10 superfoods to eat if you're experiencing hair loss, according to a doctor

AOL.com Editors

If you're suffering from hair loss, just know you're not alone. 

According to NYU Langone Health, more than 80 percent of men suffer from hair loss over the course of a lifetime. But the condition doesn't solely affect men; nearly 50 percent of women face hair loss, which, according to researchers, can start before middle age. 

The impact of hair loss and hair thinning affects far more than just one's physical characteristics; it can have stark mental and emotional implications as well. 

"Although hair loss is not a life-threatening condition, it can have a significant psychological impact on a person’s quality of life," said Dr. Angela Phipps, medical advisor to Hair Club, to AOL. "Hair loss can be a very emotionally and mentally challenging condition. It can affect a person’s self-esteem and how they perceive the world looks at them. It can also lead to depression, anxiety or other emotional issues." 

While hair loss is frequently thought to be a hereditary condition (called androgenetic alopecia), Phipps explains the cause of hair loss can extend beyond your genetic blueprint. 

WHAT CAUSES HAIR LOSS?

"There are many causes of hair loss, but by far the most common cause is hereditary hair loss with age," Phipps says. "Some men and women have a genetic predisposition for the hair follicles to be sensitive to certain hormones in the body. These hormones affect the life cycle of the hair follicles causing progressive thinning over time that can eventually lead to baldness."

While your genes may play a big part in hair thinning and loss, it's not the only instigator. 

"Other causes of hair loss can include certain medical conditions, medications or supplements, diet, stress, and certain hairstyles and treatments," the physician continues. "It is important to be evaluated by a hair loss specialist to determine the exact cause of the hair loss so that appropriate interventions can be initiated."

Conditions like lupus and other autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, thyroid conditions and anemia can result in the loss of hair. Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, who have just given birth or are going through menopause might also see their hair falling out. Meanwhile, certain medications for acne, contraception, antibiotics and cholesterol have been found to exacerbate the issue. 

"Hair loss can be exacerbated by certain things such as stress, fad diets, certain medications and undiagnosed health conditions," Phipps adds. "The good news is that if the offending stressor can be identified and eliminated or treated, hair loss will subside and regrow in most instances. However, if left untreated, over time the hair loss could become permanent."

TREATMENT FOR HAIR LOSS 

There are a few avenues patients can take to address hair loss and hair thinning, whether it's over the counter medication or light therapy.

"The hair follicles are organs that can be stimulated to improve function and quality of the hair that is being produced," Phipps describes. "Medical therapies such as over-the-counter minoxidil and low-level light therapy devices are very good at increasing the overall function and vitality of the hair follicle cells to be stronger."

The EXT® Extreme Hair Therapy, for example, is an at-home treatment offered by Hair Club that contains minoxidil to stimulate regrowth. Another option is Low-Level Laser Light Therapy which is "FDA-cleared technology that is proven to help regrow hair and further loss."

"These solutions create stronger cells that produce stronger, thicker, and healthier hair shafts, which results in a cosmetic improvement in density and volume," Phipps says. 

She adds: "Another medication used in men that is mainly for preventing further hair loss, but may have stimulatory effects as well is finasteride. This medication blocks the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) hormone that results in the weakening of the hair follicle cells in those genetically predisposed individuals."

FOODS FOR HAIR LOSS

While genetics and medical conditions can play a part in hair loss, researchers believe that poor nutrition may have a role as well. 

"Deficiencies in nutrition do have a negative effect on the hair follicles," asserts the physician. "It is also recommended that your diet be fortified with vitamins and minerals that are sufficient to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance standards."

In fact, argues Phipps, certain nutrients can be tied directly to the stages of hair growth and loss. "The hair growth cycle has 3 phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen," she explains.

"Anagen is the hair growth phase. It is this phase that can be shortened and lead to excessive hair loss with a poor diet. Hair loss caused by a poor diet is usually a temporary condition where hairs are prematurely shifted from the growing phase (anagen) into the resting phase (telogen) of the growth cycle, triggering those hairs to fall out."

Supplementing your diet with vitamin C, biotin, niacin, iron, zinc and B vitamins are actually "good for the health of the hair follicles." 

Phipps says that is possible to also stimulate hair growth by adding these superfoods to your diet:

  • Nuts (which contain omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, vitamin E and copper)
  • Oysters (rich in zinc)
  • Shrimp (filled with B12, iron and zinc)
  • Sweet potatoes (has omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc and vitamins A, B, C, K and E)
  • Eggs (a good source of protein, plus biotin, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, sulfur and iron)
  • Spinach (contains iron, beta-carotene, folate, vitamin A and vitamin C)
  • Carrots (has vitamin A)
  • Prunes (has iron)
  • Green peas (filled with iron, zinc and B vitamins)
  • Oats (packed with zinc, iron, omega-6 fatty acids)