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How to slow or reverse hair loss with a healthy diet and nutritional supplements

Thursday, October 27, 2005 by: Dani Veracity
Tags: hair loss, male pattern baldness, female pattern baldness

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Unless you were trying to make a fashion statement – think David Beckham or Sinead O'Connor – you probably wouldn't be too pleased with hair loss. In Western society, hair loss – especially male pattern hair loss – is fodder for jokes, unless the hair loss is a result of chemotherapy or other medical treatments. If you're suffering from situational baldness or male/female pattern baldness, you may laugh about it among your friends. Chances are, however, that you're crying about it in privacy. But by no means are you alone. Fortunately, there are many natural remedies to relieve hair loss and the personal embarrassment that results from it.

We can blame the typical American diet for yet another unfavorable thing: Hair loss. American's high-fat, high-animal protein and high-salt diet damages the kidneys and creates acidic blood, thereby leading to hair loss, according to Paul Pitchford's Healing with Whole Foods and Janet Zand's, Allan N. Spreen's and James B. LaValle's Smart Medicine for Healthier Living. The typical American diet is also usually low in vitamins. This lifestyle leads to vitamin deficiency, which is another cause of hair loss. And thanks to the globalization of fast food chains and the American diet, we're exporting hair loss overseas.

If your diet is relatively healthy, you may have to scrutinize other potential causes and use the process of elimination to determine the cause of your hair loss. For example, do you dye your hair or treat it with other chemicals? According to Bill Gottlieb's Alternative Cures, these treatments may be thinning your hair. Similarly, have you been experiencing a lot of stress in your life? Stress may literally be making you pull your hair out.

If you're a woman: Are you pregnant, menopausal or on birth control pills? These are three big factors in female hair loss. Hormone imbalance is arguably the most common cause of hair loss in females. Pregnancy, menopause and sometimes birth control pills can create hormone shifts, according to The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Women. In fact, according to Dr. Neal Barnard's Eat Right, Live Longer, "Childbirth almost always causes some degree of temporary hair loss, sometimes occurring after a delay of a few months… In other animals, this has a useful function; rabbits, for example, line their nests with shed hairs. Humans have less use for it." So unless you're intent on finding new ways to decorate your baby's room, you're just going to have to wait out the temporary hair loss. Excessive dieting also causes hormone shifts. Hair loss is thus one of the major symptoms of anorexia and bulimia.

Hair loss doesn't have to be controlled entirely by genetics

If your hair loss is caused by a controllable factor, such as using chemical hair dyes, then by all means, change your behavior. Take vitamin supplements, stop dying your hair, change your shampoo or choose a different method of birth control. On the other hand, hair loss could also be genetic. No, you can't alter your genes yet. But you can rely on natural medicines to help counteract an inherited hair loss trait. Vitamin E, Golden Maidenhair (found in a tea shampoo), red sage extracts (also found in some shampoos) and formulas that mix turmeric with horsetail or oat straw are all found to prevent or slow the process of hair loss. Additionally, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in starch may slow down the hair loss process, according to Arthur C. Upton in Staying Healthy in a Risky Environment.

The average human sheds between 50 and 100 hair strands every day. If you're shedding more than that, you don't have to accept it as a burden you must bear. A little lifestyle change goes a long way to stop hair loss. If your parents or grandparents exhibit hair loss, you're not doomed, but you do have an even greater need to watch your diet and use herbal remedies. If you do start losing your hair, however, handling it well can make all the difference between hair loss becoming a source of embarrassment or a fashion statement.

The experts speak on hair loss:

Americans have the greatest incidence of baldness of any people; this is understandable since hair loss is tied to high-fat, high-protein diets, which damage the kidneys and create acidic blood. Meat and dairy, besides being high in fat and protein, are also generally considered "sweet" in Oriental medicine. Considering the additional sweets, desserts, and sugar-laced foods and drinks in which Americans indulge, we can see that the sweet flavor dominates the typical diet. The Inner Classic cautions that too much sweet-flavored food makes the head hair fall out. A further caution from this ancient text: "Too much salt damages the blood [and therefore the hair]." As discussed in the Salt chapter, excessive salt is consumed by Americans, nearly all of it highly refined.
Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford, page 350

Avoid consuming excessive amounts of animal fats, animal proteins, and salt. This may help delay hair loss in men prone to male pattern baldness.
Smart Medicine For Healthier Living by Janet Zand LAc OMD Allan N Spreen MD CNC James B LaValle RPh ND, page 314

