What to Eat for Hair Growth
Hair loss, or lack of hair growth, is one of the most common concerns that I see in my office. Many women, of varying ages, are suffering from thinning hair. There are a few times in life when hair changes are considered normal
- Pregnancy- High levels of estrogen prolong the growth phase of the hair, resulting in less shedding and thicker hair
- Postpartum- Once hormone levels return to pre-pregnancy levels, a large shedding of hair happens. This usually occurs between 3-6 months postpartum. These are all the hairs that were in the prolonged growth phase while pregnant
Women may lose up to 100 hairs per day, but it is not normal to notice an overall thinning of your hair!
Common Causes of Hair Thinning
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)- Hair is often thinning in a “male pattern”: the crown of the head, the front hair line, and the top of the head. This is due to excessive testosterone levels. For more info on PCOS, click here
- Thyroid Problems- Hair often thins evenly over the scalp. Your thyroid is involved in the process of hair growth and an under functioning thyroid gland essentially slows down the speed at which your hair grows, and leads to more hair loss. For more info on an under functioning thyroid gland, click here.
- Low Iron- Also known as anemia. When your body does not have enough iron, there is not enough hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to our cells. Without adequate oxygen, proper hair growth is not stimulated. I always measure ferritin (the stored form of iron, AKA how much money you have still in the bank). Ferritin levels need to be at least 60 for optimal hair growth.
- Birth Control- Many women who are sensitive to hormones have a large shed when stopping the birth control pill. This happens because when you are on birth control, you are given extra estrogen. Estrogen fuels hair growth. When you stop, more hair goes into a shedding cycle. When with a large post birth control pill hair shed should be investigated for PCOS, as the birth control pill masks PCOS symptoms.
Hair follicles have a high turnover rate. That is why when people are under going chemotherapy, their hair often falls out. Chemotherapeutics attack rapidly dividing cells: cancer cells, reproductive cells and hair follicles. Having a high cell turnover rate means that hair follicles require excellent nutrition to keep pace with the demand for hair growth.
Top Nutrients for Hair Growth
- Iron- Women who are menstruating need to consume 18 mg/day. Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency that I see in my practice among women. Food Sources: red meat, spinach, lentils, sesame seeds, and leafy greens
- Protein- A deficiency in the amino acid lysine has been shown to increase hair shedding. Did you know lysine is also used to prevent and treat cold sores?! Food Sources: beef, eggs, chicken, pork, pumpkin seeds, and beans
- Omega 3’s- Contribute to scalp health, and can help down regulate androgens like testosterone, which lead to an increase in hair shedding. Food Sources: fish, fish oil
- Niacin- A member of the family of B vitamins, niacin is depleted by taking the birth control pill. Food Sources: liver, chicken, tuna, turkey and salmon
- Selenium- A critical nutrient for optimal thyroid health. It is important to not supplement with selenium without the advice of a medical practitioner, as too much can be toxic to the thyroid gland. Food Sources: Brazil nuts, tuna, pork, beef, turkey, chicken
- Biotin- Another one of the B vitamins, biotin is linked to keratin production. Food Sources: liver, egg yolk, avocado and salmon.
One of the most common questions I get asked by postpartum moms is is there a supplement that will help with my hair growth. There are 2 that I frequently recommend that help to provide you with the building blocks needed to grow healthy hair
1) Pure Encapsulations Hair/Skin/Nails Ultra
2) MegaFood Skin Hair & Nails 2
Both products contain the nutrients listed above, as well as additional nutrients that have been proven to help with hair growth.
Especially postpartum, iron is a key mineral for hair growth. Giving birth results in a lot of blood loss for most women and supplementing with iron for at least 3 months (usually more like 6) can be very helpful in helping with hair loss.
Iron can be a tricky one. It can be difficult to increase your iron levels and supplements often cause constipation or digestive upset. Newer studies have shown it is more effective to take twice the dose of iron every other day at dinner. It should be taken with vitamin C and taken away from tea and/or coffee.
It should be noted that it is considered normal to lose hair postpartum, anywhere from 1-6 months after giving birth, but it should not be excessive. Only 50% of women experience extreme hair loss postpartum and that is likely due to nutrient deficiencies.
My favorite iron supplement
Pure Labs Carbonyl Iron
It takes up to 3-4 months to notice changes in your hair because of the length of the hair growth and shedding cycles. If you are already eating many of the foods listed above, and are still experiencing hair loss, it is time to book an appointment with Dr Alexis for an assessment!
Have/Do you suffer from hair loss?
Dr Alexis practices in Kanata and is currently accepting new patients.
Naturopathic Medicine is covered by most extended health benefits.