It used to be the case that hair loss was the preserve of middle-aged men and elderly women. These days hair loss is striking earlier and earlier in both genders, though in women it is generally diffuse, thinning all over, rather than in men, who tend to recede or develop bald spots which spread.
At a major conference on hair growth in Mumbai earlier this year, Swedish hair specialist Dr Fred Zuli and Italian scientist Dr Falvio Ferrari cited four main enemies of lustrous healthy hair; Stress, vices (including over-processing the hair). pollution and poor nutrition.
While it is normal to lose between 50 and 100 strands of hair a day, serious hair loss is a sign that something is wrong with our body.” says trichologist Dr Apoorva Shah. “As a reaction to an incident of extreme mental or physical stress, the body typically sheds hair after a gap of three months. For instance, if you are down with food poisoning, the malabsorption of nutrients during this period can lead to hair loss in the next few months. So, it’s important to jog your memory to pinpoint the cause.” Post-pregnancy is also a common time for significant hair loss in women, though luckily for most it grows back.
STRESS: Dr Ferrari thinks stress may constitute one of the biggest causes and said: “While genetics play a key role in balding, a stressful lifestyle can play havoc. Simple lifestyle changes such as; getting seven hours of sleep, drinking a glass of water every hour (strands are made up of minerals, which only water can replenish) and eating protein-rich foods at regular intervals can bring about an 80 per cent change..Stress also drives our bodies to produce more androgens (male hormones), thereby upping the secretion of the hair loss-causing chemical DHT.”
NUTRITION: “Nutrition is vital for hair growth. No other part of the human body grows at the rate of half an inch per month, except bone marrow, so you must feed it,” says Dr Shah who goes onto say; “Hair is made up of a protein called keratin. So, it is essential that you include sufficient protein in your diet. A low-protein diet forces your body to prioritise the available protein for other purposes, like rebuilding cells, thus depriving hair of it. Dr Shah says spinach, almonds, walnuts, paneer, tofu and milk are hair-happy foods. Green tea is effective because it blocks out Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone that causes hair loss.
VICES: SMOKING: The carbon monoxide that you inhale prevents the blood from transporting oxygen and key nutrients to hair follicles. Nicotine narrows the blood vessels, further stalling fresh hair growth. DRINKING: Alcohol is fine in moderation but, in excess, it is known to suck the body dry of its iron supply, interfering with zinc absorption. It also causes dehydration, which further impedes the absorption of vital nutrients. Since hair is almost one-fourth water, excessive alcohol will moreover leave it brittle. OVERPROCESSING: With women, excessive styling and colouring is a further problem. “Heat and chemicals weaken the hair, leading to easy breakage,” adds Dr Zuli.
To sum up. we have never lived at such a fast pace with such a dizzying array of choices, options and opportunities in our lives. It is vital that we find ways of pacing ourselves, both for the sake of our health and our hair.
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