good health
The dark secret
Premature greying of hair is hereditary or caused by stress. However, a balanced and wholesome diet, rich in nutrients, can prevent it to some extent
Dr Anjali Mukerjee

Dark green vegetables and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin A which promotes a healthy scalp and gives body to the hair
Dark green vegetables and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin A which promotes a healthy scalp and gives body to the hair

Sesame seeds are a good source of iron which is an essential mineral for hair health
Sesame seeds are a good source of iron which is an essential mineral for hair health

A regular hair massage helps proper blood circulation in the scalp Thinkstock
A regular hair massage helps proper blood circulation in the scalp Thinkstock

If you are genetically prone to early balding or greying of hair, you can blame it to your ancestors but largely the health of your hair depends upon your blood circulation and nutrition.

Hair colour is the result of pigmentation attributed to the presence of certain specific chemicals known as eumelanin and pheomelanin (broadly referred to as melanin).

The stem cells at the base of hair follicles are responsible for producing melanocytes, the cells that produce and store pigment in hair and skin.

In general, the more melanin is present, the darker is the hair colour; and less the melanin, the lighter is the hair colour.

Causes of greying

Grey hair is usually associated with ageing, but this is not always the case. The change in hair colour is caused by the gradual decrease of pigmentation that occurs when melanin ceases to be produced in the hair root and new hairs grow in without pigment.

The death of the melanocyte stem cells causes the onset of greying. Early greying of the hair is basically hereditary and may get inherited from parents or grandparents.

Since hair is made up of protein, a low protein intake can result in a change of hair colour, change its texture making it look dull and lifeless, and cause unnecessary thinning.

Grey hair can also be influenced by stress. A person experiencing a prolonged period of stress, worry and anxiety may notice premature greying of hair, over a period of time.

This is because prolonged stress brings about bio-chemical changes within the body and may cause premature greying of hair.

Excessive intake of tea, coffee, alcohol, refined flour and sugar, red meat, and fried, spicy, and acidic foods can reduce the moisture, oxygen and nutrients reaching the hair follicles, subsequently leading to premature greying.

A drop in melanin production may also be caused by a lack of vital minerals like copper, selenium, iron and calcium and vitamins like B12 and folic acid.

Chronic illness such as diabetes, pernicious anaemia, albinism or thyroid malfunction too can stop or affect the production of melanin.

Although many hair problems are due to faulty genes or too much of the male hormone testosterone, and cannot be reversed with nutrition alone; a significant improvement in hair health can be achieved by improving your diet and taking vitamin supplements.

 

 

 

 

Preventive tips

Greying of hair at an early age is primarily due to hereditary reasons or due to intense stress, but the lack of a balanced and wholesome diet, rich in nutrients plays a pivotal role in early greying of hair.

To maintain healthy hair and delay premature greying:

  • Take sufficient antioxidants both in the natural form as in vegetable and fruit juices, raw nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, and in the synthetic form by taking supplements of vitamin E, selenium, zinc, folic acid and the B-vitamins is beneficial.

  • Consume good quality of protein in appropriate quantity (around 40-50gm daily) to give your hair a natural shine and good texture. Include more of sprouted whole grains, cereals, eggs and soy in your diet.

  • Include dark green vegetables and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables in your diet as they are rich in vitamin A, which aids in promoting a healthy scalp whilst giving body and glow to your hair.

  • Including minerals like zinc (present in chicken and eggs), iron (green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds) and copper (whole grains and fish) also promote healthy hair.

  • Avoid foods loaded with artificial colours and preservatives, as they put a strain on your digestive system and can lead to dull and brittle hair along with a dehydrated scalp.

  • Nourishment and proper grooming is very important to keep the hair texture, growth, shine and lustre in a good condition. Therefore use a shampoo and conditioner that suits your hair type. Choose products that are gentle, preferably without any harsh detergent like sodium lauryl sulfate. For daily washes, use a mild shampoo that is gentle & moisturising.

  • Daily massage your hair with your fingertips; it helps proper blood circulation in the scalp. Regular massage of hair scalp with amla paste along with warm coconut oil and lemon has worked wonders in many cases, frequently reversing the process of greying or extensive hair fall.

  • Boiling soaked ritha and shikakai pods for few minutes and using this liquid as shampoo has been shown to improve hair health. Soak dried amla (10-12) overnight and apply the strained water on hair as a natural conditioner. This will leave your hair smooth and shiny and also stop premature greying of your hair.

  • Exercising regularly for about 30-40 minutes 4-5 days in a week promotes proper blood circulation to hair follicles, thus promoting good hair health.

The writer is a nutritionist. She treats obesity and related health disorders online. She can be reached at ask@health-total.com / www.health-total.com





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