How Eating With My Cycle Restored My Hair Growth After Getting Diagnosed With An Autoimmune Disorder
I struggled with hormonal issues and digestive problems for years. I lost a ton of hair and what I had left thinned out like a symptom of anorexia. Now, by living in accordance with my cycle and a mindful diet of hormonal foods, my hair is thankfully thick, shiny, and long down to my hips. I get questions all the time about what I do for my hair, and today I'm here to tell ya…
Although I had gained a lot of health knowledge, it wasn’t until I had horrendous GI flareups and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease that I knew what I was dealing with. My hair health took a big hit, and my hormones were thrown for a loop. At one point I lost my period for eight months, then had irregular, painful periods for a solid two years, in addition to the digestive problems. Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease, and when the symptoms are severe and your body is being drained, your system just kicks into survival mode. Forget about keeping the hormones balanced — the priority is just chugging through each day, and survival mode definitely puts hair vitality on the backburner.
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I’ve had long hair for most of my life, ever since I was little. I’ve donated to Locks of Love and several times have gone over a year without trimming my hair. I really like my hair. When I started having severe health issues and two major flareups within two years, I was shocked at the toll my hair took. It was dulled and stringy, and it started falling out like I was a cancer patient with chemo. It thinned out like baby hair because I wasn’t eating enough or consistently because of the extreme nausea during my first flareup, and I lost a lot of weight very fast — my body basically thought I was anorexic. Although I never was concerningly underweight, with the fast weight loss, my body lost a good amount of silica, which is needed for healthy hair growth. Every time I showered or brushed my hair, well, more fell out.
My hair was so thin it scared me (the photo below is from Thanksgiving 2019 — you can see how dull and thin it was getting). This happened again with a second extreme flareup less than two years later. Then I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
Lots of health issues stem from or are worsened by stress, which is also intertwined with nutrition because stress impacts and prevents proper nutrition absorption. Stress also lowers progesterone, and cortisol, the stress hormone, also contributes to hair loss. Stress stimulates cortisol and testosterone production, which then produces DHT, a hormone that is responsible for hair loss. I started practicing techniques like mental relaxation, quiet time out in nature, eating outside during sunset, and deep breathing, which all help with stress management, digestive absorption, and hormonal balance.
Mindful eating habits go hand-in-hand with mindful nutrition: I had to work on simple steps such as sitting down for meals instead of standing or eating on the go, eating slowly, and chewing well — all of which help to lower cortisol levels. Prepping more warm and soothing recipes helped my digestion, instead of just protein shakes or PB & apples/carrots like during college. I also started drinking green tea, which has been proven to lower cortisol levels and support hair growth and prevent hair loss.
Mindful eating habits go hand-in-hand with mindful nutrition.
A huge factor in my hormonal health journey has been the 28 wellness program — it has guided me so much and educated me even more than what I knew before about feminine wellness! You learn what’s going on every day with your hormonal physiology, what to eat and when for what functions, and what type of exercises to do when.
Before, I didn’t know how to work out for my phases. I used to just try this and that as far as workouts go, and some were definitely not good for me as a woman (like that burpee challenge) or my hormones (some workout programs are actually super stressful and can cause hormonal imbalance). At one point my periods were averaging every 16 days, and I felt like I was always pregnant. And of course, my hair was not something to be admired. Learning how to eat for my hormones, however, and exercise properly has helped rebalance my body to achieve a perfect 28-day cycle, and my hair is thriving!
Among other health resources I used, I took natural herbal supplements that helped my hair grow thick and voluminous, but I mainly took them for skeletal and hormonal restoration and hair growth was just conveniently included in the effects (*wink*). Vitamins that help hormonal balance often also help hair restoration, and oh boy, did I need all the help I could get. My favorite supplements for hair are horsetail, magnesium, and omega-3 fish oils.
Horsetail is a natural herb, a plant that grows in the wild, and dates all the way back to the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans. It was used to stop bleeding and hemorrhages, and it also improves blood circulation which promotes hair follicle growth. Fun fact, it contains high amounts of silica which has skeletal benefits and strengthens the hair, skin, and nails.
