I like to categorize hair with skin and nails; some people are genetically predisposed to have great skin and gorgeous nails regardless of their lifestyle. But for those who aren’t so lucky, you have to take care of yourself on the inside before you can start to see those effects on the outside. The same ideology applies to healthy hair; the healthier your body is on the inside, the healthier your hair will be. Your hair can be a good indicator of the overall condition of your body; when you hair is constantly dry and brittle or you’re not noticing any growth in your hair over long periods of time, there might be a health problem or nutritional deficiency.
I remember when I was in college and I first did my big chop in 2006, I did it because my relaxed hair was in an absolute state of discontent. Each time I would run my fingers through my hair I would come away with chunks of hair. The entire middle section of my hair was literally patches of at most 1 inch worth of hair. I honestly thought I was dying. It was a few months after my big chop that I got diagnosed with hemoglobin deficient anemia and it all seemed to make sense after that. I didn’t have enough iron in my body and my nutrition was pretty terrible – it was the first time I was having to actually feed myself. Though I didn’t know this at the time, my hair was screaming at me: “YOU’RE NOT HALTHY!” See, low levels of iron can be a factor in hair loss because when iron is low, chances are other minerals in your body are low too (Source).
Moisturizing, using natural products, protective styling etc will definitely lead to an improvement in your hair health, but to take that health one step further, you need to focus on what’s going on inside your body too, that’s why we have the water, fruit and vegetable requirements for this challenge. We believe that a combination of protective styling and a healthier lifestyle should lead to those length gains that we’re looking to see.
According to The Trichological Society, hair is the fastest growing natural tissue in the body at a rate of 1 cm per month. This rate is said to reduce from age 40 – 50. While the speed of hair growth varies for each individual, deficiencies in nutrition and hormonal fluctuation can slow down the rate of growth.
Minerals and vitamins derived from a healthy diet can greatly improve hair health and help maintain a healthy rate of hair growth:
“The essential omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12, and iron, found in fish sources, prevent a dry scalp and dull hair color. Dark green vegetables contain high amounts of vitamins A and C, which help with production of sebum and provide a natural hair conditioner. Legumes provide protein to promote hair growth and also contain iron, zinc, and biotin. Biotin (sources – cereal-grain products, liver, egg yolk, soy flour, and yeast) functions to activate certain enzymes that aid in metabolism of carbon dioxide as well as protein, fats, and carbohydrates. A deficiency in biotin intake can cause brittle hair and can lead to hair loss. Nuts contain high sources of selenium and therefore are important for a healthy scalp. Alpha-linoleic acid and zinc are also found in some nuts and help condition the hair and prevent hair shedding that can be caused by a lack of zinc. Protein deficiencies or low-quality protein can produce weak and brittle hair, and can eventually result in loss of hair color. Low-fat dairy products are good sources of calcium, a key component for hair growth. A balanced diet is necessary for a healthy scalp and hair (Source).”
The metabolic pathways involved in the metabolism of keratin protein (hair = keratin) have been shown to be significantly affected by specific vitamins, minerals and amino-acids (Source). Which means that hair loss, hair growth, hair color, hair health, all that can be affected by your intake of vitamins and minerals. This is why I personally think it’s important to have a good multivitamin as part of your diet, because it’s not easy to maintain a balanced diet all day, every day, 3 meals a day. I try to look for multivitamins that are as natural as possible when talking about supplements.
So what’s the long and short of all this?