Foods that support hair growth for children with Alopecia Areata
There is no cure for Alopecia Areata, however carefully planning your diet around choice of foods that support hair growth can play a part in helping keep things in check. Afterall, good nutrition is the fuel that your immune system needs in order to function properly. And a properly functioning immune system does not create an environment for autoimmune diseases.
In this post, I’m going to share how I plan my daughter’s diet, nutrition, and our food choices in an attempt to give her body a good chance of enabling healthier hair regrowth.
2019 Update: Some of the information in this post has been updated, such as my views on some food choices and the use of supplements to support hair growth. Please check out this post as well as my more recent, updated post here on the topic of nutrition and foods for hair growth.
How nutrition and foods support hair growth
Even though hair loss due to Alopecia Areata isn’t directly caused by nutrition deficiency, hair follicles that live under the scalp do derive their nutrients from the blood.
Therefore, having solid nutritional intake through daily diets will help ensure that follicle cells get the metabolic requirements they need in order to achieve optimal hair growth (or regrowth).
Healthy hair growth requires a complex range of nutrients and a good supply of oxygen. A well-balanced diet consisting primarily of wholesome foods provides your body with bioavailable nutrients, and this is key to helping protect and maintain hair growth.
My daughter has always had a reasonably healthy appetite, and she was already eating a reasonably well balanced diet. Her Alopecia wasn’t caused by a lack of any of the essential nutrients, as confirmed in the results of her blood tests.
However, a reasonably good and healthy diet that fulfills all the basic nutrients isn’t enough when you’re trying to restore your immune system to recover from autoimmune diseases.
I also found that when you think you’re already eating healthy, there’s always more that can be done. This, to me, is because most available information about nutrition today only covers the very basics. Basics are first and foremost. But basics are not enough.
How I include foods that support hair growth in a toddler’s daily menu
In our second year of the Alopecia Areata journey, I started to pay more attention to my daughter’s diet and nutrition by incorporating more foods that support hair growth.
Along with natural oils topical treatment, we saw a major improvement in the rate of hair regrowth as well as stronger texture in the new growth.
Here are some of the foods that support hair growth and cover the basics of daily nutrition, which I started to include more regularly into her daily diet.
Hair is primarily made up of keratin, a protein that is produced in hair follicles. I try to make sure that she has a good amount of good quality protein intake every day.
Eggs are one of our favourites as they are nutritious and are very easy to prepare. They are also a good source of biotin, a B vitamin that activates enzymes required to aid in metabolising carbon dioxide as well as protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
Sea cucumbers are another protein source that we’ve had more access to since moving to Canada. Sea cucumbers are a type of echinoderms, like sea urchins, and can be an acquired taste with springy and somewhat slimy texture, and a very pronounced fishy taste. They are a great source of amino acids, peptides and collagen.
2019 Update: Please also see my more recent, updated post here about choosing wholesome plant food sources over animal products. We no longer consume sea cucumbers on a regular basis, and reduced our consumption of eggs in favour of plant sources of protein.
2. Bone broth
Bone broth seems to havea trendy health food buzz going for it, but in Chinese cuisine, bone broth has been part of daily staples for centuries.
Broth is made by boiling and simmering bones, sometimes along with vegetables, herbs, legumes, or dates. The resulting broth contains protein, non-essential amino acids, and other vitamins and minerals.
2019 Update: Please also see my more recent, updated post here about choosing wholesome plant food sources over animal products. We don’t consume bone broth daily or regularly. It is only one of our choices of menus just like any other dishes.
Vegetables and fruits of different colour groups – red, purple or blue, orange, green, and white or brown – are foods that support hair growth because they carry their own set of unique phytochemicals and antioxidants which are essential to healthy immune system.
Eating a variety of colours helps to ensure that we get a great variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants much needed for overall health and, as a result, healthier hair growth.
- Red coloured fruit and vegetables contain natural plant pigments called lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant.
- Purple and blue coloured fruit and vegetables contain anthocyanin, which has its own unique antioxidant properties.
- Orange and yellow coloured fruit and vegetables get its vibrant colours from carotenoids, which include betacarotene that is converted to vitamin A, and lutein.
