The gut’s microbiome (your internal eco system) has without question been one of the hottest beauty topics of 2017, with the latest wave of supplements and diets designed to boost the bacteria in our digestive tract and thereby cure all manner of ills from sluggishness to acne.
This trend is rooted in science: the gut’s health and any imbalances in it have been proven time and time again to have multiple physical manifestations - and Kerry Beeson, Nutritional Therapist for Wren Labs, is convinced that it could also be a key cause of thinning, lacklustre hair: “it’s not immediately obvious how live cultures (probiotics) and hair growth are connected, but there are a few key areas where probiotics might be useful as part of a protocol to support hair health.”
Here’s what you need to know about gut bacteria and your hair:
1.Hair health depends on some key nutrients, among which are vitamin K, zinc, iron, and B vitamins, which strengthen hair follicles and are involved in the formation of keratin. To optimise their absorption, introduce probiotics - they’ll produce enzymes such as lactase that help the digestion process by improving the integrity of the intestinal lining.
Furthermore, research shows that probiotics help protein absorption, which is crucial for hair health as hair is made of keratin, which is a fibrous protein.
2.Stress is a major factor in hair health, and in some cases, severe shock can cause hair loss. Probiotics may help to improve our sense of well-being and certain strains of probiotics have been shown to help with anxiety2, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52, Bifidobacterium longum Rosell-175 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11. These strains can be found in OptiBac probiotics.
3. Probiotics may help in cases of more serious disorders affecting hair, such as alopecia, an auto-immune disorder. A leaky gut places a huge strain on the immune system, as pathogens and undigested food particles that should not be present in the blood stream are able to leach through into the bloodstream and cause the immune system to view them as intruders and attack them. The immune system can in turn become hyper-sensitive and begin to turn on itself; in the case of alopecia this action results in the destruction of hair follicles, which means hair loss. Certain strains of probiotics have been shown to help improve the integrity of the intestinal lining and may help to heal a leaky gut: Saccharomyces boulardii is one such probiotic, and L. paracasei CASEI 431® is another, which can be found in OptiBac Probiotics For Daily Immunity, where it’s combined with some vitamin C.
4.When hair problems are caused by fungal infections of the scalp, the infections may originate from an overgrowth of pathogens in the gut, so probiotics may help to displace these pathogens. Most live cultures should help to displace nasties in the gut, but Saccharomyces boulardii is particularly good at doing so.
5. Skin health is vital for hair health; hair follicles can be affected by inadequate nutrition (as previously mentioned), but also by inflammation caused by toxins being eliminated via the skin rather than naturally excreted. This situation is worsened if there is dysbiosis (imbalance of good/bad bacteria) in the gut, and in the case of leaky gut.
Too much hair (hirsuitism) can be caused by hormonal imbalance, and probiotics can be useful as part of a hormone-balancing protocol and may help to break down excess hormones which otherwise would be re-absorbed.
6.Ultimately, remember that any approach needs to be holistic, and consider diet, and lifestyle as well as appropriate supplements – there isn’t a ‘quick fix’, but taking probiotics can have a multitude of potential benefits, which is why I always recommend a probiotic supplement as part of most holistic protocols.
1 Jäger R1, Purpura M2, Farmer S3, Cash HA3, Keller D3, (2017), Probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 Improves Protein Absorption and Utilization. Probiotics Antimicrob Proteins. 2017 Dec 1. doi: 10.1007/s12602-017-9354-y. [Epub ahead of print]
2 Mr Messaoudi et al., Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. British Journal of Nutrition, 10.1017/S0007114510004319