It is normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs each day.
Excessive hair loss may be triggered by a variety of factors such as drugs, disease, deficiencies, shock and childbirth. Male-pattern baldness, however, is most often the fault of our genes and hormones and tends to be aggravated by stress and the ageing process. E. Harburg’s poem on senility illustrates the seemingly inevitable:
“At forty I lost my illusions, at fifty I lost my hair, at sixty my hope and teeth were gone, and my feet were beyond repair.”
An over-abundance of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) may be the reason why hair follicles remain in a resting phase rather than in a growing phase. DHT is an active form of testosterone and although it substantially weakens hair follicles, console yourself – you may see some of its benefits in other departments. Another contributing factor may be excessive sebum (oil) which clogs pores, causing malnutrition in the hair root. Frequent, careful shampooing is advisable to reduce sebum as well as excess levels of DHT which has a nasty habit of reentering the bloodstream and shutting down your hair follicles.
Hair is made of protein and minerals, so a healthy diet incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables, lean quality protein, essential fats (oily fish, nuts, seeds), beans, pulses and wholegrains should provide you with the nutrients needed to build healthy hair. Iron, zinc, vitamin B1, vitamin C and the amino acid lysine (in fish, chicken, beef, lamb, brewers yeast) are particularly important. There are various supplements available containing all of these. Biotin, Folic Acid and vitamin E may also be helpful. However, no singular ingredient is effective for all individuals – people react to different treatments in different ways.
Stress causes the scalp to tighten up, restricting blood flow to the hair roots. It also affects our ability to digest food, making us less able to absorb nutrients. The problems is that restricted absorption and circulation results in a decreased supply of nutrients to the hair follicles and possible fall-out! There are two things you can do to minimise the damage. The first is to massage your scalp firmly for 10 minutes daily. The second is to take digestive enzymes with main meals to improve absorption from foods (available from health food stores).
Effectively reduce internal stressors by avoiding sugar, saturated fats, processed foods as well as stimulants (coffee, alcohol, nicotine). Regular exercise improves circulation and is an excellent antidote to stress. These strategies should hopefully prove more effective than the traditional ones which include rubbing rat’s urine into your pate, or sprinkling on cayenne pepper. There are even those who recommend hanging upside down in order to improve circulation. After all, it could be a while yet before the baldness gene is located…
©2011 Martina Watts MSc Nut Med, First Published Brighton Argus 2004