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Welcome to Part 2 of the series on Postnatal Nutrition where expert Nutritionist Esther Street answers questions for our readers.
2. Following pregnancy, many women suffer problems with their skin and hair. Are there any supplements that specifically help skin and hair after pregnancy?
When you are pregnant you lose less hair because of higher oestrogen levels in your body. You may enjoy 9 months of thicker hair that looks like you model for a shampoo advert. Unfortunately, 3-6 months after your baby is born and your oestrogen levels fall, some hair loss is to be expected. Any extra hair loss can be worrying but don’t panic this usually stops by the time your baby is 1 year old. For a small proportion of women, their hair becomes extremely thin and patchy and further help is needed.
In addition to the supplements mentioned previously, my top tips to help prevent hair loss are:
• Biotin – for healthy skin, strong nails and healthy hair experts advise supplementing up to 3000mcg of biotin daily (this can safely be taken when breastfeeding). When taken by breastfeeding mothers, biotin may also reduce cradle cap in babies. Biotin rich foods are cheese, cauliflour, mushrooms, peanuts, walnuts and wholegrain rice.
• Fruit and vegetables – provide antioxidant protection for hair follicles.
• Vitamin E – for antioxidant protection eat nuts and seeds, whole grains, avocados, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, tomatoes, and berries.
• Ground flaxseeds – good for healthy hair, skin and hormones.
• Iodine – for a healthy thyroid. Thyroid problems are common after birth and can contribute to hair loss and poor skin condition among other things. Seaweed, especially kelp is a good source. If you suspect a thyroid problem, talk to your doctor.
• Too much sugar – high sugar consumption is linked to fluctuating hormone levels which may accelerate hair loss. We all know that we should cut down on sugar but it can be more difficult in the early months after your baby is born. Don’t reach for a biscuit every time you need energy. Don’t substitute with ‘sugar free’ foods, these are often loaded in sweeteners some of which have been associated with thinning hair. Instead be prepared with healthy snacks like the ones I listed previously.
• Rapid weight loss (over 1lb per week) – may cause hair loss, try to focus on recovery and health rather than weight loss.
• Hair products – try not to use too many products on your hair and use a natural, organic, pH balanced shampoo.
Even though it is easier said than done, ‘do not stress’! Stress can worsen hair loss and contribute to hormonal chaos. Try to relax and give it time. If you need extra help see a doctor or your nutritionist. Everyone is different and needs a tailor made solution which works for them.
Esther Street is a nutritional therapist who works both in the UK and internationally. She lives in England with her husband and two kids who are just as excited about delicious, healthy food as she is.
This article is not intended as medical advice, just some notes from my personal experience of having babies myself and helping others who have had babies. The advice is not intended to replace advice from your doctor so please contact your healthcare provider with specific questions or issues.