Q: I've always seemed to have trouble with my hair. No matter what I do it never
seems to be what I hoped, and always seems dull and weak. My aunt told me that it
was because I didn't eat right, but she's always on me about what I eat.
Does it make that much of a difference?
A: Actually, yes. The old nutritionists' catch-phrase, "You are what you eat", was a clever
way of trying to get people to understand that the food we eat is what our bodies use to
replenish themselves. More than just a matter of calories for energy, our diet provides
our bodies with the essential building blocks to generate new cells. This is especially true for our hair.
Since hair is made primarily of proteins, new hair growth depends on having an
adequate supply of protein in order to create healthy hair cells. It is important to
remember that the body can produce only 11 of the 20 amino acids needed to grow
your hair, and that the rest must come from somewhere else.
This is where diet comes into play. If your diet is high in carbohydrates and fats,
but low in proteins, you're not giving your body what it needs to promote healthy hair
growth. It's also likely that a less-than-balanced diet will not contain the vitamins and
minerals your body needs. Vitamins are catalysts which assist the body in its
biochemical functions, and different vitamins have different biochemical functions they
assist. A balanced, protein-rich diet containing foods high in Vitamins A, C, and E,
Folic Acid, Beta Carotene and Zinc will help the body produce healthy hair.
Any vitamin that is recommended to promote the growth or maintenance of healthy skin will likewise benefit the hair.
A healthy diet containing meat, fish, eggs and dairy products is a good source for
the needed amino acids which the body can't produce for hair growth, as are food
combinations like peanut butter and bread, rice and beans, and beans and corn. And
if you're unsure of whether you're getting the right nutrition, a good multi-vitamin can
make sure you're getting more of what you need.
You should bear in mind that sudden healthy eating habits aren't going to be a
'quick fix' for problem hair. Your hair grows an average of one-half inch (1.25cm) per
month, and the newest hair is always closest to the scalp. However, if you're serious
about the changes you make and stick with it, you'll see a definite improvement in the health of your hair.
Meanwhile, look for products to address the immediate concerns you have. Protein
packs, and protein-rich conditioners will help to strengthen your hair, and shine
enhancers are available to make your hair look healthier while you work on the "root" of the problem.