Articles

Children 10–18 years

How well do you feed your hair?

11057647_885486694880600_1216219489324966892_nOver the course of a lifetime most of us spend a great deal of time and money caring for our hair.

We take every part of our body for granted but have you ever considered how miraculous your hair growth really is? Do you feed it well?

Hair health

On a normal scalp there are about 120,000-150,000 strands of hair and around 50-100 of these are shed each day. About 90% of our hair is in the growing stage and for each individual hair this stage lasts for 2-3 years. At the end of this period the hair enters a resting stage for about 3 months before it falls out and is replaced by new hair. As people age their rate of hair growth slows.

Hair Loss (Alopecia)

There are many types of alopecia’s:

  • Involutional alopecia– the hair naturally thins with age
  • Androgenic alopecia– a genetic condition affecting men and women, hair recedes and is lost from the crown.
  • Alopecia Areata– often starts suddenly, due to an autoimmune disease, causing patchy hair loss in children and young adults which can lead to baldness although in 90% of people hair does grow back.
  • Alopecia universalis– all body hair falls out, including eyebrows, eyelashes and pubic hair.
  • Trichotillomania– a psychological disorder where a person pulls their own hair out.
  • Telogen effluvium– a temporary hair thinning where more hairs are resting than growing

Factors affecting hair loss

The hair cycle can be regulated by a number of factors:

Genetics and hormonal fluctuations

This may be seen in androgen alopecia leading to hair thinning in women and patchy baldness in men. While this can be due to hereditary it is mainly due to the fluctuations in the level of androgens and Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which are male hormones. These hormones are  present in women in small amounts although higher levels can be associated with the development of ovarian cysts and can become elevated during pregnancy and menopause.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy hair appears to thicken. This is because oestrogen levels increase which slows the hair growth cycle, resulting in a reduction of hair loss and some hair renewal. Once the child has been born the oestrogen levels fall leading to accelerated, temporary, hair loss. However prolactin which is the hormone released during breast-feeding can help to delay this hair loss cycle.

Smoking

Researchers have found that men who smoke 20 cigarettes per day are twice as likely to suffer from moderate or severe hair loss compared to those who have never smoked. It is believed that smoking damages hair by limiting the circulation of blood and hormones to the hair follicle responsible for hair growth.

A trigger event

Hair thinning can occur over several months after a major physical or emotional shock. Such as may occur with sudden weight loss; high fever; burns; injuries; x-rays; surgery or death in the family.
This is normally only temporary hair loss however the psychological impact can be severe. Medication to treat hair loss is available so do discuss this with your doctor if it is a problem.

Scalp infections

Such as Ringworm that is caused by the same fungal infection “tinea capitas” that can affect nails and also cause athletes foot. If it develops on the scalp it begins as a pimple gradually expanding in size leaving scaly patches of temporary baldness. Usually it responds well to anti-fungal drug therapy so do see your doctor.

Drugs

Some medications are associated with hair loss such as chemotherapy, anti-clotting and cholesterol lowering drugs; antidepressants; non-sterioid anti-inflammatories; oral contraceptives; antibiotics as well as drugs to treat high blood pressure and menopause.Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been proven to help reduce hair loss during menopause so talk to your doctor if this problem affects you.

Sunlight

Although hair doesn’t get sunburnt because it is composed of dead cells ultraviolet radiation of medium wavelength (UVA) can destroy colour pigments. This is why natural and coloured hair fades in the sun. Heat from the sun weakens the hair strands outer layer causing it to look dry, frizzy and causing split ends. Discuss the use of sunscreens for the skin and hair with your doctor and remember to also use a hat and limit time spent in direct sunlight.

Hair treatments

Excessive hair styling, colouring, styling that pulls the hair tightly into pony tails or corn rows can compromise hair growth. So choose your hair dresser with care and enquire about the hair products being used to ensure that efforts are being made to reduce the  unnecessary use of chemicals. These chemicals may include  parabens, sulphates and salts which some people are sensitive to and over time may damage hair health.

Nutrients important for hair health

Protein

If there is a lack of dietary protein a greater number of hairs enter the resting phase at the same time leading to noticeable hair loss. So ensure that you eat moderate servings of protein rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs, poultry, eggs, cheese, beans and lentils each day.

