Hair fall is something that afflicts a majority of the population at some point of time in their lives. Even though it does not affect the body or its functions, the effects of hair loss elicit severe reactions from those suffering from it.
It can be safely said that the psychological effects of hair loss plays havoc with our lifestyles. The causes for the hair fall may include hereditary genetics, thyroid disease, fungal infections, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and sarcoidosis. In the quest for an instant miraculous solution, people often tend to overlook something that may really make the difference between beautiful hair and hair loss. In this article we discuss how diet plays a major role in our efforts to control hair loss.
The correlation between diet and good hair has been documented in the ayurvedic texts dating back to the ages. Today modern science only confirms that a poor diet and the resulting deficiencies are a major cause of hair loss. Modern science with the aid of clinical trials and researches has come to the conclusion that if dietary insufficiencies and the deficiencies of micronutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin D, niacin, selenium, vitamins A & E, folic acid, amino acids & proteins, and antioxidants are addressed, hair loss can be overcome.
Ayurveda, the oldest documented system of medicine, and one that is gaining favor with the educated population has a very clear interpretation of the importance of diet and its correlation to a healthy body. Diet comprises of anything that we consume and is the very cause of human and all living existence on this planet. Growth, energy and the proper functioning of the organs are a result of what we eat. An imbalance or a deficiency not only affects the body but may be the cause for all illness in the body. All food that we eat is made up of the Pancha Mahabhutas namely, Prithvi (Earth), Varuna (water), Agni (fire), Vayu (air) and Akasha (aether or ether). The food that we eat is also made up of all the six known tastes which are sweet, salty, sour, hot, bitter and astringent.
Identifying the Diet in Right Way
Based on the composition and the taste, food can be classified into two parts: heavy to digest and easy to digest. The food can be again divided into four categories based on the form in which it is eaten and these are:
- Food that can be drunk as in juices.
- Food that can be licked as in lehyams like Chyavanaprash.
- Food that is easily chewed as in cooked rice or vegetables.
- Food that are chewed for longer time before swallowing as in meat.
Ayurveda also places limitations on diet, depending on the geographical area, the prevalent climate, the order in which food is to be consumed, the time for eating food and the quantity of food consumed. Any deviations from these and issues begin to crop up.
Hair Types by Ayurveda
Ayurveda believes that Kesha hair is a sub tissue of the asthi (bone) or a byproduct of the Shukra dhathus (reproductive system). For the development and sustenance of hair, both Prithvi and Akasha play an important role. Now, unlike modern medicine that just looks at hair loss or re-growth, Ayurveda has three distinct ways of looking at hair and these are:
- Kesha Sanjana – pertaining to the origin of hair
- Kesha Vardhana – pertaining to the growth of hair
- Kesha Ranjana – pertaining to the colour of the hair
What this essentially means is that Ayurveda looks at each concern separately and identifies a remedy for each. This approach tends to be more problem-specific and thus offers a better chance of addressing the issue.
In Kesha Sanjana, where the origin of hair is the focus, diet comprises of substances that strengthen asthi and shukra dhathus, and to do this, the qualities of the food that we eat should essentially be rich in Prithvi and Akasha mahabhutas. This would entail having foods which have sweet and astringent properties.
In Kesha Vardhana where the growth of hair is the focus, those substances that are rich in qualities of unctuousness (smooth and heavy), slowness, cold and stable, find use. The substances must be sweet, sour and have an astringent taste.
In Kesha Ranjana where premature graying of hair is to be overcome, those herbs and minerals that possess the qualities of unctuousness (smooth and heavy), penetrative, hot, light, and motility would be beneficial.
Simple Things to Follow
While a session with an Ayurvedic physician would help you in identifying your dosha type and the requisite diet approach, there are a few basic things that can be undertaken straightaway. These include:
- Eating food at the right time
- Understanding your body and its nutritional requirements
- Eating foods that are available locally and during their season.
- Avoiding irrational food combinations (like fish and milk)
- Avoiding food that is hard to digest.
- Avoiding chilled water and aerated drinks
- Avoid excessive consumption of tea and coffee.
- Drink lots of water, preferably warm.
Hair fall could be either due to aggravation of the pitta or vata doshas. The excessive intake of foods that are spicy, salty or sour in character, meats, acidic food or fried food are reason enough to put your pitta dosha off balance. Vata dosha is instrumental in the supply of nutrients to all body parts and any imbalance here would disrupt this supply of nutrients. This would result in Kesha Patana or hair fall which begins with a dry scalp, dry rough hair and split ends. The consumption of spicy foods, tangy foods like pickles or those containing vinegar and carbonated drinks aggravate the condition. The lack of a regular bowel movement would aggravate the condition.
While a specialized diet can be of immense help, here are a few general recommendations that would set you on the right path:
Include lots of fresh green leafy vegetables and curry leaves. Fibre, iron, vitamins and calcium in these could make a significant difference to your general health and to your hair. Curry leaves have been widely used all over South India as they are thought not only to promote hair growth, but also to prevent the premature graying of hair. Methi leaves or methi itself is a valuable addition to the diet. Loaded with vitamins A, C & K, they also provide the body with potassium, iron and calcium.
Fruits of all kinds are good for health and the hair. It’s best to have these fruits in the morning or before meals. You don’t have to go for those fancy imported fruits, for nature knows best. Have fruits that are available during the season and they should stand you in good stead. One exception to this rule is Amla or the Indian gooseberry. You can purchase them during the season, cut them into small pieces and dry them. Powder these and store these in an earthen pot. You can have a teaspoon (about 5 grams) everyday mixed with honey.
Aloe vera offers proteolytic enzymes which help in the recuperation of the damaged scalp cells. It also offers antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties which keep the scalp in good health. It balances all the three doshas and also helps in regulating bowel movements. Aloe vera is not to be taken for more than two weeks at a time as it causes electrolyte imbalance, especially the loss of potassium over long term use.
Ayurvedic physicians love the Moringa or the drumstick tree, and with good reason. They recommend its leaves and fruits to help in preventing hair fall and in promoting hair growth, for increasing libido and the sperm count, in arthritis and for vision problems. When modern science checked out the affinity between ayurveda and moringa, they came out with a few stunning facts. The leaves pack potassium, calcium, vitamins A & C, and iron in quantities that eclipse the naturally known sources of these micronutrients (bananas, milk, carrot, oranges and spinach). If this has you reaching for this humble plant, here is more. The leaves and fruits are also packed with antioxidants that fight free radical damage (old leathery skin with wrinkles). They also help in keeping the blood sugar and cholesterol levels under control.
Remember, ayurveda believes that we should eat to sustain life rather than indulge our senses. Our modern lifestyle suggests the exact opposite and this is the root cause of most ailments afflicting the body. Whenever the thought of indulging your palate and stomach overpowers you, remember this ancient proverb of ayurveda:
“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use;
when diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
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