The human scalp contains approximately 100,000 hair follicles which require essential elements, such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals, to efficiently produce healthy hair. Micronutrients, including vitamins and trace minerals, are therefore crucial components of our diet.
Biotin is one of the water soluble B complex vitamins and is also known as vitamin B7. Similarly to the other B vitamins is it involved in the conversion of food into energy and is specifically needed for the health of your hair, skin, eyes, liver and nervous system.
Biotin aids in the breakdown and use of amino acids (proteins) which is the substance that forms the bulk of your hair strands. Taking biotin can be especially helpful if you have a low-protein diet as it helps your body to utilise the proteins you ingest.
Sufficient levels of biotin are needed for strong hair, resistant to dryness, breakage and shredding.
Biotin rich foods include liver, eggs, almonds, raw cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and spinach.
Iron is required for the formation of red blood cells which carry oxygen and nutrients to the hair to help it grow. If your body doesn't have enough iron to make sufficient red blood cells then it ultimately means the body is short of oxygen, this results in the channeling of any available supply to vital organs rather than places such as hair follicles. Without oxygen your hair follicles can't function and your hair falls out.
Food sources of iron include lean beef, chicken, beans and lentils, tofu, cashews, spinach, wholegrain and enriched breads.
Collagen gives hair the lustre we all want. Ensure when supplementing that you choose hydrolysed collagen, this means that it's a lower molecular weight and therefore more easily absorbed by the body.
Marine collagen is known to promote healthy hair, improve moisture, and promote diffusion of nutrients.
Foods like bone broth contain a bioavailable form of collagen your body can use right away, egg whiles contain proline which necessary for collagen production, garlic is high in sulfur, which is a trace mineral that helps synthesize and prevent the breakdown of collagen, cashews contain zinc and copper, both of which boost the body’s ability to create collagen. Stay away from sugar and refined carbohydrates, which can cause inflammation and damage collagen.
Vitamin A is an essential component of hair growth and maintenance, it works with zinc to help reduce both the drying and clogging of sebaceous glands in the scalp.
As well as helping the scalp to produce a healthy amount of sebum to nourish and protect the hair, vitamin A also strengthens hair to reduce breakage.
Its important to note that vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, taking too much can lead to vitamin A toxicity which in fact leads to hair loss.
Food sources of vitamin A include cheese, eggs, oily fish, fortified low-fat spreads, milk and yoghurt, liver and liver products such as liver pâté.
This vitamin is essential for the production of collagen as well as helping to protecting the body's existing collagen stores from damage.
It is also a powerful antioxidant that fights off free radical damage that can damage the scalp and impair follicle function. Scalp health is key to the growth of strong lustrous hair.
Food sources of vitamin C include, sweet red and green peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kiwis.
Vitamin D regulates gene expression in nearly every cell in the body, including hair follicles, and it’s crucial to promote normal cycles of cell growth and replication. If you are not getting enough vitamin D it can lead to cells in hair follicles not being replaced properly which in turn may lead to hair thinning and hair loss over time.
Supplementing with vitamin D can improve hair loss issues if vitamin D levels are low so if you're concerned about your D levels, ask your doctor to order a blood test.
Food sources of vitamin D include oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks, fortified foods such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals.
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that combats free radical stress on the hair. It may also improve scalp circulation - this increased blood flow is thought to improve hair health.
Vitamin E is essential for healthy skin, including the scalp. Poor scalp health is linked to lucklustre hair so by ensuring sufficient vitamin E intake you can support your scalp and give your hair a strong foundation from which to grow.
Food sources of vitamin E include wheatgerm oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnut oil and sunflower oil.
Hair follicles can be weakened by damage from free radicals, selenium helps by supporting enzymes that clear the body of these nasty little molecules. Selenium also activates an enzyme important for the regeneration of the antioxidant vitamin C which in turn promotes hair growth and regrowth.
Selenium is very important for the proper functioning of the thyroid and the hormone it secretes. This in turn benefits the immune system and supports healthy hair growth.
It's important to note that too much selenium can actually cause hair loss so don't over do it.
Food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, enriched foods including pastas and whole grain cereals, lean pork, turkey, chicken and eggs.
Zinc is a trace mineral and is involved in many processes within the body including protein synthesis, as hair is made almost entirely of protein it makes sense that Zinc is essential to hair growth. It is also involved in keeping the oil glands around hair follicles working properly.
Further to this Zinc is essential to the synthesis process involved in collagen production. It works as a co-factor activating proteins essential for making collagen.
Food sources of zinc include red meat, shellfish, legumes like chickpeas lentils and beans, pumpkin and sesame seeds, pine nuts, peanuts, cashews and almonds as well as milk and cheese.
Some hair loss is normal
Remember that it's normal to shed hair, we lose about 100 strands a day on average. If you feel like you're losing significantly more than this then it could be the symptom of an underlying condition so it's important to seek advice from a medical professional.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.