Energy deficiency

Often people trying to “make-weight” such as athletes or even healthy people just trying to avoid unnecessary weight gain may unwittingly restrict their energy and key nutrients that assist and promote hair growth. If this is happening to you a dietary assessment can make all the difference.

Iron

Iron is important for hair growth and deficiency will lead to hair loss. Good food sources of iron include red meat , particularly liver however  for vegetarians iron is also found in green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, dark dried fruit, beans and lentils.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Foods that are good for your heart can also keep hair healthy such as salmon, tuna, sardines, polyunsaturated margarine, nuts and seeds .

Vitamin supplementation

All vitamins and minerals are important for hair health however this does not mean that they have to be provided by a dietary supplement. The use of zinc and biotin have not been proven by themselves to  conclusively aid hair health. Also excessive levels of Vitamin A have been associated with hair loss, so if considering dietary supplementation it is important to be guided by your doctor..

Hair analysis is not reliable

Some companies claim that they can analyse hair clippings to determine nutrient sufficiency. While hair testing can be used to detect the presence of poisons such as lead, arsenic findings can be inconclusive and varied according to the type of hair treatments being undertaken at the time such as shampoos and perming and colour treatments (all of which can weaken hair over time).

Weight loss can affect hair loss

Fast weight loss using very strict calorie deprived diets can be associated with hair loss so care should be taken. Any weight loss program undertaken should ensure nutrient adequacy throughout.

If you are needing to check the nutrient adequacy of your diet or would like direction to reduce weight in a healthy way then contact us today.


References:

  • Rushton DH. Nutrition factors and hair loss. Clinic. Exp. Dermal 2002, July 27 (5) 391-414
  • Hairloss (alopecia) and information on the wigs and hair piece subsidy.Health info Hair loss Jan 2015 pg 61464
  • Information on hair health Dermnet NZ

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »

Comments

Leave a Reply

Also in Children 10–18 Years View all »

  • 6 Tips for helping athletes eat more plant...

    If we are to adopt a more plant based diet how will athletes meet their nutritional needs for protein, energy and vital nutrients? Here we offer some 6 tips on how to increase vegetable intake for better performance. Read more »

  • Iron makes us happy- are you getting enough?

    Iron is important for happiness because without it our moods change and physical performance deteriorates. Are you getting enough? Read more »

  • Get children cooking this Christmas

    Increasing the confidence of children to cook from scratch is now seen as part of the strategy to reduce chronic diet related disease and obesity. We offer 12 top foods to know how to cook before leaving home. Read more »

  • How do we ‘grow’ an athlete in...

    To 'grow' a healthy athlete it takes a combination of genetics, training, hard work, good coaching, time and most of all the 'right' food. Read on and learn how. Read more »

  • Get into fruit and vegetables for optimal health

    Do you get your 5+ A Day servings of fruit and vegetables? Learn how gardening and creative activities can improve your consumption of these foods and maximise their nutritional benefits for better health. Read more »

  • Tips to help you ‘shake off’ the...

    In a bid to reduce the intake of processed foods many food manufacturers are modifying their products to meet new food guidelines particularly regarding salt. Find out if you are still getting too much? Read more »

  • Sports supplements should be taken with care

    While some supplements are well recognised as being useful to performance others can lead to positive drug testing and disqualification as well as endanger long-term health. Read more »

  • Changing our “weight talk” may...

    A child can build their confidence and self esteem if monitoring their growth rate is accompanied by positive health messages about weight, fitness and energy to achieve in life. Read more »

  • Overcome misconceptions about weight for better...

    Despite the proliferation of information linking a healthy diet with weight control the rates of obesity around the world continue to grow.1 Could it be that adults and children misperceive their weight or lack the self- efficacy to make changes? Read more »

  • Nutrition for distance runners and “fun runs”

    Distance running and “fun runs” (and walks) of varying length and degree of difficulty are becoming popular, attracting family and community groups; recreational and elite participants. Paying attention to sports nutrition can improve an athletes performance and enjoyment of these events Read more »

  • Tune into your parenting style for better child...

