What hair reveals about your health

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By CHRISTINE KATENDE

Many women go to great lengths and spare no expense when it comes to getting the look, feel, colour, and cut of the hair they want. And while you may be busy spending lots of time (and money) on dyeing, curling, straightening, cutting, blow-drying, and chemically treating your hair to achieve the ideal that you want, it is important to look more closely at what your hair might actually be telling you.
David Desmond Walugembe, a nutritionist working with Nsambya hospital, says your hair can provide great insight into your overall health and well-being, and it is important to recognise the many different ways in which the hair on your head can reflect what is happening inside your body.

Brown hair
Walugembe explains that when the hair turns brown and scanty, it implies that body is undergoing protein energy malnutrition (PEM) formerly referred to as kwashiorkor. In this state, the hair can also be pale and brittle, which leads to breakage. He further reveals that the above signs show that the body is experiencing a long term deprivation of protein, vitamins E, A, B and zinc. “Vitamin A also helps the skin to produce an oily substance called sebum, which moisturises the scalp,” he says.

Thin hair
Cohen Maliro, a medical clinical officer at Doctor’s Palace Medical Centre in Wakiso, says when a woman is going through menopause, she undergoes a wide range of physical, mental, and hormonal changes. At this stage, eostrogen and progesterone, the hormones responsible for hair growth become inactive hence predisposing her to hair loss. According to Maliro, this is also common in men as they undergo andropause, a condition that is associated with the decrease in the male hormone testosterone. It is unlike menopause in that the decrease in testosterone and the development of symptoms is more gradual than what occurs in women.

Hair falling out
Too much or uncontrolled stress can lead to alopecia areata, a condition in which the body ends up attacking an individual’s hair follicles thus causing hair to fall out,” Maliro explains. He adds that stress normally brings about loss of appetite and when one does not eat the required nutrients for healthy hair, then it will become brittle and start falling out.
Maliro states that fungal infections such as ringworm, which occur on the scalp, can make its way into the fibres of the hair and cause the hair to fall out. He adds that other bacterial infections can cause folliculitis, an inflammation of the hair follicles thus leading to hair loss. However, Maliro says once the condition or infections are treated, the hair will be restored.

Grey hair
According to the thelist.com, an online portal, when it comes to going grey, one of the main causes behind this colour change is simply your genetic makeup, and researchers have actually pinpointed the exact gene responsible for your greying hair colour. In fact, the gene that controls and produces melanin, which is the pigment that determines your eye, skin, and hair colour, starts producing less and less melanin as you age, and thus your hair starts turning grey. But precisely when this decrease in melanin happens is predetermined by your specific genes. This is why some women go grey in their twenties and others in their late forties or even fifties.
According to Maliro, stress and worrying constantly can take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health and some side effects of being worried and distressed include chest pains, stomach aches, uncontrolled shaking, panic attacks, depression, as well as a lack of focus and mental acuity. “And if you are constantly in a state of stress, you are actually playing a part in turning your hair prematurely grey,” he says.

Brittle hair
This is called impaired scalp circulation which occurs as a result of using strong hair chemicals, according to Maliro. In cases where women use strong cosmetics that affect blood circulation in the body, they end up having a tight scalp.
“Over using concentrated chemicals such as shampoos washes off the natural oils thus living the scalp impaired and in the long run, the hair becomes brittle, leading to breakage,” Maliro explains.
Sometimes these and other conditions can occur as a result of you not taking good care of your hair and bad hygiene. This is why it is important to always consult a doctor for further examination if you think there is cause for worry.

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