Greying of Hair

If you are genetically prone to early balding or graying of hair, you can blame it to your ancestors but largely – hair health depends upon your blood circulation and nutrition. Hair colour is the result of pigmentation attributed to the presence of  chemicals known as eumelanin and pheomelanin (broadly referred to as melanin). The stem cells at the base of hair follicles are responsible for producing melanocytes, the cells that produce and store pigment in hair and skin. In general, the more melanin present, the darker the hair colour; the less melanin, the lighter the hair colour.

Causes of Grey Hair

Grey hair is usually associated with aging, but this is not always the case. The change in hair color is caused by the gradual decrease of pigmentation that occurs when melanin ceases to be produced in the hair root and new hairs grow in without pigment. The death of the melanocyte stem cells causes the onset of greying.

Early grey hair is basically hereditary and may get inherited from our parents or grandparents. Since hair is made up of protein, low protein intake can result in a change of hair colour, change its texture making it look dull and lifeless, and cause unnecessary thinning. Grey hair can also be influenced by stress. A person experiencing a prolonged period of stress, worry and anxiety may notice premature graying of hair, over a period.

Excessive intake of tea, coffee, alcohol, refined flour and sugar, red meat, and fried, spicy, and acidic foods can reduce the moisture and nutrients reaching the hair follicles, subsequently leading to premature graying.

A drop in the melanin production may also be caused by a lack of copper, selenium, iron, calcium, vitamins B12 and folic acid. Chronic illness such as diabetes, pernicious anemia, albinism or thyroid malfunction too can stop or affect the production of melanin.

How to delay premature greying

  • Grey hair at an early age is primarily due to hereditary reasons or due to intense stress, but lack of a balanced and wholesome diet, rich in nutrients plays a pivotal role in early graying of hair.
  • To maintain healthy hair and delay premature greying
  • Take sufficient antioxidants both in the natural form as in vegetable and fruit juices, raw nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, and in the synthetic form by taking supplements of vitamin E, selenium, zinc, folic acid, and B-vitamins is beneficial.
  • Consume good quality of protein in appropriate quantity to give your hair a natural shine and good texture. Include more of sprouted whole grains, cereals, eggs and soy in your diet.
  • Include dark green vegetables and orange & yellow fruits & vegetables in your diet as they are rich in vitamin A, which aids in promoting a healthy scalp whilst giving body and glow to your hair.
  • Including minerals like zinc (present in chicken and eggs), iron (green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds) & copper (whole grains and fish) also promote healthy hair. Avoid foods with artificial colours and preservatives. They put a strain on your digestive system and can lead to dull and brittle hair.
  • Instead of using hair dye, try natural applications like olive oil, avocado or banana as your nourishing masks.
  • Nourishment and proper grooming are very important to keep the hair texture, growth, shine and luster in good condition. Therefore, use a shampoo & conditioner that suits your hair type. Choose products that are gentle, preferably without any harsh detergent like sodium lauryl sulfate. For daily washes, use a mild shampoo that is gentle & moisturizing.
  • Daily massage your hair with your fingertips; it helps proper blood circulation in the scalp. Regular massage of hair scalp with “amla” paste along with warm coconut oil and lemon. This has worked wonders in many cases, frequently reversing the process of greying or extensive hair fall.
  • Boil soaked reethas and shikakai pods for a few minutes. Using this liquid as the shampoo can improve hair health. Soak dried amla (10-12) overnight and apply the strained water on hair as a natural conditioner. This will leave your hair smooth and shiny and stop premature greying of your hair.
  • Exercise for 30-40 minutes 4-5 days in a week. This promotes proper blood circulation to hair follicles and good hair health.

Many hair problems are due to faulty genes or excess male hormone testosterone. They cannot be reversed with nutrition alone. A significant improvement in hair health can be achieved by improving your diet and taking vitamin supplements.

(As published in Hindustan Times dated September 09, 2019)

September 9, 2019

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