    The food that children eat is influenced by TV advertising, peer pressure and their likes and dislikes but by far the greatest influence is the food that their parents choose for them at the supermarket that may also reflect their parenting style. Read more »

  • Grandparents can help fight childhood obesity

    Grandparents can offer support to parents when they recognise that feeding problems may exist in their children. Also they can help to educate the young about the importance of good nutrition to physical and mental development and disease prevention Read more »

  • Milk matters

    How safe is cow’s milk in the raw and homogenised state? When can cow’s milk be given to infants and how can we protect children against developing allergies to cow’s milk? These are just some of the questions that have come up in the media lately and are in need of some clarification Read more »

  • Playtime helps combat childhood obesity

    NZ children are getting fatter at a younger age That doesn't mean that we need to consider dieting our children or dragging our toddlers around the race track but we do need to look at some simple things we can do to get healthier together. Read more »

  • Vegetarians face extra hurdles

    Despite the apparently healthier lifestyle vegetarian athletes (like anybody) can still become overweight, hungry, bloated and suffering from multiple nutrient deficiencies. Read more »

  • Child growth rates vary

    Does your child still fit last year's school uniform? It is surprising how much growth can occur over the school holidays Read more »

  • “Free foods” for hungry children

    Free foods", while bulky, are very low in energy and filling. So their cost in terms of calories is much lower than most other dietary components, hence the term "free". As these foods are also naturally fat free they make ideal snacks for anyone trying to control body weight Read more »

  • Nutrition suffers when children smoke

    The smaller lungs and lighter weight of young children increases their vulnerability to the harmful effects of second hand smoke Read more »

  • Teach your child to cook for better health

    Is your child able to prepare a simple meal? Can you? A British poll in 1994 of seven to 15 year-old children found 93% could play computer games, but only 38% could cook a potato in its jacket in the oven. Another 61% of children could programme a video to record, but only 54% could boil an egg. A survey last year found that little had changed. Read more »

  • Party plans for children

    Birthday parties should be fun and the chance to celebrate a child’s special day with a minimum of work and cost for busy parents. If the party can be timed to fit around a normal meal time then “junk” foods can be kept to a minimum. Read more »

  • Don’t let disordered eating ruin your...

    An eating disorder can affect anyone at any age, any sport, any background and any gender. The symptoms may build slowly well before the illness becomes evident. Often it is an athletes support team such as parents, friends, team mates and coaches that pick up on the symptoms and can prevent the disorder from ruining the athletes sporting career. Read more »

  • Athletes protect your winning smile

    Athletes protect your smile and your wallet as painful tooth erosion is not only expensive it can also rob your training time and performance. Read more »

  • What are our children drinking?

    In 2015 New Zealanders consumed a total of 518 million liters of carbonated drinks. Outside of the drinking of milk and water there is real concern about the energy content of some of these beverages because of our rising incidence of diabetes and obesity. Read more »

  • “Picky” eating affects all age...

    Picky eating, food aversions or fads can affect people of all ages and can be a major source of frustration for those trying to prepare meals. Read more »

  • Community support for overweight children

    Easter can be a very difficult time for overweight children and their parents. The pressure begins in supermarkets and garages that begin stocking chocolate treats months before the holiday weekend starts. Much of this confectionary is displayed at the point of purchase and end of shopping aisles to increase the likelihood of impulse buys. Read more »

  • Drink milk for better health

    Fonterra’s announcement that it will sponsor free milk in schools is good news for the future health of young New Zealanders. Milk is promoted on the basis of bone health but there are many other health benefits that should be promoted. Read more »

  • The protein needs of young athletes

    At a time when they are also growing, young athletes may need as much as 50% more protein than their more sedentary peers. Read more »

  • Children’s bone growth and gut health...

    Every parent wants their children to grow. But the height that they finally reach is dependent on factors such as growth hormone, genetics and nutrient availability. While we can’t change genetics after their arrival or growth hormones easily, nutrient availability can make the difference and is something parents can influence and need to be more … Read more »

  • Teach children hygiene

    Protect your family, particularly over summer months, from food borne illnesses by teaching your children simple rules of food safety. Every year a large number of children suffer food poisoning in New Zealand caused by contaminated food. These cases can be very severe particularly in young children and the elderly who may suffer from dehydration … Read more »

  • Motivating adolescents to eat healthy foods

    Many adolescents view healthy eating negatively as either good foods/ bad foods or foods to be avoided rather than focusing on the benefits accrued by eating more healthily. Read more »

  • Aim for consistency in children’s feeding...

