Dr Ashfaq Ahmad, dispensing medical advice in the Leinster Express' new column.
Certain nutritional deficiencies are known to be specifically associated with hair loss, such as:
- Iron deficiency causes anemia, which is known to contribute to hair loss. Iron deficiency anemia is a condition in which inadequate iron intake and excess of blood loss can be contributing causes. Diets that are iron deficient will eventually result in low iron stored in the body and cause chronic anemia. Diseases that interfere with iron absorption or conditions that cause inappropriate blood loss can also be involved in iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency is diagnosed by laboratory tests. Treatment should be appropriate to the cause, and should be carried out under medical supervision. Iron deficiency due to inadequate iron in the diet may be treated by iron supplementation and by diet modification. Foods rich in iron are spinach, liver, and red meat.
- Zinc deficiency is known to be associated with hair loss. A very low-calorie diet with little or no red meat protein can contribute to zinc deficiency because zinc is absorbed less readily from plant sources than from animal sources. Zinc deficiency can be difficult to diagnose; its symptoms are often non-specific, resembling those of many other conditions. Zinc deficiency should not be assumed; it must be diagnosed by laboratory tests. Zinc supplementation should be undertaken only under medical supervision, as zinc overdose is associated with number of adverse physical effects. Zinc can be found in red meat, lentils, beans, and nuts.
- Biotin deficiency is associated with hair loss as well as some skin disorders. Biotin is one of the B vitamins that have a broad range of functions in the body. Biotin is found in many foods, and has a role in food metabolism. It is essential in production of fatty acids and amino acids. Therefore biotin deficiency is likely to be caused by a very low-calorie diet that reduces the intake of many nutrients below recommended levels. Biotin is found in wheat germ, brown rice, red meat, and egg yolk.
- Protein deficiency is an outcome of inadequate protein in the diet over a period of time. Vegetarians can avoid protein deficiency by including a variety of plant protein sources such as beans, legumes and nuts. Extreme vegetarian diets and extreme low-calorie diets are associated with inadequate protein intake. Main sources of protein are meat, fish, and dairy products. Your daily food intake should contain adequate vitamins including: vitamin A 800mcg, biotin 50mcg, folic acid 400mcg, vitamin C 100mcg, vitamin E 10mg and Zinc 10mg per day.
Herbal shampoos such as rosemary shampoo can be used several times a week and herbal rubs such as almond oil and rosemary oil can be applied into the scalp after shampooing (3-4 drops each time) they are supposed to have anti oxidant effect and promote scalp circulation.
Smoking, caffeine containing products and other stimulants such as cocaine can reduce blood flow and interfere with proper nutrition supply to your hair and scalp.