Acute deficiency may cause hair loss or thinning, dermatitis, and decreased growth. Both poor appetite and digestion are also experienced by adults with zinc deficiency. Loss of taste sensation may occur, as can brittleness of the nails or white spots on the nails, termed leukonykia. These and most other symptoms can be corrected with supplemental zinc. Sulfur may be helpful as well. Skin rashes, dry skin, and delayed healing of skin wounds or ulcers may result from zinc deficiency, and stretch marks, called striae, are also produced by this condition. Zinc and copper are both needed for cross-linking of collagen, and when they are low, the skin tissue may break down.
Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M Haas MD, page 222

Not all hair loss is inevitable, however, nor is the decline entirely controlled by genes. Stress, hormone changes, and vitamin or mineral deficiencies can lead to fast fallout. Moreover, you're likely to lose hair faster if your hair follicles become inflamed or if you get skin disorders that affect your scalp.
Natures Medicines by Gale Maleskey, page 457

If you are experiencing hair loss, have a hair analysis done to uncover any nutritional deficiencies or toxic metal contamination. As hair is formed, available minerals and amino acids circulating in the blood are laid down in the hair. A hair analysis can therefore provide a picture of your mineral status and pick up any exposure to toxic metals. You should also consult your physician to check for an underlying health problem, such as hypothyroidism or infection.
Smart Medicine For Healthier Living by Janet Zand LAc OMD Allan N Spreen MD CNC James B LaValle RPh ND, page 315

All forms of undereating, skipping meals, or eating only limited foods will lead to poor nutrition and eventually, to problems from protein, calorie, vitamin, or mineral deficiencies. Other symptoms include lack of energy and subsequent weakness, malnourishment of internal organs, skin problems, and hair loss. Severe weight loss in spite of regular eating may indicate an underlying medical condition and warrants an evaluation by a doctor.
Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M Haas MD, page 404

Lack of protein, although not generally a problem for well-fed Americans, can force hair into a resting phase, leading to hair loss.
Symptoms Their Causes and Cures by The Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books, page 222

For men, Dr. Klaper says that a low-fat diet may help slow down the balding process. "On some level, male pattern baldness might be tied to increased testosterone levels during puberty, which are often the result of a high-fat diet or eating too many animal products," says Dr. Klaper. "If you look at Japan, male pattern baldness was almost unheard of prior to World War II. The Japanese diet is now far more fatty and Westernized, and Japanese men are going bald everywhere. It's clear that a high-fat, meat-based diet raises testosterone levels, and that may adversely affect hair follicles. I'm not sure eating low-fat foods will stop hair loss, but it might slow it down."
New Choices In Natural Healing by Prevention Magazine, page 335

Hair loss in women is often difficult to diagnose and can be caused by many factors, including alopecia areata, hormone imbalances, menopause, dietary protein and amino acid deficiency, intestinal parasites, damage from hair treatments, and stress.
Alternative Cures by Bill Gottlieb, page 312

Whether using a dye at home or going to a salon, don't skip the patch test for possible allergic reactions [that may be causing hair loss]. At home, follow package directions carefully.
Wellness Self-Care Handbook by John Edward Swartzberg MD FACP and Sheldon Margen MD, page 334

For women, thinning hair or hair loss can be a sign of a problem in the gastrointestinal tract, says Michael A. Klaper, M.D., a nutritional medicine specialist in Pompano Beach, Florida, and director of the Institute of Nutritional Education and Research, an organization based in Manhattan Beach, California, that teaches doctors about nutrition and its relationship to disease. "Occasionally, it's a sign of insufficient stomach acids or that she's not absorbing protein, zinc and other nutrients," he says. "If she takes acidophilus after meals for a month or so, that often helps." Dr. Klaper recommends nondairy powdered acidophilus, available in most health food stores. He says to take two tablets between meals (four to six tablets per day) for at least two months.
New Choices In Natural Healing by Prevention Magazine

Taking large amounts of vitamin A over long periods can be toxic to the body, mainly the liver. Toxic levels of vitamin A are associated with abdominal pain, amenorrhea, enlargement of the liver and/or spleen, gastrointestinal disturbances, hair loss, itching, joint pain, nausea and vomiting, water on the brain, and small cracks and scales on the lips and at the corners of the mouth.
The A-to-Z Guide to Supplements by James F Balch MD, page 33

Also see your doctor for fungal infections of the scalp or nails, because these infections can be difficult to treat. In the case of progressive scalp infections, they can produce scarring and permanent hair loss.
The Herbal Drugstore by Linda B White MD, page 261

