I have been working as a hair specialist at my practice in Chichester, West Sussex, for 23 years now and carry out hair sample tests (or nail sample tests for those who have lost all their hair) on a regular basis. I noticed that many of my clients are under the impression that they are eating healthily when, in fact, they are consuming foods and drinks that are detrimental to their health and to their hair growth.
If your hair is falling out or thinning, something is wrong with your digestion. Essential nutrients are not getting to the roots of your hair.
Here are a few causes that can adversely affect your nutrient uptake:
- You are eating foods or drinking beverages that cause your digestive tract to malfunction. If, for example, you are intolerant to gluten and you continue to eat bread or pasta, the gluten will clog up your stomach and your small intestine. This means that nutrients from food cannot get to the roots of your hair.
- You have been on antibiotics or on medically prescribed drugs which corrode the lining of your gut and create a ‘leaky gut’. These leaking portions of your small intestine result in a weakened immune system and inflammation in the body.
- You have problems with mercury from amalgam fillings in your teeth, from vaccinations or from eating certains types of fish which contain mercury. Mercury is known to cause hair loss.
Many people with hair loss already know that gluten, animal dairy and alcohol can be connected with hair loss. Here are five foods which you may think are healthy when in fact they are a problem and can make your hair loss worse:
1. LARGE FISH
Tuna is a very popular fish which is nice and meaty with a great flavour. You can get it in tins or at the fish counter in your supermarket. Unfortunately, tuna, just like other big fish like swordfish and marlin, is heavily polluted with mercury. This is because tuna feed on smaller fish which are already contaminated with varying amounts of mercury, and because tuna live longer than some of the smaller species fish, so the more often you eat tuna, the more mercury levels build up in your body.
Mercury accumulates in organs and glands of the body because the body cannot detox from it without specific detox supplements. It undermines your immune system, disturbs hormonal balance and is known to cause hair loss.
Other fish to avoid:
Farmed fish Fish farms add heavy duty parasiticides to the water in order to stop sea louse infestation. These parasiticides are toxic to the fish but they are also toxic to you, the consumer.
Fish from the Far East Fish from Far East areas are exposed to heavy chemicals which are emptied into the water of rivers as there are no environmental controls. Again, by eating this fish, you are ingesting chemicals as well.
Spinach is touted as a healthy food which you can steam, cook or have in salads. What is little known is that spinach is considered an antinutrient, especially in its raw state. Oxalates, found in the leaves of spinach and chard, interfere with your body’s absorption of calcium. Minerals like calcium and magnesium are important detoxifiers that can remove metals such as mercury, thallium and cadmium from the body, all of which are known to cause hair loss.
Cooking spinach will remove some of the oxalates from the leaves, but you should certainly avoid just steaming spinach or having it raw in salads.
Quorn is an imitation protein made from a proceessed mold (Fusarium venenatum) that naturally occurs in soil. The mold is grown in liquid solution in large tanks and is often marketed as ‘mushroom protein’.
If you suffer from hair loss, your digestive system is already compromised, so you cannot afford to have any of the following adverse reactions which can occur with Quorn:
- breathing difficulties
I’m not saying that everyone will get these reactions when they consume Quorn, but it would be best to avoid this processed food because side-effect can be quite severe, with some people ending up in ER.
4. FRUIT SMOOTHIES
Fruit smoothies are popular as a breakfast or as a snack with added protein powder. The reason why fruit smoothies have made it onto my list is that when you blend fruit, the natural sugars are released from within the cell walls of the fruit and become “free sugars” which go straight into your blood stream and cause a sugar high.This in turn furthers fungal growth in the body which is one of the invasive organism types that cause hair loss.
Just like normal sugar or natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, fruit smoothies can have these effects if you have them on a regular basis:
- they undermine your immune system;
- they make you crave sugary foods and drinks;
- they make you put on weight;
- they have a negative effect on heart health;
- they have a negative effect on your skin, hair and nails.
Here are some tips:
- Rather than blend your fruit, have fresh fruit.
- Avoid all dried fruit as this is extremely high in sugar.
- Choose organic fruit if possible as fruit is usually heavily sprayed with chemicals.
- Do not have more than 2 pieces/small handfuls of fruit a day if you have hair loss.
Avoid tropical fruit like pineapple, pomegranates, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, guavas and star fruits because they are particularly high in sugar.
5. CHIA SEEDS
Chia seeds are a good source of protein but they have one disadvantage: they are very small. This means that when you add chia seeds to your muesli or to a salad dressing or smoothie, these will go undigested into your stomach and small intestine because chia seeds are e too small to be chewed with your teeth.
If you have a leaky gut, undigested seeds end up in your small intestine and slip through the holes in your gut directly into your blood stream. This in turn causes inflammation, and especially when you have alopecia areata or alopecia totalis where the immune system is already overreacting, it will make your condition worse.
The same goes for other seeds as well, for example sesame seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and sunflower seeds if they are still in seed form.
You can however have any of these seeds as long as they are
- in powder form and taken in water, or
- as a paste (for example tahini or humus made from sesame seeds) or
- fully sprouted
If you have hair loss problems, consuming foods/drinks you are intolerant to will aggravate your digestive processes, and even if you are taking supplements to help your hair, these supplements cannot work. This is why I’m offering a reduction for the Big Supplement Test only if you also have your Food Intolerances test done at the same time.
Vera Peiffer BA FAPHP MFHT BSYG (Herb.), Hair Specialist, Chichester, West Sussex