What your hair (and scalp) say about your health

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | General Health | Saturday, May 14, 2016 - 09:30 AM

What your hair (and scalp) say about your healthA lot of people see their hair as a reflection of their identity, so it isn’t surprising that the global hair products market is worth over $80 billion. What might surprise you is how much your hair can reveal about your health.

Medical researchers from around the world have been just as fascinated with hair as some of the world’s top stylists. Trichology, the branch of dermatology that focuses on the study of the health of hair, has existed for more than 100 years. But scientists are the ones who have uncovered what hair really tells us about our overall health condition.

What your hair reveals about your health

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are more than 189,000 hair studies underway in 190 countries. These studies address a number of hair-related issues.

If you are experiencing a problem with your hair that goes beyond the occasional “bad hair day,” perhaps, one of the following health issues is the reason…

1. Dehydration: When hair looks dull, dry, and is brittle, it is often a sign that you are not getting enough water. You could be dehydrated or close to it. In some cases, dull-looking hair in women is also accompanied by hot flashes and night sweats, so watch for those signs as well.

Preventive measures:

The remedy is as simple as making sure you consume at least 2.7 liters a day from beverages and water-rich foods.

2. Too much testosterone: Extra weight around the waistline and hair sprouting in places you never had hair before isn’t necessarily a sign of aging. If you notice dark facial hair suddenly appearing on your upper lip or hair thickening on your arms while your waistline is getting wider, it might be a sign of too much of testosterone. Excess fat stores testosterone and stimulates hair follicles that cause hair growth you would normally see in men.

Preventive measures:

  • Women should only consume six added teaspoons of sugar per day and exercise regularly.
  • It is important to keep in mind that the same signs such as unwanted hair growth and irregular periods can be a symptom of a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome. In this case, seek medical attention.

3. Eating the wrong foods: Aging changes our hair. It can make it thin, more coarse, dull-looking, and breakable. But if your hair has these features and you are relatively young, you need to take a closer look at your diet. And no matter your age, a healthy diet can help your hair.

Preventive measures:

  • Nutrient-rich foods like fresh fruit and vegetables are good for your hair.
  • Foods that are processed are not so good. Now, don’t go overboard. If you eliminate fat completely from your diet, your hair can become weak and lackluster.
  • Foods with omega-3s and monounsaturated fats – like fish and avocados – are the best.

4. Too much stress: Both dermatologists and psychiatrists confirm that thinning hair can be brought on by major stress. This could include illness, the death of a loved one, or a period of deep depression. Normally, the hair loss takes place three to six months following the event or stressor. The good news is that the hair will grow back.

Preventive measures:

  • Get 7.5 to eight hours of sleep a night.
  • Perform stress-busting activities.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get proper nutrition, including proteins and iron.

5. Not enough protein: If you’re noticing that your hair isn’t quite growing, it could be due to lack of protein as your hair requires protein along with other minerals to grow.

Preventative measure:

Eat foods like eggs, shellfish, and wild red meat to get the proper nutrients you need to promote hair growth.

6. Insufficient iron (anemia): If your hair is cracking, thinning, or if you’re losing it, it could be a sign of low iron or even anemia.

Preventative measures:

  • Eat more meat.
  • If you’re vegetarian, take a multivitamin.

Over the last 10 years, scientists have realized hair can tell us much more than they ever imagined. A few years ago, a joint Israeli-Canadian study examined stress hormone in hair samples and discovered that the hair was a significant predictor of heart attack.

So the next time you look in the mirror, take a close look at your hair and scalp. And remember to take good care of your overall health. As the well-known haircare and cosmetics company L’Oreal put it: “Because you’re worth it.”

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