Sudden hair loss in a certain area, such as the scalp or beard, is called alopecia areata and is sometimes caused by an autoimmune illness. Alopecia universalis is a condition in which all body hair may be lost. The total loss of all body hair, including eyebrows, eyelashes, facial and body hair, and hair on top of the head, is known as alopecia totalis. Unless hair loss is widespread, new hair may grow back within a few months, but with no color.
Disease Prevention And Treatment by Life Extension Foundation, page 176

In telogen effluvium, the hair loss is temporary. It results from a large number of hair follicles entering the resting phase of the growth cycle, leading to a rapid, synchronous shedding of hair. The condition usually clears up when any irritant is removed.
Staying healthy In a Risky Environment by Arthur C Upton, page 82

"Hormone-related hair loss, including life events and male and female pattern baldness"

We normally shed somewhere between 50 and 100 hairs every day," says Dr. Caserio. "But there are a whole host of life events; namely, hormone shifts from birth control pills, pregnancy and menopause that affect growing conditions, so that we can sometimes lose hundreds of hairs a day." Rapid weight loss, severe dandruff, iron deficiency and a low protein intake can also speed up the normal rate of hair loss by forcing hairs into a rooting stage. A serious illness or a physical stress, such as childbirth, can trigger dramatic (but temporary) hair loss of up to 50 percent, but this only occurs in extreme circumstances, says Dr. Caserio.
The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Women, page 252

It is a rare physician who puts his patient on the pill and tells her that her face might break out, or that she might suffer hair loss; but many women on oral contraceptives find this out soon enough. In fact, many drugs can be the cause of skin and other cosmetic problems. The following is a list of just a few:
Vitamin Bible for the 21st Century by Earl Mindell, page 362

Childbirth almost always causes some degree of temporary hair loss, sometimes occurring after a delay of a few months. In other animals, this has a useful function rabbits, for example, line their nests with shed hairs. Humans have less use for it.
Eat Right Live Longer by Neal Barnard MD, page 220

As for hair loss in women, which is a much more complex problem that often requires professional diagnosis and treatment, many experts in alternative beauty care believe that you can help the problem with natural remedies.
Alternative Cures by Bill Gottlieb, page 312

"A woman with hair loss should discuss the proper treatment with a naturally oriented medical doctor or naturopathic physician. He can help you get to the bottom of what's causing the loss of hair and then prescribe the appropriate action," says Elson Haas, M.D., director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin in San Rafael, California.
Alternative Cures by Bill Gottlieb, page 312

Although a certain amount of hair loss is normal, it can sometimes suggest that something is wrong somewhere in your body, specially if hair loss is accompanied by an increase in facial hair, abnormal periods or a deepening of the voice.
The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Women, page 253

Hormonal changes linked to pregnancy or menopause can cause hair loss in women. Finasteride, a drug that helps keep testosterone levels high and other male hormone levels low, can also keep balding in check. Ask your doctor for more information about treating female balding with this drug.
Uncommon Cures for Everyday Ailments by the editors of Bottom Line Health, page 159

Pregnancy, a high concentration of metals in the body, and autoimmune diseases can sometimes cause hair loss.
Prescription For Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A Balch CNC and James F Balch MD, page 403

Actually, when it comes to hair loss, everyone is a loser all of the time. Even the owner of the world's most luxurious locks sheds 50 to 150 hairs a day. What separates him from the guy who could double as a billiard ball? In someone with a full head of hair, new hairs constantly grow in, filling all of the empty spaces. Whether you sprout enough new hairs to prevent baldness depends mostly on your parents. Genes are the culprits in what is known as male- or female-pattern baldness.
Healing With Vitamins by Alice Feinstein, page 276

First your barber starts charging you half-price for a trim. Then your wife develops an odd habit of licking her palms and matting your stray hairs into place. Next you find yourself sarcastically referring to perfectly coiffed entertainers and newscasters on the tube as Mr. Hairdo. It's time to face the nearly bare facts: You're probably one of 50 million Americans suffering from male or (women, take note) female pattern baldness the most common forms of hair loss.
Symptoms Their Causes and Cures by The Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books, page 227

The most common pattern of hair loss is called male pattern baldness or hereditary alopecia. In this condition, hair is lost from the crown and temples and is often replaced by a more fine, downy type of hair. This pattern of hair loss is also called androgenic alopecia, meaning it is more common in males and is usually inherited. It may also affect women (female-pattern baldness) and occurs especially after menopause.
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 1023

The most common form of hair loss andro-genetic alopecia (common male-pattern baldness) does not occur as a result of injury, illness, or environmental influences but is a genetically programmed process that affects numerous men and women (particularly after menopause).
Staying healthy In a Risky Environment by Arthur C Upton, page 82

