Diet: I think I've given sufficient testimony that diet plays a major role in the health and beauty of our hair. Before I changed to a more balanced diet, I could sit for hours in the classroom picking at my split ends. Now, I can search my entire head and there's not one to be found! One of the main factors influencing hair health is a deficiency of good-quality protein and iron. Protein is essential for cell growth and repair, while iron produces hemoglobin in the blood, which carries oxygen for growth and repair of all body cells. Excess sugar in the diet robs the body of minerals vital to hair health.

Hormones: As women go through hormonal changes during and after menopause, or after pregnancy, they often experience hair loss. Once hormonal levels become balanced, this loss will be halted. One of the most common causes of hair loss is low thyroid function, so if you're experiencing hair loss, it's a good idea to have your thyroid levels checked by an endocrinologist.

Smoking: Smoking destroys vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient for nourishing hair follicles and clearing toxins from the body. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, making it harder for nutrients to reach the skin and hair and for waste to be eliminated.

Genetic factors: Male pattern baldness can be passed on genetically, as well as other predispositions that can affect overall health and the health of the hair.

Medications: Drugs such as those used in cancer treatment (chemotherapy), anesthetics, anticoagulants (used to thin the blood) and oral contraceptives can cause temporary hair loss. It's important to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your prescribed medications. Dietary changes and properly prescribed natural supplements can greatly improve hair and scalp conditions.

Products: Many of the haircare products on the market contain toxic chemicals and dyes that can cause inflammation, dry the scalp and damage the hair follicles. Chemicals can enter the body through the skin and scalp and can be absorbed into the bloodstream, where they can build up and result in other health problems.

Environment: Environmental factors such as air conditioning and indoor heating can dry out the hair and leave it lackluster. Treated water in swimming pools can also dry the hair and irritate the scalp, as can overexposure to sun. So, if you're in a hot climate, it's a good idea to keep your hair covered if you're outdoors a lot.

Processing: Excess blow-drying, straightening, curling, perming, bleaching and dyeing can give you instant gratification, but over a period of time, it also dries out and damages the hair.

Stress: When you're under stress, it's easy to let basic health habits go. Unfortunately, this results in poor health, which is reflected in the health of the hair. Tension in the scalp restricts the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles.

What to feed your hair to make it healthy


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