How to Promote Hair Growth
According to 2014 statistics, about 35 million men and 21 million women in the United States are affected by hair loss . Further, the likelihood of an individual suffering from hair loss increases steadily with age. For instance, by the age of 35, about 40% of men will experience visible hair loss and this percentage increases to 65% at the age of 60. For women, around the age of 40, 40% of women will notice hair loss and the percentage increases to 80% at the age of 60 .
Although hair loss is not a life-threatening condition, many newer, hair-loss treatments have been developed to help combat the social stigma that accompanies the condition. For example, some men will have their scalp lightly colored with a tattoo-like treatment, undergo hair plug treatment, have a hair transplant, or choose to have scalp reduction surgery, which is where the parts of the scalp that do not grow hair are surgery removed, so the hair growing area can be stretched. Additionally, some pharmaceuticals have been approved by the FDA to treat male-pattern baldness; however, they are not without side-effects.
In many circumstances, hair loss can be reversed or halted by making sure the body has the nutrients it needs for optimal hair growth since specific vitamins and minerals are required for particular points in the hair growth process . Hair loss can also be related with certain medical conditions that have associated nutritional deficiencies, such as certain autoimmune diseases, stress and anxiety, and other illnesses, such as type-2 diabetes  .
In particular, in the late 1700s, researcher James Lind noted that scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency that was common for sailors, was associated with hair loss. Moreover, forms of malnutrition, such as kwashiorkor and marasmus, have been linked with excessive hair loss, which highlights how critical nutrition is for optimal hair development and quality .
Despite the multifactorial nature of hair loss, several straightforward steps can be organizationally examined and rectified, with many of the steps being diet-related. In this article, we will review nutritional research that underlines hair health and present approaches to promote hair growth.
Examine Thyroid Health
In a 2013 study, researchers examined the association between thyroid function and hair loss. Pragmatically, the researchers began the review by stating, “Sir, it is a well-established fact that endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and parathyroid disorders can cause hair loss” . This relationship exists because the thyroid produces hormones that are essential for hair growth .
One of the more common thyroid conditions called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition and is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism – hypo- indicates the thyroid is underperforming. Doctors can perform blood tests that measure various thyroid activity biomarkers, such as fT3, fT4, reverse T3, TPO antibodies, and TG antibodies, to investigate thyroid health and activity.
In spite of the many-layered nature of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis’ treatment, one of the critical dietary steps that are commonly overlooked is investigating the patient’s diet for inflammatory foods, notably gluten. Research has shown that gluten can cause leaky gut syndrome, which is when the lining of the intestinal tract becomes more permeable, which allows undigested food compounds to penetrate the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream . This incursion of foreign and undigested food particles increases inflammatory compounds and provokes the immune system response that can target the thyroid gland, among other tissues.
In point of fact, there is a secure link between Hashimoto’s disease and celiac disease. A 1994 study discovered celiac disease is twelve-times more likely to arise in people with Hashimoto’s than in the general population . This relationship could exist because the antibodies that the body produces against gluten can cross-react with the thyroid gland.
Evaluate B Vitamin Intake
In the hair growth cycle, there are three phases. The first phase is called the anagen phase, which is the active growing phase and represents about 90% of hair follicles. The second phase is called the catagen phase, which is the degeneration phase and constitutes less than 10% of hairs. The third and final phase is called the telogen phase, which is the shedding phase and represents between 5% to 10% of hairs . During the anagen, or growing, phase, specific vitamins and nutrients are essential.
Because B vitamins play a paramount role in cell function, health, and metabolism, they are particularly vital. For example, vitamins B9 and B12 are factors in the production of nucleic acids, and thus, may play an essential role in the creation of new hair growth, the first phase . However, it is not fully known how this function works or if B vitamins play a role at all since studies have offered contradictory and ambiguous results.
Nevertheless, in a 2014 study, researchers found that vitamin B9, or folate, was significantly stifled in patients with alopecia areata, which is a type of baldness . Foods that have high levels of folate include asparagus, broccoli, spinach, oranges, and eggs. Additionally, there are folate supplements available. However, it is crucial to look for a folate supplement, rather than a folic acid supplement. Both are a type of B9, but the latter is the synthetic form that is not easily absorbable or bioavailable in a significant portion of humans .
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is another B vitamin that may play a robust role in the production of new hair. B12 plays a vital role in neurological function, DNA development, and red blood cell development, as it is the primary source of cellular energy for most of these functions   . However, depending on an individual’s lifestyle, some people may be at a predisposition to be B12 deficient. For example, because B12 is more commonly consumed through meat products, such as beef liver and many types of fish. Therefore, people who follow a vegan diet are much more likely to be deficient, as noted by a 2010 study .
