I've been called the "hair queen" by many people, and while I'm flattered, I have to first and foremost thank my mom and dad, because it's mostly genetics! And shout out to my favourite hair stylist and basically hair MAGICIAN here in Guelph, @belbybri, for helping me to style and tame all this hair!
I've always had thick, wavy hair, but there was a short period of time where I seriously worried that I would lose it all. At age 26, for a period of about 2-3 months, my hair was falling out in chunks, and my face was breaking out with acne. I had never experienced either of these before, so I went to see my doctor and to get blood work. Every time, everything came back as normal, and it was deemed to be due to stress and hormonal changes. But I decided to dig a little deeper, because even though this is a common problem that happens to a lot of people, it just didn't seem normal, and it definitely wasn't normal for me. Fast forward a year later, when I sought help from a natural health practitioner, where I learned that all of these symptoms(even the hormonal imbalances) were stemming from an over-growth of bacteria in my gut. Now, I'm a practitioner myself, and I see this same issue with a lot of young women around that same age. And while I believe there is no one-size-fits all with any aspect of our health(including hair loss/hair growth), there are a few things I always recommend for everyone looking to nourish their hair from the inside out. These are also the things I do to keep my hair strong and healthy too!
1. NATURAL/EDIBLE PRODUCTS: Yes! I said edible! Because everything that we apply to our skin and our scalp, goes INTO our bodies, just like food! There's a lot of products out there labelled as "all natural", but a lot of times, these still contain lots of chemical ingredients, or artificial fragrance. There are, however, some brands, that literally use food items as the ingredients to create body care products such as shampoos, conditioners and body washes. To find these, I go to the closest natural health food store, and start browsing the aisles, reading labels, and opening bottles to smell them(it's important to like the smell of your shampoo, even when it's a natural scent). When I'm reading labels, here is what I'm looking for:
NO CHEMICAL FRAGRANCE: the word fragrance in itself covers 100s of chemicals that make up that scent. These chemicals can cause us to get frequent migraines, have respiratory problems, and can contribute to hormonal imbalances in the body. Instead, I'm looking for something with no-scent, or something with a natural essential oil.
NO SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE(SLS): this is a chemical used to help a product like a shampoo or body wash to foam. Not only are we finding that we don’t really need for our body care product to foam in order to be effective, but SLS is more commonly being linked to many diseases, including cancer, and with hormonal imbalances too.
NO PHTHALATES: these are chemicals found in many fragranced products, such as shampoos, lotions, soaps, and perfumes. These have also been linked to diseases and hormonal imbalance, and those imbalances are what often contribute to symptoms such as hair-loss or issues with hair growth.
2. LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER AND BLOW DRYING TO PREVENT FLAKES AND DANDRUFF: I know, it seems counterintuitive, but a hair stylist once gave me this tip for the winter months, and I've lived by it ever since because it seems to work! The theory she used to explain it to me was this: the skin on your scalp, is the same as your skin anywhere else. So imagine your hands are in a tub of warm water for a few minutes. When you pull them out, they're pruney and eventually they'll get dry, cracked and even flakey. The same thing happens to our scalp when our wet hair sits heavy on top and dries naturally. What I do instead is:
Apply leave-in conditioner to my wet hair and my scalp too(mine is Carina Organics that comes in a spray bottle). This helps to moisturize my scalp(doubly, because I also use regular conditioner in the shower), and it also acts as a heat protectant for blow-drying and any other hot tools you're using.
Gently brush hair after applying the leave-in conditioner. I find brushing helps to stimulate the scalp and the follicles and helps with healthy hair growth. Brushing also tends to gently exfoliate the scalp, so that we can get rid of some of the dead skin and flakes.
Then I blow-dry. I use a brush to keep my hair smooth while I dry, and I make sure I get the hair closest to the scalp too. Again, it sounds like it would be more drying, but in fact, it helps to prevent the skin from getting pruney and then dry and flakey. I find this helps to keep my hair looking full and voluminous for days after washing it.
3. EAT MORE PROTEIN: Protein is literally what hair is made up of, so if you think about it, it’s the building block that is needed to grow hair. We can apply shampoos and products that contain keratin and other proteins, but the most effective way is to just eat more proteins. When it comes to the required amount needed for stable energy and to assist the body in maintaining healthy hair growth, you can refer to my BLOOD SUGAR MANAGEMENT GUIDE e-book, but for sources I recommend to add to your meals, as the most efficient sources, are:
Beans: Kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, etc.
Seeds: raw, unshelled pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts/seeds
4. MORE HEALTHY FATS: Fats are needed for a lot of different processes in the body, including blood sugar balance, and hormone production. Both of these processes, in the big picture, help with healthy hair growth, so we want to make sure these things are happening effectively in the body. If the body needs a certain amount of fat in order to even produce certain hormones that help to grow hair, then we definitely need to pay attention to increasing our intake if we’re experiencing issues with hair loss. This is how I like to add in more healthy fats:
AVOCADOS: sliced and added to a kale salad, cubed and added to a smoothie(1/4 -½ an avocado), mashed and made into a dip(guacamole) or pudding(add cacao powder and honey).
Hemp Hearts: sprinkle them onto a salad, add on top of roasted veggies, blend into smoothies, or just eat plain by the handful.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: make your own fun salad dressings(check out my post on the best salad dressing recipes!), or drizzle over top of roasted veggies with a little sea salt. NUTS AND SEEDS: try to find unroasted and unsalted, and eat them on their own, or sprinkle on top of salads and smoothies.
5. CUT OUT REFINED OILS: Refined oils, more commonly known as Canola oil, Mazzola oil, and Vegetable oil, are rancid due to their processing, and contribute to damaging our cells in the long run. When our cells become damaged, it makes it more difficult for us to absorb nutrients. Ultimately, that affects our hair health, because if we’re not able to absorb nutrients properly, our body is not able to produce the energy required to grow healthy hair. As much as possible, I try to avoid these types of oils(which is difficult sometimes because most packaged foods and chain-restaurants almost exclusively use refined oils in cooking and for dressings), but here are some oils I try to incorporate instead when I'm cooking for myself:
Avocado oil - especially for high heat cooking and roasting
Extra virgin olive oil - for salads, and for cooking up to about 350 degrees.
Hemp oil - for salads and as a finishing oil(not for cooking or baking).
Flax oil - for salads and as a finishing oil(not for cooking or baking).
Coconut oil - for baking and heat up to about 350 degrees.
Butter - on toast, or for high heat cooking and baking.
6. ADD IN GOOD BACTERIA: Something that often goes unnoticed when it comes to hair growth, is the condition of our gut bacteria and digestion. With our standard North American lifestyles and diets, an over-growth of poor gut bacteria can be very common. But with an overgrowth of certain bacteria, it starts to affect the quality of our digestion, and with that, we often start to see difficulty with hair growth or even hair loss. Gut health and hair growth are very much connected, so we want to support our gut with lots of good bacteria, or probiotics. Probiotics can come from many foods, and we should be eating a well-rounded proportion of these foods, but to get a therapeutic and much higher dose, I recommend choosing a probiotic supplement. I get mine from specific health food stores, as that’s where there is often the highest quality brands.