Why Do We Go Grey and What Can We Do About It?
Why does Hair Turn Grey?
You probably noticed your dad or mum’s hair go grey as they get older and maybe you’ve noticed your own greys too? Old age isn’t the only reason why hair turns grey. Hair is considered our crowning glory and taking good care of it entails a bit of hair investments here and there.
However, premature depigmentation can occur for people who are predisposed to grey hair thus making grey hair appear sooner, so for some grey hair may be a given and one can either choose to embrace the grey/white hair or dye it. It’s a personal choice and no choice is better than another.
Grey hair is a result of what’s going in internally and stress is one of the biggest contributors...
Here are some of the reasons why hair turns grey:
Men have more grey hair than women but it doesn’t discriminate. Our hair will most likely turn grey in time and you can expect for grey hair to increase 10-20% after 30 years old and 50% by the age of 50 years old. If you’re middle aged and you experienced hair falling out due to stress then you can expect that it’s possible for the hair to grow back but may turn grey in colour instead of the original colour.
Hair turns white when the pigmentation cells that produce hair colour stops producing melanin, while grey hair appears when less melanin is produced. Genes also play an important role since there are a few individual who have grey hairs even in their early 20’s. Melanin has specialised pigment cells called melanocytes, it is responsible in the injecting of pigment (melanin) into cells that has keratin. Keratin gives hair its colour.
Believe it or not, Caucasians hair turn grey earlier than African-Americans and Asians, maybe something to do with caucasians having less melanin?
Lifestyle and Diet
Vitamin B12 levels can cause loss of hair pigment resulting in grey hair. Always make sure to eat healthy meals packed with vitamins and minerals in order to protect the body against illnesses and even grey hair. If you don’t get enough B12 it may be worth looking at supplementation?
Liver supplements contain B12 and if you’re looking for B12 alone then I’ve found methylcobalamin to be quite good (though I do prefer the liver capsules as they contain loads of other important nutrients such as Iron, vitamin A and protein and Amino acids).
Low levels of copper is noted to have an influence on hair colour in both males and females but more about that soon...
Foods rich in copper include leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, asparagus, summer squash, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and fruits such as star fruit, guava, avocados, blackberries, pomegranates, kiwi fruit, grapes, green olives, persimmons, mango, pineapple, Bosc pears and raspberries.
Some people say there is no link between stress and grey hair but I call B.S on that! From what I have learned through research and connecting the dots, I have a strong belief that stress absolutely can cause grey hair.
I know a friend who had a baby (many years ago now) and he would cry uncontrollably, this constant unexplainable crying was so stressful on her, so much so that she basically turned grey overnight and has coloured her hair ever since.
How Can Stress Cause Grey Hair?
You see, stress can lower copper levels in the body which can lead to copper-deficiency. Copper deficiency can cause the hair to turn grey (something I was excited to learn about because it makes me believe that reversing grey hair is possible).
If you are concerned that stress is causing most of your grey hair, take time to do the following stress reduction techniques:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Resting in nature
- Time off email and social media
- Taking things off our to-do lists
- Learning to say no when you mean no
- Exercise, Tai chi or Yoga
- Guided imagery
- Deep breathing / focus
- Take adaptogen herbs such as Cordyceps and Rhodiola
The number 1 thing to help reduce stress is to meditate (and no, you don’t have to be a zen buddhist monk or anything like that to be a meditator) you can find whatever works for you…
The point of meditation is to come back to our true self, this often means to get out of our mind. It is a practice of calming our busy thoughts and nervous system which has incredibly profound benefits on our health, wellbeing and happiness. Meditation naturally helps to reduce stress and I’ve personally been a huge fan for over a decade as it has helped me with anxiety, panic attacks, IBS and Pyrrole disorder.
You may meditate while pottering around in your garden, perhaps on the train or bus to work or out in the surf while waiting for the next wave?
Maybe you like to take peaceful walks in nature in a forest, while bushwalking or getting your toes in the sand at the beach.
Or your into the traditional form where you either sit or lay down and are guided through an actual meditation?
It does not matter what way you find your calm, it just matter that you do!
Besides stress affecting copper levels, did you know that stress also destroys telomeres (these are an essential part of the DNA in our cells and affect how we age).
More About Copper
While I realise that this is a blog about grey hair, I think it’s important to share something else about copper-deficiency…
Low copper levels in the body can also cause the following issues:
- Facial fine lines
- Sagging skin/lack of firmness
- Crow’s feet around the eyes
- Varicose veins
- Stretch marks
It’s important to know that copper is essential for proper elastic fibre maintenance and these fibres are crucial for every tissue, organ and joint. Not to mention how vital they are for the integrity of your blood vessels.
Never Take Copper alone
It must be said that copper shouldn’t be taken alone but rather with zinc. Personally, I take my copper (in colloidal form) at night after dinner with my zinc. Taking zinc on little to no food will most likely cause horrible nausea.
If you are a smoker, don’t be surprised to see grey hairs. This is mainly due to the free radicals produced by smoking which can eventually damage the cells that produce melanin. Giving up smoking will help you on your quest to avoid unnecessary and preventable greying.
Finding grey hair can be a bit shocking in your 20s or 30s but grey hair can also indicate an illness specifically in young people. These illnesses are:
- Alopecia areata (peculiar type of hair loss)
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- Vitiligo (pigment cells of the skin, the melanocytes, are destroyed in some areas)
- Thyroid Disease
- Tuberous Sclerosis (inherited condition)
- Neurofibromatosis (tumour growth on nerves)
- Heart Disease
Can drinking Coffee Make Me Grey?
Being an on and off coffee drinker for years I don’t really want to believe this but it makes total sense. When you understand that coffee can recreate stress conditions for the body (adding stress to stress can make things worse).
Studies have shown that drinking coffee during times of stress increases cortisol (stress lowers copper which can cause grey hair), high blood pressure and can negatively affect hormones.
I’ve noticed that when I am calm and relaxed I can enjoy 1 weak (half-strength) coffee with little negative effects but if i’m feeling uptight, edgy, nervous, anxious or stressed out then drinking coffee can have undesirable consequences… I become even more wound up and things that wouldn’t usually irritate me do in this instance.
Hmm.. think I may reconsider that second cup next time!
Supplements Worth Considering
- A good quality Colloidal Copper (I like the ‘Original Colloidal Copper’ in liquid form)
- Vitamin E is important to take and we don’t get near enough from the foods we eat. At least 400 IU is recommended but be sure to opt for the natural one that says “d-tocopherol” rather than “d-l-tocopherol”
- Omega 3’s. I like to get my omega 3’s from the foods I eat such as chia seeds and chia oil, flax oil and Organic Acai berry powder.
- A good natural calcium supplement that includes magnesium, vitamin D and trace minerals. Personally I take African mango capsules and eat tahini regularly as these both contain natural calcium, but I also add in vitamin D3 and a good magnesium spray.
- Collagen can help treat grey hair by strengthening the hair structure. It can also help reduce the appearance of grey hairs. Who knew?