Consequently, many people turn to nutritional supplementation to combat this deficiency. However, similar to B9 having two forms, B12 also has two forms. The types are either methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin, with the latter being synthetic and mostly nonbioavailable . Therefore, if an individual chooses to supplement with B12, it is paramount they look for a methylcobalamin source.
Next, vitamin B2, or riboflavin, may contribute to hair loss, as B2 helps convert food into energy and plays various antioxidant functions  . Through biological processes in the body, riboflavin converts to its active form called riboflavin-5'-phosphate. Research has shown that this active form is necessary for the proper function of the immune system and healthy skin and hair, since without adequate amounts of B2, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins cannot be digested to maintain the body . Again, specific groupings of people have a predisposition to be vitamin B2 deficient, such as lactating women, vegans, older adults, people who consume alcohol frequently, and women who take contraceptive medication .
Dietary sources of B2 include eggs, organ meats, milk, green vegetables, and fortified grains . Moreover, similar to B12 and B9, there are variations in the form of B2. There are many synthetic, unabsorbable types, such as flavin mononucleotide. The most absorbable and bioavailable form is the prementioned riboflavin-5'-phosphate .
Finally, B7, or biotin, is perhaps one of the more common B vitamins that are associated with hair growth because B7 plays a vital role in numerous hair-related metabolic processes . Puzzlingly, in spite that skin rashes, fragile nails, and hair loss are signs associated with B7 deficiency, researchers claim that large-scale scientific investigations do not support the efficacy of B7 supplementation . Regardless of this contradictory perspective, B7 deficiency licenses investigation in cases of hair loss, explicitly in cases where the individual’s lifestyle causes them to be predisposed to B7 deficiency, such as in cases of alcoholism, pregnancy, and absorption illnesses. Research has even discovered that excess egg consumption can lead to decreased absorption because a compound in eggs binds to vitamin B7 and reduces its absorption .
Withal, these four B vitamins, B2, B7, B9, and B12, play various, supporting roles in healthy hair growth, and they can be supplemented through a B complex supplement, such as Healthmasters' B Complex.
Investigate Iron Levels
In a 2013 study, researchers found that iron deficiency was involved in approximately 30-50% or anemia cases, with the deficiency significantly playing a more significant role in women’s cases . Iron deficiency induced anemia is when various, iron-related functions of the body become unbalanced, and since iron plays a vital role in the production of red blood cells, iron deficiency can decrease features of blood . Healthy iron levels in the blood are essential for the blood to carry proper levels of hemoglobin, which is necessary for tissue oxygenation. Decreased tissue oxygenation can lead to hair loss.
There is controversial research as to whether iron, in fact, plays a role. Nevertheless, research has formed the relationship between iron deficiency and certain types of hair loss, including female pattern hair loss (FPHL), alopecia areata, alopecia universalis or totalis, and telogen effluvium, as noted by a 2013 review . Moreover, studies have shown individuals with certain hair loss conditions benefited from oral iron therapy  .
A doctor can perform specific tests to measure iron levels, such as serum iron, ferritin, TIBC, UIBC, and transferrin saturation percentage. Most of the time, iron levels can be restored through a complementary diet, by eating iron-rich foods, such as spinach, lentil, dark chocolate, blackstrap molasses, and iron supplementation. However, it is essential that iron levels are monitored because people can get too much quickly.
Increase Intake of Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Foods
At the base of the hair follicle, there are dermal papilla cells (DPCs), which are responsible for encouraging the division of hair follicle cells that promote hair growth . In studies that examine the behavior of these cells, researchers noted DPC activity decreased with markers of inflammation and increased markers of oxidative stress .
Further, research has found that topical application of lipid peroxides [oxidized fats] can cause hair follicle cell death, which can cause the latter stage of the hair growth cycle, the shedding stage, to arrive sooner. Accordingly, research has found that people who have pattern hair loss have increased levels of oxidative stress biomarkers  .
Integrating antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods into one’s diet can support the body’s biological processes to reduce inflammation and decrease oxidative stress. Typically, foods high in antioxidants are colorful fruits and vegetables, and turmeric, or curcumin, supplementation can be useful for reducing inflammation.
In a 2010 study, researchers investigate the total antioxidant content of more than 3,100 foods, beverages, spiced, herbs, and supplements that are routinely used worldwide , and top-listers were artichokes, peppers, kale, and apples. For the full results, see reference .
To summarize, through an optimized diet, people can ensure they are receiving adequate levels of various nutrients needed to promote optimal hair growth. Of these nutrients, vitamin B2, B7, B9, and B9, iron, and antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods are of the utmost importance. Further, individuals should work with their doctor to ensure their thyroid is functioning correctly.
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