This type of balding usually begins around the age of 30 and becomes more noticeable at age 40, and can be more evident after menopause. Female-pattern baldness usually causes the hair to thin out all over the head, but it rarely progresses to total or near baldness as it does in men. This type of hair loss is permanent. Females may also suffer hair loss because of temporary shedding, known as telogen effluvium; breaking of the hair due to styling treatments and twisting or pulling of the hair; alopecia areata, an immune disorder temporarily causing patchy areas of total hair loss; oral medications; and certain skin diseases.
Disease Prevention And Treatment by Life Extension Foundation, page 176

Hair loss afflicts millions of people—and not just men, though their hair loss is often the most noticeable. Most women, too, experience some degree of hair loss as they grow older.
Wellness Self-Care Handbook by John Edward Swartzberg MD FACP and Sheldon Margen MD, page 331

The best way to prevent hair loss is to choose parents and grandparents with great hair. Unfortunately, choosing one's genes is not (yet) an option. Consequently, hair loss cannot be considered preventable. It goes without saying, however, that you should take good care of your hair and consult a physician should you suspect you are developing any kind of infection on your scalp.
Smart Medicine For Healthier Living by Janet Zand LAc OMD Allan N Spreen MD CNC James B LaValle RPh ND, page 315

Baldness or loss of hair is referred to as alopecia. Alopecia to-talis means loss of all the scalp hair. Alopecia universalis means loss of all body hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes. If hair falls out in patches, it is termed alopecia areata. This condition is usually temporary and rarely leads to baldness. Factors that are involved in hair loss include heredity, hormones, and aging.
Prescription For Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A Balch CNC and James F Balch MD, page 401

But of more concern to many men and women afflicted with hair loss is alopecia areata, a lesser-known disorder that causes hair loss in nearly 4 million Americans.
Uncommon Cures for Everyday Ailments by the editors of Bottom Line Health, page 159

While it's true that many men experience some hair loss as they age, many others begin to lose their hair in their twenties or thirties. Premature baldness can be caused by nutrient deficiencies — and in these cases, it can be reversed. Usually, however, genetics is the cause for male pattern baldness.
Natural Health Secrets by Glenn W Geelhoed MD Jean Barilla MS, page 137

If you're a typical adult, you have about 100,000 hairs on your head. And you're not willing to part with a single one of them. Yet once your hair starts to thin, there's little Western medicine can do. Except in cases caused by radiation treatments, scalp infections or severe stress, hair loss in men and women is hereditary and permanent. Only one prescription product, minoxidil, has won approval as a hair loss cure. And it doesn't work for everyone, especially when there is actual baldness rather than thinning. The natural remedies in this chapter, used with the approval of your doctor, may help slow hair loss or increase hair growth, according to some health professionals.
New Choices In Natural Healing by Prevention Magazine, page 335

Cancer-related hair loss

There are approximately 100 drugs used as chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer. The goal is to destroy cancer cells with the use of various poisonous drugs and compounds of either plant or chemical origin. Used for a wide variety of cancers, chemotherapeutic drugs are especially intended to attack and destroy fast growing cells typical of the behavior of cancer cells. Unfortunately other fast growing cells include hair, gastrointestinal cells and important immune potentiating cells of the bone marrow. This is why individuals commonly experience gastrointestinal upset together with acute hair loss.
Treating Cancer With Herbs by Michael Tierra ND, page 481

Natural ways to help you counter your hair loss

Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in starch. This may help to slow down the process of hair loss. Fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids, many of which are antioxidants that may provide protection for the hair follicles and encourage hair growth.
Prescription For Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A Balch CNC and James F Balch MD, page 403

Vitamin E has a wide range of positive effects in cancer particularly vitamin E succinate. It enhances the effects of selenium, and enhances some chemotherapies, radiotherapy, and hyperthermia. It also may help prevent hair loss, and it protects the heart (in animal studies) from cardiac toxicity from doxorubicin.
Choices In Healing by Michael Lerner, page 612

Golden Maidenhair (Adiantum aureum, Polytrichum vulgare, commune) A moss used for a scalp tonic, prevents hair loss (tea shampoo), and used against swellings and lumps, and cold uterus abscesses.
Anti-Aging Manual by Joseph B Marion, page 30