True story: When I broke my leg at the age of five, I wore a hard cast for six weeks, and my naturopathic mom gave me horsetail supplements to help my broken bone heal well. After six weeks, the x-ray showed a healed leg, and the cool thing was it looked like it had never been broken — it had healed so well with the horsetail that you couldn’t even tell where the break was! When the doctor cut off my cast, (this is kind of gross) my little leg was covered in thick hair. Yes, partly because of being in a cast, but the horsetail also focused on that injured area because the body will distribute a healing property where it’s needed most.
The body will distribute a healing property where it’s needed most.
Magnesium has a direct impact on hair growth—it regulates hair follicle growth and is an essential mineral for the hair growth cycle. You can read more about general benefits and what types of magnesium to take in my article here. Some foods high in magnesium are dark chocolate, sweet potatoes, avocado, spinach, legumes, pumpkin seeds and nuts.
Omega-3 fish oils have multiple health benefits for the skeletal system as well as brain health, hormonal regulation, and energy. One of the top and most exciting benefits is that it helps you grow thick and lustrous locks. Omega-3 fatty acids are not produced by the body, so you need to supplement with fish oils and eat foods high in omega-3s. The fish oils are usually taken in gel capsules or as liquid by the spoonful.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include eggs, fish and seafood, walnuts and flaxseeds. I have eggs multiple days a week — usually scrambled or soft-boiled — and I eat fish every week (mostly salmon, sometimes shrimp), especially during my ovulatory phase and the latter part of my luteal phase close to my period. My favorite recipe is baked salmon with a glaze of lemon, garlic, and raw honey with a baked sweet potato — and sushi is always a treat! Since eating more fish in the last year especially, I’ve noticed that my hair is much healthier and shinier than before.
Collagen adds protein to the body and helps your hair grow longer and thicker. I usually add it into my fruit smoothies/protein shakes, soup broth, and sometimes I even mix it into raw almond butter (when my cycle phase needs nuts). Eating collagen and increasing other protein like eggs, fish, and lean meats consistently along with my daily fruits and prepared veggies also helped build my progesterone, which was super low for a while. And guess what helps keep your hair healthy and strong? You guessed it: progesterone! A decrease in this hormone causes the hair follicles to shrink, contributing to hair loss. Huh! All you ladies out there who have struggled with low progesterone, you get me?
All the C
Increasing dietary vitamin C antioxidants was another huge factor in boosting my progesterone and restoring my hair health. I mainly upped my intake of fruits like berries, pineapple, lime, and lemon (I love drinking lemon water with my glass straw). I also keep an eye on when I need to eat certain fruits like grapes, watermelon, and dates according to my cycle phase.
Final Hair Care Tips
To boost follicle growth, do slow, gentle brushing thoroughly from the scalp down to the tips — best results are after a few days of not washing your hair. This helps distribute the natural hair oils and stimulate circulation on your scalp around your follicles to encourage hair growth (Wet brush is my favorite brush brand).
I wash my hair about 2-3 times per week (I used to have to wash it every day because of grease buildup). I also try my best to use natural, non-toxic shampoo; I’ve used Love, Beauty & Planet shampoo, Not Your Mother’s shampoo, and some I’ve found at Whole Foods. I always air-dry my hair to reduce heat damage and for curling I like this heatless curler or I'll keep my hair braided overnight for natural beach waves. Lastly, I don’t color my hair—if I want highlights, I just spend some time out in the sun each day for natural lightening (sufficient dietary fats help prevent the hair from drying out).
Overall, I think the best way to get healthy hair is to heal inward-out with good nutrition! If possible, you should always keep salmon, turkey, eggs, avocado, sweet potatoes, berries and lemons on hand — these are some of the best natural foods you can eat for optimal hair growth and hormone balancing. Eating more protein, certain fruits and prepared veggies for different phases has done wonders in restoring my hair health through calming and balancing my hormones, boosting progesterone levels, and decreasing my cortisol levels. The photos below show my current hair after a year of intentional hormonal restoration through nutrition (no filters). I hope these tips are helpful for you in your health and hair journey!
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