Healthy Hair Foods for Perimenopause & MenopauseWhy you may be losing hair
Hair loss with age isn’t unheard of, but some women see a greater decline in hair quality during peri/menopause leading up to the event of menopause itself. Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is characterized by progressive hair loss predominantly in the central part of the scalp due to aging, genetics, and – of course – those tricky hormonal changes.
While you can’t change your age or genetics, your doctor can provide you with various options available that will support healthy hormonal levels throughout your menopause journey. One of the most common and easy-to-implement strategies is a change in diet. By adding more healthy, hormone-balancing, and hair-nourishing foods to your daily diet, you can help support keratin production and prevent hair loss.
It seems like the more we learn about the microbiome, the more it comes to light that it impacts every part of the body possible. That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising that an imbalanced microbiome may contribute to hair loss.
Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) experiments have shown significant hair regrowth for subjects dealing with hair loss due to alopecia areata. While most people don’t need to undergo full-on FMT, supplementing the microbiome with probiotic-rich foods like yogurt can help balance the body overall and prevent hair loss due to changes that occur during peri/menopause and menopause. Furthermore, yogurt is chock-full of protein and iron, essential nutrients for healthy hair production.
Population studies have shown that hair loss is detrimentally associated with poor sleeping habits as well as the consumption of meat and junk foods. Adversely, it is protectively associated with the consumption of plant-based foods, including raw vegetables, fresh herbs, and soy. This leads scientists to believe that there may be compounds in soy that help protect against hair loss.
In randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trials, compounds in soy (75 mg/day of isoflavone or the equivalent of eating about ¾ c of edamame a day) have shown significantly higher promotion of hair growth. Other ways to get more soy in your diet include switching to soy milk, eating more dishes made with miso, and enjoying meat substitutes like tofu or tempeh.
PeppersIn randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trials, compounds in hot peppers (6 mg/day of capsaicin or about ¼ of a jalapeno a day) have shown significantly higher promotion of hair growth in patients dealing with hair loss. The idea is that the increased blood flow that occurs after eating this hot-and-spicy ingredient improves circulation in the scalp, leading to improved hair growth. Furthermore, peppers are a healthy source of hair-helping nutrients, including vitamins A, C, B6, K, and E, as well as minerals like potassium and folate.
Warning: don’t try any DIY beauty recipes that call for applying capsaicin directly to your hair or scalp. Capsaicin can irritate the skin and damage hair follicles, so save the peppers in your refrigerator for your next batch of salsa and stick to products designed to be safe to use topically and tested for safety.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Another randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trial found pumpkin seed oil has an anti-androgen effect that can possibly help with hair growth. Seeds in general, including the kinds we often discard – like pumpkin and watermelon seeds – are rich in nutrients such as protein, unsaturated fatty acids, phenolic acids, carotenoids, tocopherol, phytosterol, and squalene that support healthy hair growth. In one study, men who received 400 mg of pumpkin seed oil per day increased their hair growth by 40% compared to just 10% in the placebo control group.
The pumpkin seed oil has a relatively low smoke point at around 320 °F. Because of this, it’s best to consume pumpkin seed oil without cooking it. Instead, try using it in place of extra virgin olive oil when making a homemade salad dressing, or try adding a few drops to your morning smoothie for best results.
The humble egg is one of the most nutrient-rich powerhouses you probably already have in your fridge. Packed with protein, biotin, zinc, selenium, and sulfur, eggs provide your body with just about everything it needs to grow long and healthy hair. Ingredients like sulfur are particularly helpful as they can help prolong the anagen growth period of your hair for less shedding over time.
And when it comes to eggs, the beauty benefits don’t stop with what’s on the inside. The eggshell may be just as beneficial. One randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial found that oral hydrolyzed eggshell membrane ingestion had a significant impact on hair thickness, reduction in hair breakage, and improvement in hair growth at 4, 8, and 12 weeks. Instead of throwing out eggshells, try washing and then drying them on a baking sheet at 225 °F for about 20 min. Reduce the pieces of dried eggshell to a powder with a coffee grinder, then add a spoonful to your smoothies or other favorite recipes to reap the benefits from these mineral-rich scraps that would otherwise go to waste.
Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and arugula are healthy sources of folate and sulfur, minerals that promote and lengthen the anagen growth phase for hair by supporting the keratinization of amino acids. But that’s not all – these crisp veggies are also a great source of DIM (or diindolylmethane), a compound that promotes the healthy metabolization of “favorable” vs “unfavorable” estrogens and has anti-DHT effects.
Excess DHT (or dihydrotestosterone) has a correlated response to hair loss in women, so consuming plenty of DHT-blocking foods such as cruciferous vegetables can help lower DHT levels and help prevent hair loss. Furthermore, the estrogen-balancing benefits of DIM may help with other peri/menopause and menopause symptoms you may be experiencing – so be sure to heap loads of these crunchy classics on your plate!