In the days of the pharaohs, the Egyptians had developed a great skill in the use of herbs, and their herbal traditions were kept alive by the Copts, early Christians who were their direct descendants. The ancient Egyptians used an oil made from seeds of the castor oil plant (Ricinus communis), while the Copts employed the root of the plant. The Copts crushed the root in water, allowed it to steep for some time, strained out the root, and applied the remaining water as a wash to the head. Other peoples from the Far East generally applied castor oil directly to the hair as a treatment to halt hair loss and to promote the growth of new hair. Castor oil treatments were sometimes alternated with slathering the scalp with aloe vera juice, olive oil, equal amounts of rosemary tea and olive oil, onion juice, or onion juice mixed with honey. Directions: Apply any of these concoctions to the scalp before bed and cover with a plastic wrap to protect the bedclothes. Rinse your hair thoroughly each morning.
Ancient Healing Secrets By Dian Dincin Buchman PHD, page 83

Silicon is useful to stop hair loss. Two herbs high in soluble, digestible silicon are horsetail and oatstraw. These are synergistic with turmeric, so turmeric should be added to either or both to make a formula.
Herbal Defense by Ralph T Golan ND, page 10

Researchers have also discovered that inositol prevents hair loss in animals. So far, however, there are no studies documenting the same effect in people. The vitamin is found in beans, fruits, grains and nuts.
Home Remedies What Works by Gale Maleskey and Brian Kaufman, page 235

Asia, red sage has a reputation as a hair restorer and hair-care helper. I can't vouch for the former claim, but the latter is supported by the fact that extracts of red sage are used in several shampoos.
Anti-Aging Prescriptions by James Duke PhD, page 393

When hair loss is accompanied by internal heat symptoms such as dry skin, insomnia, red eyes, and irritability, it indicates yin deficiency—dehydration of blood and body fluids, hormone imbalance, or other causes. Blood-building herbs can have good effects when they nourish the source of the hair—blood, bone marrow, the liver and kidneys—especially combined with herbs that increase circulation in the head.
Asian Health Secrets by Letha Hadady DAc, page 301

Results of this double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that long-term oral therapy with daily doses of 18,000 IE retinol, 70 mg L-cystine and 700 mg gelatin led to an improvement of diffuse hair loss relative to controls.
The Clinicians Handbook Of Natural Healing by Gary Null PhD, page 40

"My study in reversing hair loss did not rely on phytochemicals alone, but was holistic in scope. The program overcomes the genetic threshold through a multiple assault on the problem, by removing stress and doing exercise, becoming vegetarian, and detoxing by removing bad food.
Get Healthy Now by Gary Null, page 851There it is used as an appetite stimulant; for hair loss; alcoholism; liver, spleen, and gallbladder disorders; and to treat irregular heartbeat, anemia, leg cramps, and fevers of all kinds. In the U.S., quinine bark is used as a tonic and digestive aid; to reduce heart palpitations and normalize heart functions; to stimulate digestion and appetite; for hemorrhoids, varicose veins, headaches, leg cramps, colds, flu, and indigestion; and for its astringent, bactericidal, and anesthetic actions in various other conditions.
The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, page 399

Hair loss: Use a formula of cooked and raw rehmannia root, ligustrum fruit, dang gui root, donkey skin gelatin (e jiao), deer antler, turtle shell, shou wu root, epimedium, and salvia root.
The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook by Alan Keith Tillotson, page 501

Prevents hair loss and graying of hair—Perhaps because pantothenic acid deficiency in rats leads to graying of hair and loss of hair, many manufacturers have added pantothenyl alcohol (panthenol) to hair conditioners and other hair treatment products. There is anecdotal evidence that pantothenic acid can restore some color to human hair and prevent or slow its loss, but these claims have not been tested in scientific studies.
Vitamin And Mineral Encyclopedia by Sheldon Saul Hendler MD PhD, page 82

There is no evidence that pantethine can prevent hair loss or graying of hair. Similarly there is no evidence that pantethine can enhance athletic performance.
PDR For Nutritional Supplements by Sheldon Saul Hendle and David Rorvik, page 343

Additional ways to possibly stop hair loss

Hair transplantation can be a very successful treatment for hair loss if you have enough of your own hair to graft onto the bald area. Make sure to find a physician skilled in the technique if you decide to pursue a hair transplant.
Prescription For Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A Balch CNC and James F Balch MD, page 403

Because the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is involved in premature hair loss, scientists have experimented with a wide variety of antiandro-gens in an attempt to prevent or reverse the process. Among the antiandrogens that have been used to treat hair loss are progesterone, spironolactone (Aldactone), flutamide (Eulexin), finasteride (Proscar), cimetidine (Tagamet), serenoa repens (Permixon), and cyproter-one acetate (Androcur/Diane). Of these antiandrogens, the most effective has proven to be oral finasteride (Propecia and Proscar).
Disease Prevention And Treatment by Life Extension Foundation, page 177

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