How your hair can reveal your health

by AMY ANDERSON, Daily Mail

If you want to check how healthy you really are, take a good look at your hair. No matter how much you spend on expensive shampoos and extravagant hair products, if your diet and lifestyle are not balanced then your hair will show the first signs of stress.

Here, leading trichologist Philip Kingsley and nutritionist Dr Charlie Clifton identify the problems and advise on the best diet for your health and hair.

Brittle or dry hair: Is likely to be a lack of iron, zinc and/or vitamin C.

Flaky scalp and dull hair: Can indicate you are lacking in vitamin A and essential fatty acids.

Poor hair growth: Can mean you are lacking in vitamins B and C, and zinc. It may point to a thyroid problem or a hormone imbalance.

Dandruff: Often a result of stress which changes the balance of the scalp's secretions.

Hair loss: This can point to a number of diet problems. One might be lack of protein, the other might be a lack of iron leading to anaemia. Women are particularly vulnerable to iron deficiencies during their periods and in pre and post-menopausal stages.

Red itchy scalp: This can be a sign of eating too much fat and sugar, especially if it is a sudden increase over a short period, which is often the case with pregnant women.

Brittle top layers: Likely to be caused by high stress levels coupled with a low-fat diet and probably smoking. The top hairs break off before they reach full length because they are malnourished.

Split ends: A lack of protein and essential fatty acids.

Thinning hair: This points to an increased release of adrenaline, usually due to pre-menopausal stress, a trigger for male hormones, which can cause hair loss and thinning. It also points to dropping oestrogen levels.

Healthy Snacks

You can eat a healthy hair diet without eating a high fat diet, meaning your hair will improve but you will not put on weight.

Mid morning: Eat fresh fruit to give your hair plenty of moisture to tackle the day.

Mid afternoon: Eat any raw vegetables and do not eat nuts because they also take too long to digest.

Late night: Eat wholemeal and seed breads or crackers with warm skimmed dairy milk or better still soya milk to sustain your hunger through the night and also give your hair a protein boost.

Regular Meals

Good hair nutrition doesn't stop with three regular meals a day. Studies have indicated that if you go more than four hours without eating, the energy levels to your hair follicles diminish, making it difficult to form hair protein cells.

Breakfast: The most important meal of the day for your hair, as follicle energy levels are at their lowest first thing in the morning.
Lunch: Is the easiest meal to skip, but it is the second most important meal of the day. Your lunch should contain approximately 4-5oz of protein.

Dinner: Dinner is the least important meal as far as your hair is concerned, but is usually the meal that most people take the greatest care to prepare properly.

Diet Guide

A well-balanced diet with the right proportions of food types at the right time of day will improve the condition of your hair dramatically. Here are breakfast, lunch, dinner and vitamin ideas to give your hair a boost.

Breakfast: Fruit juice and poached egg on wholemeal toast (vitamin A, C, protein and vitamin B). Or fruit juice and Bran flakes with added iron and vitamins. No tea. Or fruit Juice with whole-meal toast and Marmite or peanut butter (B vitamins and protein).

Supplements to take with breakfast: vitamin B complex and 500mg evening primrose oil.

Lunch: Smocked mackerel sandwich with lentil salad (zinc, lysine, and Omega-3 fatty acids). Or avocado and prawn salad sandwich on wholemeal bread (B vitamins, zinc, Iodine). Or chicken bap with carrot salad and low-fat dressing (zinc, vitamin C and beta-carotene).

Supplements to take with lunch: iron plus vitamin C.

Dinner: Stir-fry cooked in sunflower oil: chicken breast, peas, peppers and noodles. Fruit or yoghurt for pudding (iron, zinc, lysine vitamin C, beta-carotene and Omega-6 fatty acids). Or lean beef mince, fresh tomato sauce, spaghetti and spinach (iron, zinc, vitamin C, Lysine and B vitamins). Or cod fillet in half-fat cheese sauce, new potatoes and fresh/frozen peas (zinc, iodine, lysine, B vitamins and vitamin C).

Supplements before bed: zinc and copper.

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