Are you aware of the link between hair health and probiotics?
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that you can treat and even prevent some illnesses with foods and supplements containing certain kinds of live bacteria.
It may sound a little strange but scientists at Oxford and the National Research Centre for the working environment in Denmark have established a link between gut health and hair loss. The bacteria in the gut have been studied extensively and many experts agree that gut health is directly linked to a functioning immune system. Having an imbalance of bacteria in your gut can lead to significant highly visible pattern hair loss or alopecia and other ailments like acne, rosacea, or eczema.
Hair growth goes through 3 stages – the anagen, catagen, and telogen phases.
The anagen is the growth phase. The transition phase is the catagen phase. Lastly, your hair enters the telogen phase, a resting phase when your hair is released and falls out. Each strand of hair on the human body is at its own stage of development. Once the cycle is complete, it restarts and a new strand of hair begins to form.
In terms of hair growth, the anagen stage is essentially when all of the action happens. A study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that mice fed with probiotics, experienced a dramatic increase in active hair follicles as well as overall hair on their bodies.
What are probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics are healthy, beneficial and helpful bacteria and probiotics literally means “for life.” The potential benefits of probiotics have been seen in helping your bodies in the treatment or prevention of several conditions:
- Immune cells fight disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Protect the mucous lining of the intestine
- Ulcerative colitis
- Fight the signs of aging
- Vaginal and urinary tract infections
- Recurrence of bladder cancer
How does probiotics affect hair growth?
The follicle creates the cells that make up the hair. It uses nutrients delivered by the bloodstream. Your gut microbiome synthesizes some of the key materials required for hair growth and the most important one is perhaps Biotin or B7 or Vitamin H. Your body uses it to metabolize the amino acids needed to produce keratin which are the cells that make up your hair.
Gut bacteria assist digestion and provide nutrients for building blood. They generate K2 which regulates calcium in your body and ensures that it does not end up in the walls of your blood vessel of the scalp which can affect blood flow and restrict hair growth.
The niacin which the gut bacteria produce relaxes the walls of your blood vessels allowing better blood flow and potentially helping with hair growth.
The beneficial bacteria help regulate the levels of various hormones, including those related to hair growth, like testosterone, estrogen and cortisol. Any imbalance of these hormones will affect hair growth.
They optimize immune function. An over-functioning immune system can overreact and mistakenly target its own cells and hair follicles.
A balanced gut microbiome lowers your stress levels which is one of the main causes of hair loss.
Gut bacteria manufacture B vitamins and vitamin K right down inside your intestines where they are immediately absorbed. They are the most efficient way to obtain vitamin B-12.
Probiotics reduce your cravings for carbohydrate, sugar and alcohol and keep you slim.
They clean your liver and according to Chinese medicine, the liver has a positive impact on your skin and eyes.
They prevent wrinkles, treat acne and helps your hair grow long and lustrous. They make your fingernails stronger and boosts your energy levels.
Finally they give you a glowing complexion and keep your intestines clean by attacking pathogens and nourish your hair, skin and nails with healthy blood.
Prebiotic fiber is a non-digestible part of foods like bananas, onions, garlic and beans which go through the small intestine undigested and ferments prior to reaching the large intestine or colon. This fermentation process nourishes beneficial bacteria colonies (including probiotic bacteria) to increase the number of beneficial or healthy bacteria in your gut or digestive system. They promote better health and minimize the risk of disease.
Add beneficial probiotics and prebiotics to your diet
Eat foods that nourish your microbiome and promote healthy hair. Make sure that your are eating foods that support your gut microbiome and contain biotin, vitamin K2 and the amino acids used to produce healthy hair. Generally speaking consume lots of vitamin and biotin-rich organic produce like meat, dairy, and eggs. Fermented foods like natto, kimchi, and sauerkraut are foods rich in probiotics that can help produce essential vitamins.
Fermented foods and beverages are more potent than supplements which tend to lose their potency after sometime on the shelf and don’t always survive the acidic environment of your gut unless they are consumed with fermented foods and liquids.
What is Kefir?
Not many people know about this amazing beverage which is featured in the BBC clip here. Please have a listen to learn more about kefir.
