Hair loss… I’ve been there. I felt like I was loosing my identity when my autoimmune disease and prescribed medications caused more than half of my hair to shed.
When I decided to take a holistic approach to my health with nutrition and lifestyle changes, I was able to not only stop my medications but welcomed back new hair growth.
These are the five steps that have been key for me in my hair growth journey, and I hope they help you as well!
1. Hair growth depends on adequate stomach acid
What does stomach acid – technically hydrochloric acid – have to do with increasing hair growth naturally? When it comes to achieving flowing locks, it boils down to two key factors: nutrient intake and nutrient assimilation. Adequate stomach acid is largely responsible for nutrient assimilation.
Did you know that 90% of people have too little stomach acid, not too much? People often believe that heartburn and indigestion are caused by too much stomach acid, but it’s the other way around. When we are stressed and nutrient-deficient, our gastric juice production drastically slows. Heartburn then ensues because out stomach isn’t the acid tank it should be – our meal stays in the stomach too long, causing digestive distress.
Here’s how the process influences hair growth:
-Hair is composed of keratin, which is protein. We require adequate dietary protein intake and assimilation for healthy hair.
-When we consume protein, digestion of it begins in the stomach. During a meal, our stomach should be highly acidic to start breaking down the protein into amino acids.
-Enough stomach acid also signals digestion to work lower down in the digestive tract. It signals the release of digestive enzymes, which further breakdown protein, fats and carbs.
-When we properly digest our food, we do more than provide the building blocks for hair. We support balanced hormones and a healthy metabolism, two factors discussed below that increase hair growth naturally.
2. Consume collagen or gelatin to increase hair growth naturally
High-quality collagen is the only “protein powder” that I use. It contains a unique profile of amino acids that provide the building blocks for healthy hair, skin and nails. Once I began using collagen daily, I noticed a significant improvement in new hair growth and stronger nails.
Recommending collagen to increase hair growth naturally is based on my own and others’ experience. There aren’t studies showing that supplementing with jello will make your hair grow. But who knows… maybe that study is a current work in progress! However, there are studies showing that collagen supplementation does indeed improve skin quality, in terms of elasticity and moisture.
I can’t emphasize the importance of purchasing a high-quality collagen or gelatin supplement. Regular unflavored gelatin from the supermarket comes from feedlot cattle. If the animal is in a highly toxic environment like a feedlot, their protein isn’t going to be the best quality. I use Vital Proteins, which is a brand of 100% grassfed collagen and gelatin (they also offer free shipping on all orders). Their collagen peptides dissolve without flavor in beverages – a great protein booster for smoothies, tea or coffee. Their collagen protein can be used to make homemade gummies and jello.
3. Support balanced hormones for healthy hair growth
We’ve discussed how protein intake and digestion influence hair growth, but healthy hair also depends on hormone balance. Hormone balance, as you likely know, is an extraordinarily complex topic. Here are some of the key hormones at play in hair growth, highly simplified:
Cortisol – This stress hormone spikes in response to chronic and acute stress, but it is also required to regulate daily physiological functions. Chronically elevated cortisol (due to ongoing stress) and chronically low cortisol (often after a period of chronic stress) both impair metabolism and, in turn, impede hair growth.
Estrogen – Estrogen dominance is a highly common hormone imbalance for women and men of all ages. Toxins in our environment, such as pesticides and BPA, act like estrogen in the body. Further, foods such as soy throw estrogen out of balance. Elevated levels of estrogen can significantly contribute to hair loss for both men and women. I recommend reading Hair Like a Fox for more details. My book Quit PMS discusses how women can naturally reverse estrogen dominance.
Thyroid hormones – Adequate thyroid hormone levels mean a healthy metabolism, and a healthy metabolism means improved hair growth. I’m discussing thyroid and hair growth in more detail below.
While hormone balance is multi-faceted, the good news is that the same steps help balance hormones across the board. If you haven’t read them already, check out my posts 15 Ways to Balance Hormones Right Now and (for women) my book Quit PMS.
4. Support a healthy, balanced scalp
It’s common sense: to increase hair growth naturally, start below the scalp. I don’t believe the answer to thinning hair is a topical serum or a magic pill – you have to address digestion and hormone balance. But, as I’ve learned through experience, scalp health is another crucial factor.
If you are familiar with my story, I struggled with extreme hair loss due to my autoimmune illness and the medications I was on years ago. When I changed my nutrition and lifestyle, I was able to address my disease naturally and start to re-grow my hair. The other huge piece for me, however, was balancing my scalp with Morrocco Method products.
5. Support thyroid health to increase hair growth naturally
I know from experience that hypothyroidism comes with a list of discouraging symptoms, including hair loss. Decreased thyroid hormone means that your cells aren’t producing enough energy, which means a slowed metabolism. That translates to reduced hair growth and increased hair shedding.
Once I knew I had hypothyroidism (which turned out to be Hashimoto’s, the autoimmune version of hypothyroidism), I threw myself into research and chose to use nutrition instead of the traditional mediation route. The key for me, along with the steps discussed above to improve hormone balance, was a grain free diet. I’ve tweaked my diet to find what works best for me, and it looks very similar to The Autoimmune Paleo Protocol.
For some bite-sized information, read my post Top 5 Foods for Thyroid Health. If you believe thyroid imbalance is a significant part of your hair struggles, then a much more comprehensive resource is The Thyroid Sessions, available here. I can’t recommend it enough as it has helped me on my own journey with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It’s a digital program with interviews and documents from the leading experts in natural thyroid health. It answers questions about diet, lifestyle, supplements (including iodine questions!) and tons more… everything your doctor hasn’t been able to answer.