Srijan Biswas remembers combing his hair one Saturday afternoon two years ago and being taken aback by the amount of hair stuck in the brush. His mother suggested a homemade oil concoction but it had little effect over the course of the next two weeks.
Biswas, 24 at the time, had recently begun a night shift job and was relying heavily on junk food for dinner and midnight snacking.
“My mother would sneak in a bowl of fruits on my table after lunch while I was working from home, which changed when I started going to office. Moreover, I began to have street food,” says Biswas.
Biswas deduced that his night owl habits were not the only factor influencing his hair fall: food timing and quality had an effect as well. A month later, Biswas started carrying dinner and home-made snacks.
A few months into this routine, he noticed that his hair fall had decreased and new strands had started to grow.
Vitamins and hair health: understanding the link
Dermatologists say that losing a few strands of hair every day is normal, but a receding hairline, particularly in young people, can be due to either hereditary or non-hereditary factors. Non-hereditary hair loss can be the result of medical conditions or nutritional deficiency.
Vitamin deficiencies are a major contributor to hair fall. One of the key vitamins involved in maintaining healthy hair is vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in hair follicle cycling–the process of hair growth and shedding.
Neha Waghmare, a trichologist from Mumbai, says that vitamin D3 deficiency can cause or lead to hair fall since they are involved in hair cell build-up. “Hormonal changes like thyroid, diabetes, PCOD in females can also lead to hair fall,” she adds.
A 2021 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with scarring alopecia aka inflammation that destroys hair follicles. Therefore, when the body is deficient in vitamin D, the hair follicles can become damaged and hair growth can be disrupted.
Srishti D Chatlani, sports nutritionist from Bengaluru, says, “Vitamin A is also required to produce sebum, the oily substance that acts as the hair’s natural conditioner and looks after the quality of our hair.”
However, excessive vitamin A can cause damage to the hair follicles as well. A 2018 study published in the journal Dermatology and Therapy cites two such cases where hypervitaminosis A (excess intake of vitamin A) showed significant hair loss all over the body.
Furthermore, biotin deficiency is another risk factor for hair fall. Biotin is a B-vitamin that helps to keep the hair strong and healthy. A deficiency in biotin can also lead to thinning hair.
To maintain healthy hair, it is important to ensure enough vitamin D, A, and biotin via diet.
Read more about our recipe on biotin laddoo here
Preventing hair fall with adequate iron
It is a vital mineral that is associated with many bodily functions because iron is necessary to produce haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. When the body does not have enough iron, it can cause hair loss because the hair follicles do not receive enough oxygen to support healthy hair growth.
Chatlani says that the hair follicles receive a supply of serum ferritin or iron-rich blood. Hence, those who have anaemia often experience hair loss. “Iron deficiency led hair loss is usually diffuse, meaning that it affects the entire scalp rather than specific areas,” she adds.
Additionally, the body may prioritise oxygen to vital organs and divert it away from the hair follicles, leading to hair loss.
Food tips to keep our hair strong and healthy
Alongside all the vitamin and minerals, proteins are a source of nutrition for good hair health. All our hair follicles are made of proteins. Therefore, adequate protein consumption is non-negotiable in hair health.
Chatlani says that any deficiencies in protein reflects as poor hair growth and quality. “While proper intake of protein helps with controlling the hair fall it will not work with hair growth,” says Waghmare.
“Including chia, flax, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds can help control hair fall for women with hormonal imbalance,” she adds.
Chatlani suggests consuming omega-3 fatty acid rich foods such as nuts like walnuts and almonds to provide the oils that keep the scalp and hair hydrated. Include green vegetables, tofu, green tea, soyabean, and carrots to promote good hair growth, Waghmare suggests.
She cautions against indulging in tobacco, alcohol, red meat and urad daal (black gram split) in cases where diffuse hair fall is a concern. “Contaminated water used for washing hair, and stress are two other factors that might trigger hair fall,” adds Waghmare.