By Mamta Singh
Tips on understanding hair fall and what you can do about it
A few long strands of hair on the pillow or clumps falling off as you comb your hair is everyone’s nightmare. Damage control generally veers towards changing the brand of shampoo, conditioner or oil, often with poor results. Assessing hair fall requires knowledge about the causes of the hair fall and effective solutions to stem it.
Here are some scientific facts that will give you a perspective on hair:
• A fall of 50-100 hair strands per day is considered normal
• Hair has a three-stage life cycle: a growth (anagen phase), a transitional (catagen phase) and a resting phase (telogen phase).
• The growth phase can last anywhere from five to six years with hair growing up to a maximum of 12 cms a year. The catagen phase is of two to three weeks duration and the telogen phase lasts five to six weeks.
• At any given point in time, 85 per cent to 90 per cent of your hair is in growth stage and 10-15 per cent is in the resting phase.
• A single hair strand has a life ranging anywhere from two to six years.
So if only a small percentage of hair is expected to fall every day, why does it fall excessively? The reasons could range from hormones, to excessive vitamin A intake, with a few exceptions like wrong shampoo usage or air pollution. Whatever be the reason, it needs to be ascertained by a doctor who will probably run a few blood tests to check haemo globin, biotin, gland function and hormone levels.
Here is a comprehensive list of causes.
• Certain medications such as beta-blockers and bloodthinners have side-effects that include hair fall.
• Excessive male hormone in blood (testosterone)
• Stress – mental, emotional
• Malfunction of the thyroid glands
• Usage of birth control pills
• Inadequate combing
• Deficiency of iron, proteins, biotin and other B vitamins
• Long-term intake of vitamin A
• Fungal infections of the scalp
• Hair aging
• Styling using harsh methods
• Post-natal hair fall
• Toxins from the environment
• Inadequate water intake
• Excessive sugar in diet
• Pulling hair Hair fall can be approached through either one or a combination of disciplines such as consuming a hairgrowth promoting diet that is well balanced in all nutrients, homeopathy, ayurveda, massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, yoga, conventional exercises etc.
Often, deficiencies of macronutrients such as proteins and of micronutrients such as certain vitamins and minerals play havoc with the hair growth and hair fall equilibrium. Apart from this, the rush of artificial ingredients in commercially available foods has also triggered the hair fall phenomena. Synthetic colours, flavour enhancers, stabilisers and emulsifiers all have a detrimental effect on health of the hair. To control hair fall include the following:
• Proteins – These are required depending upon your level of physical activity. A minimum of 0.8 gram per kilo of body weight is definitely needed for healthy hair in a person with average activity levels. In other words, a woman of average weight between 31and 50 years of age should get 46 grams of proteins every day and her male counterpart should consume 56 grams. For non-vegetarians, this protein can come through fish, chicken, mutton, in addition to milk products and poultry. Lactoovo vegetarians can get it from all dairy products such as cheese, milk, yoghurt as well as eggs and vegetable proteins such as legumes etc. Vegans can source it from tofu, brewer’s yeast, soya and milk proteins, cereals, nuts, legumes and grains. Those who lead active lives with workouts built into their life can take up to 1.2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight.
• Be sure to include silica. Silica is a trace mineral micronutrient that keeps hair, nail, bones, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels and artery walls healthy. It promotes lustre and shine in your hair. You can get your silica through banana, whole grain breads, raisins, carrot, lettuce, green beans, capsicums, cucumbers and potatoes, sprouts, rice, beer, onions, oats, green leafy vegetables and millet.
• Make your diet iron-rich: Anaemia or a low haemoglobin count in the blood causes many problems in the body, among which hair fall is also noticeable. The condition may be brought about by malabsorption of iron during digestion, poor nutrition, childbirth, medication etc. Though iron supplements are widely available, their consumption often leads to a variety of other issues such as constipation, or loss of appetite. You can source your natural iron from dark leafy vegetables, organ meats, eggs, eggplant, apple, dates, raisins, and wholegrain cereals. Women in the age bracket of 20-50 years require a minimum of 18 mg of iron daily and men in the same age group require only 8 mg a day.
• Monitor your calcium-magnesium intake: An imbalance of the two minerals leads to hair fall. Often we take in more calcium than is required due to the calcium hype generated by the media. However, the balance with magnesium is critical for calcium assimilation in the body. Therefore, while you are getting your calcium through milk, yoghurt, cheese and soya proteins, broccoli etc. you must ensure your magnesium intake is being backed up by egg yolk, beans, nuts, tofu, whole grains, and okra. A woman in the age bracket 18 to 50 years requires approximately 1200 mg of calcium (depending on her stage of life and activity levels) and 350 mg of magnesium; men in the same category require 1000 mg of calcium and 400 mg of magnesium.
• Vitamin C and hair fall: We know that vitamin C helps cell wall texture and maintenance. It also helps better absorption of iron in the body. You require approximately 60 mg of vitamin C, which you can derive from tomatoes, citrus fruits, broccoli, green peppers, cabbage, strawberries, and cherries.
• Vitamin E in your diet: 10 mg per day will suffice for healthy hair. This vitamin can be sourced from olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains etc.
• Cut down on sugar: Calcium and magnesium imbalance stems from eating too much sugar, which causes the body to become insulin resistant. A sugar-rich diet causes raised insulin levels that leech calcium from the bones. The calcium is deposited into the body’s soft tissues, resulting in imbalance of calcium and magnesium leading to hair loss.
• Check your zinc, selenium, beta-carotene, and B vitamin levels: Zinc can be had from shellfish, eggs and meats. The RDA (Recommended daily/ dietary allowance) stands at 8 mg daily for adult women and 11 mg for adult men.Similarly, selenium is found in grains, meat, mushroom, shrimp, tuna, salmon, and poultry and a minimum of 70 mcg is required on a daily basis to promote hair growth. Sources of beta-carotene are carrots, spinach, turnip, thyme, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli etc.
• B vitamins include vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12 and each have their own RDA values.
Stop smoking: As always, tobacco and nicotine both trigger hair fall by speeding up their life cycle.
Mamta Singh is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer and sports nutritionist from IFA, Florida USA. She is also an NCFE-certified holistic health therapist from SAC UK, and writes for popular fitness sites. She also has her own blog on holistic health for women.
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