A British lady who was suffering from severe health issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and anxiety discovered this miracle drink by chance and shares her experience with her interviewer. It turned around her whole gut health that she decided to manufacture kefir herself.
Kefir is a probiotic-rich drink, much like yogurt, but thinner in consistency. It is produced when you combine milk with kefir grains and let them ferment. The term grain is a misnomer though, since kefir grains are really little lumps of proteins, fats, and polysaccharides – no relation to the grain family at all. They look like miniature translucent cauliflower florets.
You can make this scrumptious kefir with the grains. Shop for the grains here.
Scroll down for the recipe. It’s so easy to prepare kefir.
I would advise you to speak to your doctor to find out whether taking probiotics is a good idea for you. While probiotic foods and supplements are thought to be safe for most people, some who have immune system problems or other health conditions may experience mild or even unpleasant side effects like an upset stomach, diarrhea , gas and bloating and should refrain from taking probiotics.
In the article on ‘Health benefits of taking probiotics – Probiotics can aid digestion and help maintain gut health’, Harvard Health Publishing states the following:
“Health benefits are strain-specific, and not all strains are necessarily useful, so you may want to consult a practitioner familiar with probiotics to discuss your options. As always, let your primary care provider know what you’re doing”.
I hope you have found my post on probiotics interesting and helpful. If you have any questions, comments or experience in taking probiotics or kafir, please share them in the comments section below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
How to prepare kefir
If you are unsure about the quality of kefir, you can easily make it at home. Get the kefir grains here or click on the ‘Real Kefir’ image on the right
1) Add 1–2 tablespoons (14–28 grams) of kefir grains to a clean glass jar. The more you use, the faster it will culture.
2) Add around 2 cups (500 ml) of milk, preferably organic or even raw. Milk from grass-fed cows is healthiest.
Stir the grains gently using a wooden spoon or spatula. Leave 1 inch (2.5 cm) of room at the top of the jar for the kefir to expand when it ferments.
You can add some full-fat cream if you desire a thicker kefir.
3) Cover the jar with a cloth or lid, and allow the liquid to ferment in a warm spot in your kitchen (but out of direct sunlight) for 12-48 hours. You can taste the kefir to see if it has properly fermented, or watch for the whey (a clear yellowish liquid) to separate at the bottom of your jar. You may have small pockets of whey throughout your kefir. Once it starts to look clumpy, it’s ready.
4) Pour kefir through a small strainer into another clean jar, collecting kefir grains in the strainer. Add some milk to make a new batch of kefir, and the process starts all over again.
5) You now have fresh kefir that you can use right away or chill in the refrigerator, and your kefir grains are ready to be used again.
It’s delicious, nutritious and highly sustainable.
You can make non–dairy kefir which is usually thinner than regular kefir so it separates into whey and curds since most non–dairy milk have a lot of water in them.
Kefir can be made with coconut water too. You can flavor your kefir. Place any fruit in a blender and add milk kefir on top, then blend until smooth. Blackberry, peaches, mango, banana, even kiwi all taste lively, sweet, and fresh.
Milk kefir is becoming a common sight on grocery store shelves and a popular probiotic drink. However, those with a strong intolerance to dairy (lactose intolerance) have to refrain from consuming milk kefir. The good news is that there are reduced dairy and dairy-free kefir options that are easy to make at home!
Water kefir is a completely dairy-free kefir product. It is a tasty beverage that can be flavored and carbonated.
How to Make It
Making water kefir is very similar to making dairy kefir, but instead of culturing milk, water kefir grains culture sugar water or fruit juice. Like milk kefir It can be flavored in a variety of ways by blending it with your favorite fruit !
You may get the kefir grains here.
Kefir grains can be used for a lifetime and you need to buy them only once. They are preferable to kefir powder which loses its potency and has to be added often.
And finally a word of caution on the containers used for making kefir:
Use glass containers as glass won’t react to the acidity of the ferment and doesn’t harbor unwanted bacteria.
We do not recommend plastic containers for several reasons. First, plastic
can be damaged, and scratches in the plastic can harbor foreign bacteria. Second, plastic (even food-grade plastic) often contains undesirable chemicals that can be harmful to the kefir grains.
Metal is generally harmful to kefir and should not be used as a culturing vessel or for any item that will have contact with the kefir grains.