- Green vegetables contain a good range of phytochemicals such as carotenoids, indoles, and saponins. Green vegetables also make a great source of folate.
- White and brown coloured fruit and vegetables contain healthy phytochemicals such as allicin. Some are also a great source of potassium.
Avocado is one of our favourite snacks — food that supports hair growth. Avocados contain more than 25 nutrients including the vitamins A, B, C, D and K, and minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, all of which will contribute to hair health. They also contain protein, fiber, and phytochemical such as glutathione, beta-sitosterol, and lutein.
4. Choice of cooking oils
Eating at home allows us to choose the cooking oils that we use. I always find it tricky to choose healthier cooking oils that have high enough smoke point yet don’t break the bank. I have to admit that I haven’t quite got this one nailed.
At the moment, I use either avocado oil, virgin unrefined coconut oil, extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil, or cold-pressed grapeseed oil, and pure sesame oil to provide healthy fats and polyphenols.
2019 Update: I have since learned a little bit more about cooking oils, their omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, and smoke points. I have since also changed my choices of cooking oils to get a closer balance of omega 6 to omega 3.
5. Nuts and seeds
Nuts are a great source of selenium, alpha-linoleic acid and zinc, all of which are important for a healthy scalp.
Almonds, walnuts, and pecans are also a great source of biotin, which is important for hair growth.
Raw — not roasted and unsalted — and non GMO nuts are my go-to choice. I usually make a a mix of almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and cashews.
Sunflower seeds are also helpful for hair growth due to their zinc and vitamin E content.
Peanuts are another source of protein and biotin. Peanut butter is a household favourite and we usually buy peanut butter with only one ingredient, which is peanuts.
Can supplements help support hair growth?
As much as I like to get most of our nutrition from food, I think that there may be a place for good quality supplements, especially for certain nutrients that are more difficult to get enough of from foods, for example vitamin D during the winter months.
1. Omega 3 or DHA supplements
Omega 3 is essential for healthy brain and eye development in a young child, and unless we’re getting adequate servings of fish every week, supplementation from a good source can be helpful.
Omega 3 supplementation of adequate strength has also been shown to promote hair growth and reduce hair loss in cases of alopecia in a number of studies (links to these studies are at the end of this post).
With the variety of fish oil supplements available in the market, I try to choose one that contains adequate amount of EPA and DHA, very low mercury content, and no additives or fillers.
For daily supplementation of Omega 3 and Vitamin D, my daughter takes Nordic Naturals Baby DHA. Nordic Naturals claim that their products go through molecular distillation to remove impurities and mercury content. The Baby DHA product is made from wild Arctic cod and is Non-GMO verified. It has a significant amount of EPA and DHA at 1050mg total Omega-3’s per serving of 5 ml, and 300 I.U. of Vitamin D. It also comes in liquid form with no additional flavouring.
The listed ingredients in Nordic Naturals Baby DHA are:
- Purified Arctic cod liver oil
- Rosemary extract (as a natural preservative)
- D-alpha tocopherol (naturally sourced vitamin E)
- Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) in olive oil
2019 Update: We no longer takes fish oil or Omega 3 supplement from Nordic Naturals or any other brand. I have since learned that plant sources of ALA and good choices of cooking oils are a much better option to ensure we get sufficient Omega 3. I have also since learned that fish oil coming from fish livers and skin are not desirable due to polluted oceans. I have also learned that most Vitamin D supplements in the market are derived from chemically processed grease of sheep’s skin.
2. Hair growth vitamins
At our worst point around December of last year, I thought that we were at a point when good hair supplements were worth a try. I spent a lot of time researching various products that are available on the market, their ingredients, reviews, content, etc. I decided to try out Mielle Organics line of Tiny Tots products for kids.
2019 Update: Recently we’ve decided to discontinue the use of Mielle Organics Tiny Tots Hair Vitamins for the time being, after we finish the current bottle, as we are seeing encouraging hair growth primarily by maintaining Little Claire’s nutrition through her diet and topical oils treatment. Given where we are now with the state of her alopecia and hair regrowth, it is our preference that supplemental products we use will come from whole food sources.
SC | Winning Alopecia
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