not lend much toward promoting the healthy hair you’re looking for.
Enjoy a daily cup of relaxing herbal tea.
Since excessive stress and anxiety can lead to hair loss and general dullness in our hair, engage in a daily practice that helps take the edge off! For many of my clients who I see this pattern in, I will recommend drinking a daily cup (or more) of nutritive, calming, and restorative herbal tea. I find that simply the ritual of preparing loose leaf tea, holding a warm mug, and inhaling the aromatic steam is relaxing in itself.
Ready to reclaim your healthy hair? Let me know in the comments below if you try any of my top nutritional hair tips!
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