There are two main types of thinning hair: hair that thins on the top and front of your scalp, known as genetic hair thinning (male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss); and hair that is thinning all over the scalp because the rate of hair loss is too high, called diffuse hair loss (telogen effluvium).

Therapies for treating thinning hair will differ depending on the cause. We will explore these problems more fully in future blogs, but here are my top six tips for treating thinning hair, in a nutshell:

1. Diet

There is a strong connection between the state of our health and our gut microbiome (the microorganisms that live in the intestinal tract), with imbalances in our microflora leading to many health issues. Most of the microorganisms in our guts are different strains of bacteria which are essential for the production of certain vitamins – for example, vitamin B12 and vitamin K – and are also critical for the normal functioning of the immune system. Fiber from our diet acts as food for the ‘good’ bacteria, so it’s important to get plenty of fiber from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, and to avoid fatty foods and refined sugars (which can promote the proliferation of ‘bad’ bacteria).

Getting enough protein from our diet is also important as hair and nails are mainly made of protein. In fact, 20% of our protein intake is used to replenish the skin, hair and nails, so if you’re not eating enough protein your skin, hair and nails will suffer. The building blocks of protein are amino acids, some of which can only be obtained from food, so it is very important to have a diet that provides all the essential amino acids that your body can’t make. Meat, fish, chicken, dairy, eggs and soy products contain all the essential amino acids. For vegans, combining rice with beans or bread with peanut butter will also supply all the essential amino acids.

2. Exercise

Exercise is one of the best forms of medicine, with so many therapeutic effects; it improves our cardiovascular system, immune system and general wellbeing, to name just three major benefits. And of course, the more efficient our immune system, the less chance we have of developing immune-related health issues such as autoimmune problems, which can lead to scalp and hair loss problems.

3. Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is associated with, and can even cause, many hair loss problems including genetic hair thinning in men and women. Trichologists commonly see inflammation around the hair follicles when viewing the scalp under magnification. It is therefore important to reduce inflammation, using both internal and external therapies.

In the case of hair follicles, inflammation is caused by white blood cells attacking the stem cells in the hair follicles (these are the cells that produce new hair). Common topical anti-inflammatories include aloe vera, chamomile, cumin, oats, turmeric, neem oil, calamine, quercetin, oregano, thyme, rosemary, fennel and bergamot. Some of these ingredients are found in soothing shampoos, and some can be taken internally as well.

4. Three Important Nutrients

From my experience, the two most essential minerals for strong, healthy hair are iron and zinc, while the most important vitamin is vitamin D3. In treating hair loss, trichologists check (with blood tests) to ensure that iron storage levels (ferritin), vitamin D and zinc levels are adequate, and recommend supplementation if they are not.

5. Combat Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress describes a biochemical process involving the creation of free radicals that cause damage to cells in the body, including the cells that produce hair. Several types of hair loss are associated with oxidative stress. Antioxidants help to counteract oxidative stress so it is important to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants. Vitamins A, C, D and E, zinc, copper and selenium are all antioxidants contained in many nutritional supplements for hair loss.

6. Medicated ‘Anti-dandruff’ Shampoos

A healthy microbiome is important not only in the gut, but also on the scalp. Changes in the scalp’s microbiome are associated with different scalp problems and can sometimes cause hair loss. Anti-dandruff shampoos can help balance the scalp’s microbiome, so using one once a week can be of benefit and facilitate hair growth.

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