Women are brought up to believe that hair is their crowning glory, so if it starts to thin we can often become concerned. There are many reasons for why hair thins at certain times in our lives, but nutrition often plays a part in supporting healthy hair. In fact there are some key nutrients that are essential for the maintenance of hair, skin and nails.
It is quite normal to lose hair every day; in fact the average woman loses between 50 and 100 strands per day! We can also lose more at certain times of the year. For instance late summer is a common time to shed a little extra hair. However, if you feel hair thickness needs support you may want to explore the specific nutrients below that support healthy hair growth.
It is not uncommon for menstruating women to become depleted in iron at some point in their lives. Low iron can also occur in pregnancy, in women who are training hard and those who eat little or no animal products. When you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t produce the haemoglobin in your blood. Haemoglobin, in the red blood cells, carries oxygen for the growth and repair of all body cells including the cells that make up hair follicles. This carrying of oxygen is also important for mental and physical energy and healthy skin and nails. If you are wondering how your iron levels are you should go visit your GP and get your ferritin (stored iron) tested.
This vitamin is key for DNA replication, creating red blood cells and building new structures. Signs of low B12 are very similar to those of iron, so if you are testing your ferritin levels you might also like to check your B12 at the same time. Vegans and vegetarians are one group at risk of low B12, but also our B12 levels decrease with age due to poor digestion. Women with digestive disorders and those who have been on stomach acid reducing medications long term may also be more likely to have low B12.
This is a nutrient where deficiency is on the increase. Vitamin D levels are diminishing in New Zealand in women who are protecting their skin with sun cream. This is because one of the key sources of Vitamin D is absorption via sunlight on the skin, so by protecting our skin from harmful UV rays we are absorbing less of this nutrient. Vitamin D supports normal hair growth via the follicles for growing strong hair. Vitamin D deficiency signs are quite subtle, so you may just need to assess how much time you are spending in the sun without sun cream and increase your vitamin D foods through sources like oily fish.
This mineral is important for hair in a number of different ways. Zinc is needed to utilize proteins to build hair and support its healthy growth. Zinc is also essential for supporting the body’s normal hormone levels as imbalances may affect hair thickness. If you are wondering if you are low in zinc other deficiency signs include stretch marks, white spots on the nails, mouth ulcers, poor wound healing, immunity, appetite, sense of taste and smell.
Iodine and Selenium
Iodine and selenium are nutrients which are low in NZ soil and low levels in the body can result in poor thyroid function. This is because they are essential to support the production of thyroid hormones and women are at greater risk of low thyroid function. Thinning hair may suggest low thyroid hormones. If you are wondering if you have low thyroid function other signs include weight gain or the inability to lose weight, feeling the cold more than others, constant fatigue, low mood and sluggish bowels. If these signs and symptoms sound like you then go to see you GP and ask to have your thyroid hormones tested.