    Research shows that around 300,000 parents in NZ raising their children alone. Consistent nutrition messages are important to child health when care is shared between parents and other family members. Read more »

  • Vegeterian diets

    If you are a parent wanting to provide a vegetarian diet for your child then you need to take particular care to ensure that your child has an adequate intake of the following nutrients: Read more »

  • The early morning energy boost – what foods...

    Eating breakfast would have to be the most important start to your child’s day. Read more »

  • Dehydration and young athletes

    Young children and adolescents are not little adults – dehydration can be a real problem for young athletes. Find out why? Read more »

  • Helping children to cope with anxiety

    Children, like most of us initially, are afraid of things that they can’t understand or control, and strange or new situations Read more »

  • Spring into better health

    Over the past few months media attention has focused on our drinking habits. While the emphasis has been on teenage binge drinking the message is loud and clear. We all need to change our drinking habits. Read more »

  • Brain foods

    What we eat and when we eat has a profound affect on the speed at which we make decisions, learn and remember things Read more »

  • Sleep aids growth

    If children sleep in what happens to breakfast? Read more »

  • Tips for great partying this summer!

    If planning a party think back about the party you most enjoyed. Follow our tips for being a caring host. Read more »

  • Issues of concern to young athletes

    Young developing athletes are an incredibly challenging group to work with because they are usually in the middle of adolescence and experiencing considerable physical and emotional change. Read more »

  • Active young adults reap cardiovascular benefits...

    Those who enter adulthood with a good level of cardiovascular fitness have been found to be least likely to develop cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and even metabolic syndrome later in life. Read more »

  • Hardwiring our kids

    Do you ever notice how your adolescent child hovers between needing you one day and not the next. Knowing when to help them out can be important to their nutritional intake, growth and development. Read more »

  • Teenagers – they rove-eat-sleep and grow!

    During adolescence feeding patterns change and often family mealtimes are interrupted by sporting events or after school work commitments. Read more »

  • School lunches

    While lunches can be a hassle to make they benefit a child’s growth, weight, concentration, mood, behaviour and learning ability. You can benefit too. Read more »

  • Reducing childhood obesity

    Much has been written about the reasons for childhood obesity and research is now pin pointing some important measures that parents and care givers need to be aware of in order to bring about change Read more »

  • Coping with school holidays

    School holidays can really tax the energy of parents and children and can also be a time of rapid growth and change in body weight. Read more »

  • Childhood obesity – environmental factors

    Community design in many sprawling western cities, has resulted in shops and services being more widely spaced, making it less likely for us to walk to our destination, driving to work, school and the grocery shop. Read more »

  • Dental health focus

    Oral health and nutrition have a very synergistic relationship; if we impair our functional ability to eat, we in turn also affect our diet and nutritional status. Read more »

  • Creative kids

    School holidays and weekends are a great time to get the children involved in creative activities such as cooking, gardening, shopping and art all of which can help to build theirself esteem, knowledge, confidence and better mental health. Read more »

  • Do your kids a favour – turn off the tv

    While for many families it may be seen as a good way to unwind, relax and fill in time, particularly on wet days, research is finding that television and video viewing could be harmful to our children. Read more »

  • Food for the school holidays

    Unleash the Jamie Oliver in your child these school holidays and teach your children to cook. Read more »

Would you like to subscribe to our fantastic FREE monthly newsletter?

Each month we'll keep you up-to-date with the latest nutritional articles and healthy recipes from LeaStening.com. You are free to opt out at any time, but we think you'll enjoy what we've got in-store for you.

Plus as a bonus offer — subscribe today and receive FREE weight loss tips for two weeks! Learn how a number of foods, many one would consider 'healthy', may in fact be slowing your progress.

Subscribe

Yes please, it sounds great! (and it's FREE after all).


OR

Enter

No thanks, I'm not interested (or I'm already a subscriber and really enjoying these fantastic newsletters!).