Every time you wash your hair, you dread seeing precious strands of hair being washed down the drain. Later on, every time you comb your hair, seeing several hair chunks fall down on the floor makes an image-conscious day and age of too weak hair performance. You then strive to do everything to save them – from spa treatments in the local salons to trying oils prepared by your granny. Nothing seems to help; and when something does, you do not know how it worked. So, an understanding of how hair grows and the factors affecting it is very essential to understand hair loss.
How is hair loss caused?
The most important part of your hair is something you don’t see – the hair follicle. Let’s picture the follicle as a silent hero helping hold your hair strands on the scalp and nourishing them. The average lifespan of a single strand of hair is around four to five years. During this period, like any of us humans, the follicle also goes through a life cycle which consists of the following stages:
- The active or Anagen phase (comparable to childhood, teenage and most of active adulthood in humans) comprises around 85% of its life span. The longer the hair stays in this stage, the better it is for hair growth. A lot of factors like genetics, ageing, hormones, stress etc affect the length of this period.
- The transitional or Catagen phase lasts for around 2-3 weeks. This is when the hair follicle shrinks to 1/6thits size, hair is detached from its blood supply. Hair stops growing at this stage but doesn’t necessarily fall out.
- The resting or the Telogen phase is the last phase which lasts for around 2-4 months. The hair still doesn’t fall off at this stage but is very vulnerable to loss since it is devoid of all blood supply and is loosely attached to the scalp. Approximately 10-15% of hair on a healthy scalp is in the telogen phase.
- When the hair moves from the Telogen to the Anagen phase again is when hair loss occurs. The new hair shaft is forming and the old one is pushed out and lost. About 50-100 strands per day are lost due to this normal cycle.
All the factors affecting hair growth basically act by altering these phases:
- Hormonal factors: Childbirth, Hormonal deficiencies, Birth control pills, Stress
- Disease/Illness: Local infections of scalp (like ringworm), Severe systemic infections, Major surgery, Chronic illnesses, Cancer treatments, Thyroid disease
- Deficiencies in diet – Low protein, Low serum iron, Anorexia, Bulimia
- Medications: Drugs used for Gout, Arthritis, for thinning blood, for Depression, for Heart problems.
- Mechanical causes: Behavioral problems like hair pulling (Trichotillomania), Incorrectly done chemical hair treatments, Hairstyles like tight braids.
Diet plan for hair loss
- Eat more proteins from animal sources are the best eg: meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, cheese. Proteins will help in building blocks of every tissue of the body including hair and scalp. It helps in new hair generation to replace the ones that are lost.
- Add more Vitamin C rich source found most in oranges, lemon, sweet lime, berries, watermelon, palak,methi, tomatoes and potatoes. Vitamin C required for producing collagen which is essential for holding tissues in the hair together.
- Consume iron, copper especially heme iron from animal sources ( cause’ it is more easily absorbed). Iron and copper are required for formation of hemoglobin in turn providing enough oxygen and blood to the hair.
- Zinc helps the oil glands in the hair follicle to function normally. Found zinc source is from nuts, whole grains, meat and seafoods.