Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hair food

Photo by Emily Talen Anselin
I have a daughter going off to college, which has reminded me of dorm life and cafeteria food.

At that juncture in my life, I was a vegetarian. Alternative food choices at cafeterias in the (ahem) late 1970's were not all that appetizing, if they existed at all. Hence, the salad bar became my mainstay. My source of protein? An enormous bowl of peanut butter set on crushed ice at the end of the salad bar, right next to the slices of white bread. I ate peanut butter for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the better part of two semesters.

Predictably, this shift in my diet to a high-fat (and carb) regimen widened my hips; unpredictably, it seemed to have a spectacular effect on my hair. In addition to growing faster than it ever had before, my hair turned thick and lustrous. I had so much I didn't know what to do with it, and struggled mightily with French braids, topknots--stuff I'd never tried before.

All that mirror-gazing gave me time to wonder on what had caused this serendipity for my hair. I narrowed it down to the peanut butter, and proclaimed this theory to my skeptical roommates. My assumption had no scientific basis, until lo these many years later, when I've thought to look it up.

According to "Healthy Hair" type web advice, peanut butter is good for hair. It contains biotin, a vitamin conducive to hair growth. Oatmeal and legumes also have biotin, and oysters (though there's little chance that food graces college menus). (Top Ten Foods for Healthy Hair at Webmd.)

This info got me wondering what other hair issues might have their source in diet. I'd seen a Facebook post by a friend claiming wheat was the source of her psoriasis. I asked SF about it, and here's what she said: "What I did was I took omega fish oil and went on a diet that consisted of only meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts. No dairy, no wheat. In just a few days my scalp got better and better and cleared very quickly. I added back dairy later, but just recently I tried wheat again and the itch came back."