What can we do to help grow stronger hair, have less hair loss and reduce itching and flakiness?

Some common issues with hair: more hair loss, thinning hair, dry hair and excessive itch and flakiness of scalp.

Other issues that can be linked to hair and scalp problems:
–  Low iron and other nutrient deficiencies
–  Chronic digestive problems
–  Menstrual irregularities, unwanted hair growth in women (ie. upper lip and jaw area), acne
–  Thyroid and other hormone imbalances

Hair is predominantly made of keratin protein and lipids. The follicle at the base of hair responds to multiple hormones and determines growth and pigmentation of the hair.

Hair health is not just an esthetic concern, hair is an important indicator or our internal health. One study showed that male pattern hair loss, premature greying and hair thinning were independent predictors of heart disease in young men.

  1. Building Stronger Hair
    1. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the condition of our hair is determined by the condition of our Blood and Kidney system and certain foods can help to replenish those systems
      1. If you tend towards low iron, being pale or have thin/weak hair, blood deficiency may be an issue
      2. Blood building foods: eat foods rich in colour
        • goji berries
        • red dates
        • all red meats, especially bone marrow and liver
        • dark green leafy vegetables
        • mushrooms, beets
        • kelp and algae like spirulina
      3. If you have premature greying, replenish your Kidney system
      4. Kidney system foods: (Tend to be black/dark foods):
        • black bean
        • black sesame
        • mulberry and blackberry
        • molasses
    2. Support stomach acid
      1. This is important to make sure we breakdown and absorb the protein and minerals in our foods
        • Taking apple cider vinegar or digestive bitters before meals can help to stimulate stronger stomach acid
        • Don’t forget to take your time with meals ie. avoid eating in a rush, chew more
  2. Preventing Hair Loss (and unwanted hair growth)
    1. Good follicle health is important to anchoring hair and growing strong hair. Follicles are sensitive to hormones such as androgens. This is a class of hormones that is responsible for male pattern hair loss and hair growth. For example, women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) often have high androgen levels and often struggle with hair loss, unwanted hair growth, acne and irregularities in their cycle. I’ve found supporting blood sugar/insulin such as avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates helps to improve these symptoms.
    2. Spearmint tea
      1. One study showed drinking 2 cups of spearmint tea per day for 30 days reduced androgen levels! https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19585478
    3. Topical Castor oil on scalp
      1. Castor oil may improve follicle circulation and help condition hair due to its antioxidant and omega content
      2. I’ve found Castor oil combined with Jojoba oil (about 4:1 ratio) applied on my scalp has improved the oil balance of my scalp and reduced dryness of my hair. I use this to condition my hair overnight and wash out in the morning, a couple times per week. (I have not found this to be an issue, but make sure to protect your sheets and clothes as castor oil can potentially stain.)
  3. Reducing Itch & Flakes
    1. Commonly these symptoms are linked to an overgrowth of a normally occurring fungus (Malassezia) and is called dandruff, cradle cap or seborrheic dermatitis.
    2. Address any fungal overgrowth in the gut
      1. This gut flora imbalance can result from weak stomach acid, antibiotic use, gut infections and pesticides in our food. Improving gut flora balance can be particularly helpful if you’ve struggled with seborrheic dermatitis for some time and it reappears even with repeated treatments. (Other signs of fungal overgrowth include fungal ear/skin infections, athletes foot, jock itch and vaginal yeast infections).
      2. Eat anti-fungal foods like garlic and coconut oil
      3. Work with a practitioner that can help you rebalance gut flora
    3. Oil balance of scalp – as this fungus depends on the oils we produce it’s important to support healthy hormones (as above) to avoid excess oil production. I’ve found jojoba oil to be helpful for balancing oilyness/dryness of the scalp and face.
    4. Tea tree shampoo – I’ve found Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo to be simpler and more effective than using topical tea tree oil, to reduce excess itch and flakiness due to seborrheic dermatitis.

Healthy hair is the result of healthy hair follicles, hormones, nutrition, digestion, microbial balance and supportive self care. I hope there are a couple ideas here to help you with your hair care routine.

See you next week!

Dr. Carin