When it comes to our hair, most of us are more concerned about what we put on top of it—what shampoos, conditioners and styling products we use—to make it look and feel healthier. However, many people don’t realize that there’s another major element to healthy hair, and it has to do with what we put inside our bodies.
That’s right—diet plays a large role in determining the health of our scalp and hair. All the vitamins and minerals that get absorbed by our body make it up to our scalps, where the skin is strengthened, and the hair follicles are nourished.
If you are suffering from scalp problems, such as excessive dandruff or patches of hair loss, one of the first places you should look to solve the problem is your plate. It may just be that you aren’t eating the right kinds of foods to foster a healthy hair environment.
Is diet linked to hair loss?
Premature hair loss has a lot of causes—from excessive pulling, to stress, to side-effects from medication. However, your diet can also cause hair loss in some extreme cases.
Ingesting too much vitamin A can lead to premature hair loss because the vitamin will become toxic at high levels. Hair loss conditions may also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and headaches.
More common than hypervitaminosis A, though, is a lack of necessary vitamins and minerals caused by crash dieting. If you partake in a crash diet, you suddenly starve your body of the nutrients it needs to function. When this happens, your hair may begin to fall out because it isn’t getting what it needs.
Hair loss may not always occur as a result of nutritional deficiency. Instead, your hair may begin to look stringy, dry and dull and lay lifeless on your head. Fortunately, hair loss due to a lack of nutrients is usually temporary and hair will begin growing again once a healthy diet is maintained.
How diet affects dandruff
Another frustrating scalp problem is dandruff—that white, flaky stuff that falls into your hair and seems to get everywhere. Dandruff is extremely common, but many people consider it to be an embarrassing condition.
Like hair loss, dandruff can also be caused by a number of different things, including excessively oily skin or an overgrowth of a fungus. Both of these causes can be altered with your diet.
If you have an excessively oily scalp, it means your scalp is producing too much sebum. This may be affected by a lack of zinc in your diet—zinc has been linked to control of sebum production. Combined with a healthy amount of vitamin B6 to promote adequate absorption in the body, adding more zinc to your diet can help minimize the oil on your scalp causing dandruff.
An excessive amount of sugar may also be to blame for your flaky scalp. A naturally-occurring fungus called candida lives in and on your body. Overgrowth can occur when diets loaded with sugar are introduced to the body, which in turn can cause dandruff. If your diet is filled with sweets, try cutting back on the sugar intake to get your scalp—and whole body—back to a healthy balance.
Finally, dandruff might also be a result of a food allergy. If you suddenly are experiencing dandruff after eating something specific, you may be able to try an elimination diet to see if your dandruff gets better. Wheat and dairy products are most known to cause dandruff as an allergic reaction in people.
Healthy food, healthy hair
It’s not just your skin that benefits from a healthy diet. All of your hair is affected when your nutrition is poor. This is because hair relies on a steady stream of vitamins and minerals to keep it looking healthy, full and shiny. Here are some major nutrients that contribute to hair and scalp health:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6 and B12
- Omega-3 fatty acids
In particular, shiny hair is often a result of a healthy diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. To create the perfect great-hair diet, focus on eating a well-balance diet composed of leafy green vegetables, lean meats, fish, fruits and complex carbohydrates like wheat toast or brown rice.
If any of these food groups are lacking in your meals, it might be smart to take a multivitamin to promote not only healthy hair growth, but overall body wellness, as well.
When you begin paying attention to the foods you eat and focusing on maintaining a healthy diet, you won’t just start to feel better on the inside—you’ll look better on the outside, including your scalp and hair!