By Alice Mackintosh BSc (hons), BANT, CNHC Registered Nutritional Therapist, Co-Founder of Equi London and Best-Selling Author
Thick, luscious, shiny locks – we all want them. Some people are blessed with these but sadly many of us aren’t! But beyond our genes, there are many things that can impact on our hair health - Stress, hormonal imbalances, average hair care products, and a not-so-great poor diet are all common reasons why hair can feel thin and lacklustre.
Many women also complain that their hair never recovers after having children. However the good news is that there is so much that can be done to help negate these things and boost your hair health. Having worked with thousands of people wanting better skin and hair in her London based clinic, Nutritional Therapist Alice Mackintosh is telling us all her top tips for hair health this week. Alice is also co-founder of Equi London, an award winning supplement range with a focus on women’s health and beauty.
If your hair is feeling the heat (literally) then its time to make sure that your diet isn’t lacking in the essential goodness that is needed to keep it healthy. Here are some simple but important foods to focus on that may begin to make a difference.
If your hair is falling out more than usual or feeling noticeably thin then it’s important to consider your iron levels, because the two can be strongly linked.
This is something I see all the time with my female clients – so many of them are veggies/vegans, or don’t eat red meat because they don’t like it, or just can’t be bothered to cook it. Women are much more predisposed to iron deficiency than men because of their monthly cycles and the fact that iron levels can often drop after pregnancy.
If you have recently had a baby and found hair has been shedding for more than 4 weeks then it’s a good idea to get your iron and ferritin checked by your
GP to see if you need some help. Also aim to get plenty of iron into the body through your diet. If you do take supplementary iron then avoid ferrous sulphate as this can lead to uncomfortable digestive side effects. Instead opt for better forms such as ferrous gluconate or Ferrochel® which have superior absorption and no side effects. We use these in Equi formulations.
Best iron rich foods – red meat (lamb, beef, venison, chicken leg meat) mackerel, edamame beans, black quinoa, dates, chickpeas, tomato paste, black strap molasses.
Silica is needed to make collagen, which is one of the reasons why people take it for skin, hair and nail health. It’s also needed for hormone balance and may help supply hair follicles with other minerals to keep hair healthy and shiny.
Best silica rich foods – rhubarb, chestnuts, cucumber, oats, brown rice, onions,
flaxseed, avocado. Supplements containing bamboo extract or MSM are also a good way to get more collagen into the body. We include silica and collagen in our award winning product Beauty Formula, and Opti-MSM in our Glow Edition.
Some studies have shown that biotin supplementation can lead to better hair growth in women. This may be related to the fact that biotin is needed to create keratin, the protein found in our hair.
Best sources of biotin – carrots, oats, egg yolk, beans and pulses, cauliflower, mushrooms, almonds.
Prematurely going grey or receding? They its worth making sure are eating good amount of zinc in your diet. This is also the case for those who may have thyroid imbalances, or for men who have receding hair in the family, as zinc can help keep a healthy balance of testosterone in the body, low zinc can be more common with those who are stressed, fatigued, smoke, drink or who (usually) do a lot of air travel.
As well as eating more zinc rich foods, I recommend taking 15mg of zinc for 3
months if you’ve tested low on a blood test to help combat this. This is also found in our Beauty Formula as well as Original Formula, both of which are a great support for your hair.
Best zinc rich foods – poultry, seafood (especially oysters, muscles), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, tahini, oats, chickpeas, garlic, cacao.
Another essential nutrient for hair health is iodine, as this is critical to the functioning of our thyroid, which is important for everything from energy, digestion, weight and of course our hair health.
Those who don’t eat dairy or seafood can be at risk of low iodine since these are the most common sources of this important mineral. It’s also always worth getting your thyroid checked with your GP if you have experienced unusual levels of hair thinning, especially if you also have low energy, feel cold all the time and have noticed unusual weight gain. If you already have a diagnosed thyroid condition then you ned to be careful about how much iodine you consume, so speak to your doctor first.
Best iodine rich foods – seaweed, sea vegetables (samphire) dairy, seafood.
Fat is so important for hair! Often those on low fat diets can find hair is dry, thin,
lacklustre and missing that luscious, well-conditioned feeling. Healthy fats lubricate our cells and hair, and are vital structurally throughout the whole body. They also help to support hormone balance and combat stress, which is essential for healthy hair.
Best sources - mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, hempseeds, flaxseed, avocado and extra virgin olive oil.
Last but not least, stress and a lack of sleep can lead to hair loss, more greys and depleted skin hair and nails. Managing stress is vital here, and especially important at times like this, where many of us are experiencing low grade, chronic stress. How you do this is very personal but some good suggestions include it Epsom salt baths, meditation, body brushing or yin yoga.
My current favourite is ‘4-6 breathing’ – breathing in for 4 seconds and out for 6 seconds, for a total of 2 minutes, which can reduce circulating cortisol (our stress hormone) levels. You can do this in the car, in a meeting or before bed.
And on the days you just can't manage to get these in, or when stress gets the better of you,
Equi’s Beauty Formula delivers ideal doses of hair supporting minerals zinc, biotin, silica and iron, as well as collagen, omega 3 from algaes and adaptogenic herbs to help nourish adrenals, thyroid and female hormones.