There are a large number of products on the market that promise to help thicken your hair, keep it from falling out, or help it grow back. But did you know that a natural cure for thinning hair may be as simple as upping your intake of a few healthy foods?
Thinning hair and hair loss can be caused by a wide variety of factors. One of the most common but overlooked causes is simply the use of harsh, synthetic hair products such as dyes, straighteners and permanents, or even shampoos and conditioners.
If you have ruled out this cause, then thinning hair is most likely caused by stress, nutrient deficiency or hormonal imbalance — or a combination of these factors. And all of these causes can be mitigated by careful attention to your diet.
The nutrient deficiencies most likely to cause hair loss are vitamin D, copper, zinc and the amino acid lysine. The hormonal imbalances most likely to cause the problem are insufficient levels of either testosterone or estrogen. The following foods can help correct both of these problems.
Spinach is high in zinc, deficiency of which is a major cause of hair loss. Zinc also contributes to maintaining healthy testosterone levels, as well as levels of growth hormones and healthy muscles.
Black beans are also a great source of zinc, along with vitamin D. Both of these nutrients, if not present in sufficient quantities, can contribute to hair loss. Both are also linked to testosterone production.
Almonds are high in the nutrients vitamin E, potassium, magnesium and calcium, all of which play a role in testosterone production. Asparagus are also high in vitamin E and potassium — as well as folic acid, which is essential for the production of sex hormones.
Salmon is high in selenium, a trace mineral that plays a key role in the production of testosterone and thyroid hormones. Thyroid imbalance is another major cause of hair loss.
Five estrogen boosters
In both men and women, hair loss may also be caused by insufficient levels of estrogen. This problem can be helped by eating the following foods, all of which are rich in “phytoestrogens” — naturally occurring plant compounds that mimic the action of estrogen in the body.
Soy products are the most famous sources of phytoestrogens. For best health, consume natural (ideally fermented) soy in the form of tofu, tempeh, miso, natto or soy sauce. Flaxseeds are also high in phytoestrogens, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Broccoli is a popular food that is rich in the phytoestrogens known as lignans, which are also found in beans, bran, fruits and other vegetables.
However, phytoestrogens have also been linked to endocrine-disrupting effects in the body and may produce health problems if consumed in excessive levels. If you are concerned about your estrogen or testosterone levels, you should consult a reputable health care provider.
In addition to lignans, chickpeas are also rich in isoflavonoids, another family of phytoestrogens. They are also rich in fiber and protein, which help prevent estrogen levels from climbing too high. This balancing may be part of what prevents many phytoestrogens from having the damaging effects of synthetic estrogen mimics, which are more likely to function as endocrine disruptors.
Wheat bran is another food rich in both lignans and dietary fiber. In addition to being good for your heart and your digestion, fiber also helps your hair. That’s because LDL (“bad”) cholesterol can damage the hair follicles over time, and a diet rich in fiber helps lower your LDL levels. You can get the same effects from other types of bran, such as oat, rye or barley bran.
What if your problem is stress? Chronic stress is highly dangerous, causing not only hair loss but also raising your risk of obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lowered immunity, decrease bone density and muscle mass, and thyroid imbalance. Address stress by removing chronic stressors, learning relaxation techniques, getting more exercise and time outdoors, and eating a healthy diet — such as one rich in the foods listed above.