Friday, March 6, 2015

Healthy Hair from the Inside Out

When trying to attain or maintain healthy hair, it is vital to take a holistic approach. Quality products, with organic/natural ingredients, is only one component.  We also have to recognize that proper diet and our physical and mental well being also have a direct impact on the state of our hair.  Let’s focus on maintaining a proper diet.  I remember hearing as a child that, "too much of anything isn’t good for you.”  This statement is true when it comes to the foods that we eat or chose not to eat.  Eating well-balanced meals can create an internal environment for our hair to grow and help to impart a healthy luster.  When trying to foster healthy hair, I believe that it is vital to incorporate all basic food groups from either plant or animal based sources.  Please note, my diet is not 100% healthy and I still enjoy my moments of weakness IMMENSELY.  However, indulging in my guilty pleasures occurs far less frequently in my 40’s than in my 30's. Hmmm, wonder if gravity plays a part in my decision-making process?  My food intake motto is "everything we need comes from the earth".  Of course, some of our vitamins and nutrients may come from a good supplement, but I try to consume organic and naturally derived food sources with minimal processing or food additives.  On a side note, proper diet is not only reflected in the condition of our hair, but also in our skin which is an added bonus to healthy eating. :)
What I am about to share is by no means a regiment that I am proposing as the “perfect diet”.  I solely want to share educational nuggets that help me in my hair care journey.  Feel free to make modifications to meet your palate's liking.  Water is vital to my daily regiment.  It is the first thing I drink every morning, what I typically drink throughout the day and the last thing I drink before I go to bed at night.  Now, I still enjoy a ginger ale every now and then, but that falls into my “guilty pleasure” category.  We must keep our bodies hydrated.  Water makes up a vast majority of our body, flushes out certain toxins, promotes nutrient absorption, helps balance bodily fluids and keeps our hair and skin from looking so dry/wrinkled.  If you don’t like to drink water, consider consuming more fruits and vegetables that have a high water content.  Some fruits or vegetables to consider are watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, iceberg lettuce(my preference is romaine), cabbage or broccoli.  Another great benefit to eating an ample supply of fruits and vegetables is that they are low in calories and sodium and can give you a boost of energy.  
I also consume a significant amount of wild caught salmon, tuna and mackerel which are great sources of omega- 3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids benefits extend far past our hair and can have a positive impact on triglyceride levels, rheumatoid arthritis, potentially ezcema or chronic dry skin and more. Consumption of omega-3 enriched foods may increase hair’s elasticity, foster hair growth, improve dry, flaky scalp or skin and nourish hair follicles.  Food sources of omega-3 include, but are not limited to sardines, tuna, halibut, wild caught salmon, flaxseeds/flaxseed oil, walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, pumpkin or chia seeds.  
Protein, iron or zinc deficiencies can also impact the state of our hair and result in hair loss or hair that is weak/brittle.  All three can be found in plant or animal based foods. My favorites sources of protein and iron are chicken, wild caught salmon, black beans, chickpeas and turkey breast.  Food sources of zinc include cooked lean beef, lamb, roasted cashews, oysters, pumpkin/sesame seeds, lentils, fortified cereals and pine nuts.  My favorite source of zinc is shellfish.  I LOVE crab, lobster, oysters and mussels!  Of course, I eat them in moderation, but I must admit, they are one of my mood boosters after a long, stressful day
I also eat an ample supply of B-complex vitamins from various plant and animal based food sources.  B-complex makes up eight different vitamins that all play a role in our overall health and bodily functions. B vitamins also help to maintain healthy hair, skin and nails.  Biotin(B-7) is a very popular supplement that has been cited as promoting thicker hair and hair growth when taken at significantly higher levels than the recommended dietary allowance.  As with any supplement, please consult with your physician prior to taking excessively high dosages.  High dosages, over prolonged periods of time, can result in acute side effects or serious health problems. Food sources of Biotin include liver, canned sardines, wild caught salmon, egg yolks, yogurt, poultry, almonds, walnuts, shelled peanuts, raw tomatoes, onions, cabbage and cauliflower.  Adequate intake of vitamin B9(folic acid) and vitamin B12 can also impact the condition of our hair.   Foods enriched with vitamin B9 include navy beans, lentils, black eyed peas, oranges, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, bananas and wheat bread.  Vitamin B12 food sources include plain soy milk, mackerel, cooked clams/oysters and fortified cereals.    
Vitamin C is great for boosting our immune system and is very popular in the cosmetic industry for addressing skin wrinkles.  A vitamin C deficiency may cause hair to be weak and prone to breakage.  I, unfortunately, have a citrus fruit allergy and actually experienced one recently.  Not pretty. If you also have a citrus fruit allergy, here are some alternatives to consider eating: turnip greens, swiss chard, kale, broccoli(my favorite), blackberries, cauliflower, tomatoes, cabbage or potatoes.  If you are one of the fortunate ones, enjoy oranges, lemons, clementines and grapefruit as well.
Calcium is a vital for bone health, healthy teeth and muscle functioning. Calcium consumption may also enhance hair follicles and hair growth as well.  For years, I avoided dairy products due to having lactose intolerance.  Cheese, eggs, and milk were not my friends and I avoided them at all costs. I often took calcium supplements which resulted in gas, bloating and constipation. Fortunately, I found the right supplement and the negative side effects are no longer an issue.  I also drink almond milk, eat cooked spinach and low fat yogurt and take Lactaid prior to eating any meals containing eggs or cheese.  Other sources of calcium include low fat swiss cheese, white beans, canned bony fish, fortified soy milk, enriched bread/grains and fortified cereals.
I am often asked about my hair and skin care regiment and embrace the opportunity to answer with details about my food intake. Eating well can ward off a variety of illnesses and diseases while strengthening our mind and body.  Why not enhance the potential to have healthy tresses and beautiful skin in the process?   'Til next time…
DISCLAIMER: The preceding information is for informational purposes only. It is not not meant to cure, treat or diagnose any medical conditions related to thinning hair, hair loss or otherwise.  Always consult your primary care physician prior to changing diet abruptly or incorporating vitamin supplements that exceed the recommended dietary allowance. 

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