Pupinder S Ghatora (MPharm MRPharmS SCS) CEO Ingenious Beauty comments:
The health and appearance of our hair is one of the most important ‘feel good’ factors when it comes to our self-esteem and often our feeling of wellness.
There are many factors that can have a negative effect on our hair and scalp health:
As women age, the levels of the thyroid hormones can fluctuate. These sets of chemical messengers are so important in almost all normal bodily functions and maintaining equilibrium in the body. It can be thought that as thyroid levels fluctuate, they focus their actions on more important regulatory functions in the body. In this case, rather than regulating hair growth, the body will focus on trying to regain hormonal balance and hence change the growth cycle of the hair and this can lead to thinning and loss of hair. Most thyroid conditions will need some degree of medical intervention. Stress is also a major player here.
Insulin plays a key role in regulating blood sugar levels, fat deposition, heart health and many other functions. There have been studies showing that insulin resistance and more severely, diabetes, can lead to disruption of the hair growth cycle. It is therefore so important to try and regulate your sugar intake. Of course, there are individuals who will become diabetic no matter what due to genetic factors, but the chances and risks of getting the disease and the associated secondary effects, such as alopecia areata where the immune system attacks the hair follicles and can lead to hair thinning and hair loss, can be reduced by simply regulating your sugar intake and increasing activity.
Progesterone and oestrogen are the two dominant female hormones. There is a balancing act going on with these hormones all the time. If progesterone levels fall, it can lead to hyper oestrogen often caused by excessive stress which can also lead to hair thinning and loss. As the menopause begins, oestrogen levels drop which can also lead to hair loss. It is so important for the body to maintain balance. In severe cases, medical intervention may be required and again, going back to the basics will also help. Good nutrition, exercise and complementary supplement nutrition can all play a part in helping to alleviate hair thinning and hair loss.
Testosterone is the male hormone and is present in women in very small amounts. Testosterone can, in some cases, be converted by an enzyme in the hair follicle to something called dihydrotestosterone which damages hair follicles. It is therefore clear that any imbalance in the sex hormones can result in hair thinning and loss.
With all these hormonal factors, balance is key. The human body is an ingenious work of harmony. It is important to keep lifestyles well balanced, eating the right foods, doing the right activities and having the right mental health will contribute greatly and positively to wellbeing and in turn, hair health.
One of the greatest causes of all health issues currently must be stress. Our lifestyles, work, social pressures can all have a major impact on wellbeing. Again, this is all about balance – stress is essential for growth, both mentally and physically. However, if you are under constant non-stop stress of any manner, it will upset the delicate balance of your body and have adverse effects. One of the key indicators that show when a person is under stress is from their skin and hair health. With the hair, prolonged stress can put the hair follicles in rest phase, this will lead to thinning and hair loss. In severe cases it will result in alopecia. This is reversible, but can result in a viscous circle where you become more stressed due to the hair loss and this in turn causes more hair loss. It is therefore so important to look after not only your physical wellbeing, but also your mental wellbeing. Prolonged and relentless stress will also have consequences on many of the body’s other physiological functions which require balance. This is key. Meditation has had a long history of helping to alleviate stress and improve wellbeing – even deep breathing exercises in the morning for a couple of minutes can have a significant calming effect. As ingenious as our bodies are, they require balance and so stress can be beneficial, as long as it can be balanced with relaxation.
Again, our bodies need balance to function properly and to look and feel the best they can be. If the body is lacking a number of specific nutrients, it has been shown that this can have a negative effect on hair health. The following is a list of nutrients which are important to the heath of your scalp and hair:
Iron – this is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world and is a very common cause of hair loss. It is important to ensure you are getting sufficient iron from your diet – spinach, red meat and broccoli are just a few examples. In more severe cases, such as anaemia, supplementation may be required, but one needs to be careful as too much iron can cause toxicity and it is always worth having blood levels checked by a doctor if you are susceptible to anaemia.
Zinc – an essential mineral required for hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body and regulating gene expression. Hugely important, it is thought to play an essential role in the communication pathway of hair follicle activity. As with iron, it is best to try and obtain the essential nutrients from your diet. This is not always possible, so supplementation can be taken to help boost the body’s serum zinc levels and improve hair health.
Fatty Acid –Omega 3,6 and 9, for example, are thought to be important in hair follicle production. Deficiency of the fatty acids can result in loss of hair from the scalp and eyebrows and in rare cases, there can also be lightening of the hair. Oily fish is an excellent source of these fatty acids, although supplements can be used instead. Some studies have shown that topical preparations containing linoleic acid (a type of fatty acid) have some positive effects on hair thickness and health.
Vitamin D – a real key vitamin for health generally, it is shown that vitamin D is essential in producing healthy keratin and therefore healthy hair. Most people are deficient to a degree and supplementation is almost always the best way to treat and reduce the risk of losing hair thickness.
Amino acids and proteins – Amino acids and proteins are essential for a huge number of processes in the human body. A lack of them can lead to a vast array of issues, hair loss being just one. One of the key proteins found in the human body is collagen. Beyond the age of 25, the body reduces its ability to produce collagen at the same rate, the result is, among other things, thinning hair and a reduction in hair health and radiance. Unfortunately, it is not as straightforward as eating a steak to replenish collagen stores. Collagen is broken down by the action of the stomach so any collagen taken orally is going to be broken down into amino acids, which can be absorbed, but will not increase collagen production. The key is to protect the collagen peptide and deliver it to the small intestine. This essentially ensures you are receiving a good dose of collagen peptide into your blood stream. The body senses the collagen peptide in the blood stream and this leads to cells called chondrocytes coming into action and produce more of the body’s own collagen. This has a profound effect on hair vitality as collagen essentially makes up the hair cells. The key is finding the ingenious supplement which can deliver the collagen to the small intestine.
Antioxidants – These are incredible molecules which are able to ‘mop up’ free radical oxygen species. These are oxygen molecules which are highly reactive and can cause cellular damage. In fact, oxidative damage has been shown to be connected to hair loss due to the hair follicle cells being attacked. Dietary antioxidants are abundant in brightly coloured foods, for example, fruits, vegetables, salmon and so on. Antioxidant supplements are useful, but it’s important to be very careful as some antioxidants can actually become pro-oxidants. This can lead to an increase in radical oxygen species and further damage to the hair and other body systems. There is one, however called astaxanthin, which has 6,000 times the potency of vitamin C as an antioxidant AND it can never become a pro-oxidant. Quite an incredible substance if taken as a natural supplement, . This is a crucial point as synthetic astaxanthin will have none of the beneficial properties of the natural product, as is often the case with many things.
Crash dieting – this is another example of unbalancing the human body and its systems. Crash dieting deprives the body of a vast number of nutrients. There are numerous negative effects associated with crash dieting. The one that affects the hair is telogen effluvium, which puts the hair follicle in a sleep state, undoubtedly leading to hair thinning and hair loss. The remedy here is simple – do not crash diet, instead follow a balanced plan with exercise. The weight will come off and your hair will remain amazing.
In summary, the body has an ingenious way of regulating itself and ensuring it functions to its best ability. The key is balance – if your diet, exercise routine and mental wellbeing are all aligned, then your hair will look after itself. It may need a little help from the odd nutritional supplement as there are not many people in the world with this perfect equilibrium. Our incredible bodies may sometimes need an ingenious supplement to help them through and restore some of that delicate balance.