HAIR NUTRITION: why is Iron Important When It Comes to Hair Health & Growth?
We tend to underestimate the affects that our diet can have on our hair. Nutritional deficiencies usually show up first in our hair and can cause weak, brittle, thinning, excessive hair shedding, slow, and stunted hair growth. when we noticed our hair getting bad, we tend to go to the hairdresser for a hair makeover, go in search for the best hair treatments or buy the best shampoo and conditioners etc... But do we consider treating ourselves from the inside?
NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY SHOWS UP IN THE HAIR
Hair cells are the second fastest-growing cells in our body and second only to the intestinal gut cells, on estimate there are around 120,000 hairs on our scalp, all of which need good nourishment in order to grow and be at its best. Because our hair is not a vital organ or tissue, the body will not prioritise its nutritional needs, the hair comes last on the list. But, due to the hair’s expendable nature, a nutritional deficiency or imbalance will normally show up first in the form of hair loss and weakness. By doing a hair analysis test you can get a better idea of your nutritional health, including revealing drug use habits, genetic diseases, heavy metal poisoning, and other conditions.
Your hair cells, as well as the cells throughout your body, need a balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates, iron, vitamins and minerals to function at their best. A vegetarian/vegan diet without supplementation does not include all of the elements needed for optimum hair growth and hair health. These include diets that consist mainly of fruits, vegetables and salads, with only minimal amounts of protein and low calories. On the other hand, diets that are high in protein and fat, with few or no carbohydrates also isn’t adequate. A balance is required, Iron is an important mineral that must be consumed regularly as your body cannot produce it on its own.
IRON: Why Is This Mineral Important for Hair?
If you are not getting enough iron through your diet, you may develop iron deficiency anaemia. This can cause your hair to shed, excessive hair shedding known as ‘Telogen Effluvium’ You may also find that your hair will not grow past a certain length. The reason Iron is so essential to our health, is that it’s the most important function in our body to aid in the production of red blood cells. In general, it is an all-round essential for your general fitness and well-being as red blood cells carry oxygen (haemoglobin) around the body via our bloodstream system to all tissues and organs, including our hair follicles. Iron also optimises energy levels, nourishes our muscles (including the heart), and helps our immune system. It’s important to know deficiencies, as well as excesses, of certain things in our diet can result in hair loss. For example, hair loss can be caused by iron and ferritin (stored iron) deficiency, also hair loss can be due from an overload of vitamin A (found in oily fish, liver, cheese etc).
ANEMIA: Low Iron Levels
The most common cause of anaemia is low levels of iron in the body. This type of anaemia is called iron-deficiency anaemia, a condition in which there is a lack of enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen (haemoglobin) to your body's tissues and allowing then to function properly. Having anaemia can make you feel tired and weak. Menstruating women who don’t consume iron-rich foods are at a particularly high risk of deficiency.
RED BLOOD CELLS: Lack Of Oxygen Affects Hair
When our body is short of oxygen, it channels its available supply to our vital organs to keep them alive, rather than to our hair follicles. Without oxygen, our hair follicles cease to function properly, and this may cause hair too to weaken and fall out. In fact, a large proportion of people have nutritional deficiencies and unknowingly have some degree of anaemia.
IRON RICH PLANT FOODS: NON HEME IRON
- Dark green leafy vegetables: watercress, kale
- Spinach: spinach also contains vitamin C which greatly boosts its iron absorption
- Green powders: spiriulina, algae’s, barley grass, moringa
- Dried fruit: apricots, figs, prunes and raisins
- Prune juice
- Dark treacle
- Pulses like beans, peas and lentils
- Pumpkin seeds
Please note, only about 10% of the iron content of a plant is absorbed by the body. Therefore, you may want to consider taking an iron supplement if your levels are low. vitamins C and B12, folate or zinc can facilitate sufficient non-heme iron absorption.
IRON RICH MEAT FOODS: HEME IRON
- Wild free range organic organ meats are very nutritious, includes liver, kidneys, brain, and heart — all of which are high in iron.
- Organic free range red meats is an easily accessible source of heme iron.
- Free Range Wild Fowl: dark meat birds & chicken, more oxygen is needed by muscles doing work, and the oxygen is delivered to those muscles by the red cells in the blood. Therefore legs, thighs, wings, will have more concentration of iron. choose organic free range.
- Shellfish: clams, oysters, and mussels are good sources. The iron in shellfish is heme iron, which your body absorbs more easily than the non-heme iron found in plants.
FOODS THAT INHIBIT IRON ABSORPTION:
Foods with high levels of phytic acid, such as wholegrain cereals, can stop your body absorbing iron from other foods and supplements, other things include:
- Tea: Polyphenols are found in black and herbal tea,
- Grains: Phytate which is a compound found in plant-based diets
- Milk & dairy
- Too much fibre
- Large amounts of these foods and drinks make it harder for your body to absorb iron.
WHAT OTHER FACTORS CAN CAUSE POOR IRON ABSORPTION?
Diseases conditions can also limit iron absorption; this can happen as a result of insufficient stomach acid, lack of intrinsic factor (IF), celiac disease, inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's disease, and autoimmune diseases and hormone imbalances.
Certain medications can interfere with the absorption of iron. Medication that inhibits iron absorption include antacids, proton pump inhibitors (to treat acid reflux) or calcium supplements. Diseases conditions can also limit iron absorption; this can happen as a result of insufficient stomach acid, lack of Intrinsic Factor (IF), Celiac disease, inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and in autoimmune diseases, cancer treatments and hormone imbalances.