Note-This content only presents overviews of hair loss prevention research for educational purposes and does not replace medical advice from a professional physician.
The best start to preventing hair loss is understanding the basics of hair: what it is, how it grows, what system malfunctions can cause it to stop growing.
Most common hair loss comes under what has been commonly known as Male Pattern Baldness (MPB). Although referred to as MPB, females suffer a similar syndrome, so it is more properly called androgenetic alopecia. Although hair loss is not life or health threatening, it can cause serious problems with a personís psyche and self-confidence. There has been no absolute cure found for hair loss, and many factors of hair loss are hereditary, however there are several preventative measures one can take to maintain healthy hair and scalp.
Although both men and women can suffer significant hair loss, over 50% of men will suffer with Male Pattern Baldness (MPB), also known as androgenetic alopecia, at some point in their lives. The reason behind hair loss is a genetically inherited sensitivity to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and 5-alpha-reductase. The enzyme 5-alpha-reductase converts testosterone, a male hormone, to DHT, the substance identified as the end-cause for hair loss.
Hair loss has been noticed and studied throughout the ages, and some interesting discoveries were made in ancient times. For one it was noticed that eunuchs: those males without genitals-never went bald. Men who were castrated as a result of accidents in battle also never went bald. This was the first indication that testosterone had something to do with hair loss. It has also been found that the more recessive the hair gene, the more propensity toward baldness one has.
Some common myths have arisen concerning hair loss. Because of medical advancements many of these myths are being addressed and corrected. For starters, although androgenetic alopecia or pattern baldness is genetic and therefore can be hereditary, it is not passed down through only your motherís side of the family. Either side of the family can pass down the genetic disposition toward baldness. Also, contrary to old family tales, wearing hats does not cause baldness either.
Beyond the genetic propensity of certain people toward hair loss, there seems to be various dietary triggers that activate the process, a notion that is promising since this can be controlled.
The effects of high-fat diets and the increase of DHT (Dihydrotestosterone), a chemical produced by the body found to cause hair loss, is not conclusive at this time. However, there does seem to be a connection; as societies that consumed relatively low-fat diets such as pre-World War II Japan experienced almost no pattern baldness, whereas in post-World War II Japan there is an increase in pattern baldness as their society consumes a higher fat diet. In fact, Asian and African men in their native countries traditionally suffer very little Male Pattern Baldness (MPB). Although when the same peoples come to North America, they begin to develop MPB.
Because people of all races and ethnicities tend to develop MPB or androgenetic alopecia, yet do not exhibit these tendencies before moving to America, changes in diet may be a leading contributing factor. Diets high in fat do increase testosterone, which is the main component in DHT. More research needs to be done on this topic to reach conclusive evidence, although it certainly could not hurt to lower oneís fat intake.
There are a number of foods and substances to avoid and limit the intake of. Substances such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar and nicotine can deplete the body of nutrients and raise adrenal levels, which will cause a chain reaction of producing more androgen and causing hair loss. High levels of saturated fat and cholesterol rich foods are also linked to increased DHT levels and their consumption should be limited. Additionally, common table salt has been linked to hair loss. And the average diet provides the recommended amount of sodium intake; therefore, salt should never be added to food. However, when using salt for seasoning during cooking, be sure to use salt with Iodine being that it is a nutrient that is vital to hair growth as well, unless you are a regular consumer of seafood, which contains high levels of Iodine.
Although hair loss can be caused by many other variables, lack of proper nutrition will assuredly cause hair loss in many people. Fortunately, adopting a proper diet that includes the proper nutrients can reverse hair loss caused by malnutrition. One thing for certain, regardless of whether your hair loss was caused by malnutrition or not, adopting a healthier diet will help the function of other areas of the body.
There are some methods that have been used that prevent hair loss on some people, in addition to the dietary improvements, there are some naturopathic remedy suggestions. Massage and aromatherapy have been used with some success. In minor cases of temporary hair loss, hair growth can be stimulated by massage, since blood and oxygen flow to the scalp must be healthy in order for hair to grow. A blend of six drops each of lavender and bay essential oils in a base of four ounces of either almond, soybean or sesame oil massaged into the scalp and allowed to sit for 20 minutes has been used by aroma therapists to stimulate the scalp.
Once the mixture is in the scalp for 20 minutes, wash your hair and scalp with your normal shampoo mixed with three drops of bay essential oil. Massaging the scalp in general for a couple of minutes a day can stimulate blood flow to the hair follicles and in mild cases stimulate some hair growth. Of course, one must be careful to be gentle when massaging and not tug at the hair or use the fingernails when massaging the scalp. If one is concerned about fingernails getting in the way due to extra long fingernails, there are several options. One is a flat-handed massage, which while not as effective as the finger massage can provide some circulatory benefits and results.
There are several electric massagers on the market that have an attachment for scalp massaging as well. An oriental method called Qi Gong (pronounced Chi Kung) has been used to increase circulation to the scalp and face also. The fingers should be placed at the center of the skull base and then begin to tap approximately 30 times. Work your way outward toward the ears continuing to tap gently. After reaching the ears go back to the center of the skull a little higher up and work your way around to the ear region. Keep going up about eight levels, each time repeating the process.
There is a definite connection between the prostate and hair loss for men, and therefore a connection between breakthroughs in BPH treatments developed and their effectiveness in restoring hair growth. There have been some herbalists that have experimented with the herb Saw Palmetto in order to block the production of DHT in treating BPH. Although most studies of Saw Palmetto have been for the treatment of prostatic disease, more recent studies have been conducted on its effectiveness in treating loss. The herb has been found to work in fighting benign prostatic disease by lowering levels of DHT, which is a known cause of androgenetic alopecia. Studies have shown Saw Palmetto extract is an effective anti-androgen and therefore there is promise for its effectiveness as an effective treatment for hair loss prevention.
Rosemary and sage are two herbs that have shown benefit traditionally when used externally. It is suggested that to promote a clean scalp, stimulation of the hair root, and thickening hair one should boil together in water rosemary, sage, peach leaf, nettle and burdock. Then strain the loose herbs from the liquid and use the liquid to wash the hair daily. Also recommended is steeping one ounce of ground rosemary, two ounces of ground sage, and a half ounce of ground nettles in one pint of ethyl alcohol for a week, straining the solution and adding one ounce of castor oil and one ounce of water to the liquid. This is said to make a great hair lotion to apply at night before bed or just before shampooing.
Hair is a living protein, and as with any living part of our bodies we must be sure to maintain proper health to optimize our chances of maintaining a healthy head of hair. Proper nutrition is vital to maintaining healthy hair, since the hair is a living and growing part of the bodyís system. Viewing it in this manner can help us to treat our bodies different and raise expectations through proper care. A healthy balanced diet, occasionally with the help of vitamin and mineral supplements and exercise are all key components to a healthy regimen of maintaining healthy hair.
There is an obvious link to hair loss and prostatic health and this only increases the pace of hair loss discoveries. Most treatments for prostatic diseases such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) also have the pleasant side affect of growing hair on the heads of those taking it. With the pace of research and discoveries today, there is a great deal of optimism in the field of hair loss prevention and treatment. Hair is an important part of our dress and appearance, therefore a large part of our self-esteem. It is likely that there are answers for your situation presently or coming in the near future.
Remember, the restoration of hair growth is not an overnight process. The process takes time regardless of the method chosen. Be patient and follow as much of the advice given by professionals as possible. Keep in mind that the body is a system, and it is the abuse of this system by food intake and environmental causes that lead to most common hair loss.
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Smith Chen is an author and internet marketing consultant.
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