Hair Vitamins: Truth or Myth-Scientifically Speaking

Lately, I have been hearing a lot of discussions about hair vitamins. Some women swear by them; while others say that they are just a complete hoax and waste of money.  So I decided to take a closer look to see what all the fuss was about. 

 

What Exactly is a Hair Vitamin?

Hair vitamins are basically the same vitamins that are found in most of the regular daily multi-vitamins; however, they have been repackaged to contain only the adequate amount of vitamins that are essential for healthy hair.  Having said that, you can continue to take your multi-vitamin as long as it has the recommended daily allowance of the vitamins that affect the hair.  So what is the magical potion that leaves your tresses unrecognizably gorgeous? To answer this question, we must first define hair.

 

Hair-Is More Than What Meets the Eye

I find it interesting that the beautiful tresses found on your head, whether they are long, short, natural, straight, chemically treated, blond, brown, black, red, or grey, are nothing more than a mass of mostly keratin protein.  Keratin is the main structural component of not only hair; but, skin and nails as well. This is why hair vitamins are sometimes marketed as a hair, skin, and nails product.  The primary reason hair vitamins stimulate growth is because keratin protein is made up of amino acids, which are critical for all life forms. In fact, one of the most important functions of amino acids is to serve as the building blocks of protein. Therefore, anything that aids in the process of creating protein, i.e. certain vitamins and minerals, will ultimately have an impact on your hair depending on the amounts that are present.  But, before I talk about which vitamins are a must have for healthy hair and hair growth, I have to give you a little biochemistry lesson on cell biology.

 

Understanding how Cells Work in our Bodies

To keep this as basic as possible, I will define proteins as the start of all life (this includes hair too) within the body.  Each of our cells is made of proteins and each cell has many pathways (metabolic chemical reactions) that occur as they are being built.  Think Dallas, Texas highways, roads and streets for those of you who live in the DFW area.  Your cells have a maze of pathways that cross and overlap to create the right DNA for building that particular cell.  Therefore, you need the proper amount of vitamins and minerals when cells are dividing and multiplying so that they can be built and copied properly. One missing nutrient, can negatively impact the end result and can lead to birth defects (Sorry, I would be remiss if I did not show how serious this could be) and damaged hair, which is the purpose of this article (smile).  Now you can see why eating a healthy diet or supplementing with vitamins and mineral leads to overall better health and ultimately, better hair.

 

The MoJo of Hair Vitamins

The key ingredients contained in most hair vitamins are in the B Complex family along with a few others.  Here is what I think is a good list of key hair vitamins:

 

Vitamin A– Vitamin A is not only a critical vitamin for skin, it’s also a major player for hair growth.  The lowest skin layer, the hypodermis is where the hair follicle cells/roots are located.  Because vitamin A is responsible for generating growth and repair and making sure that cells (including follicle cells) are programmed properly, it’s a necessary vitamin for hair growth.

 

Biotinis known as the “beauty vitamin” because of its incredible effects on hair, skin and nails.  Biotin is a major player in making sure that proteins are  metabolized in your hair roots and fingernail cells, and since your hair is made up of mostly keratin protein, an abundant amount of protein is critical.  Therefore it’s wise to have an adequate amount of biotin because your body will allocate it to the most critical areas first, like your vital organs, and if there is any remaining, your hair just might be lucky to get a little. Side note, ideally your hair vitamin should contain the B-complex vitamin because this family of vitamin B work synergistically to ensure that each B vitamin is metabolized and functioning properly.

 

Vitamin C-Is an antioxidant that prevents free radical damage in your cells. Note, free radicals occur naturally within your cells during the metabolic process and it occurs when you have been exposed to environmental toxins. Vitamin C is also required for the synthesis of collagen.  Without vitamin C, you simply will not have any collagen and you need collagen because it supports and gives structure to everything in the body, including all of the skin layers, which is where hair follicles and your sebaceous glands are housed.  A deficiency in vitamin C will not only effect hair growth, but might also lead to dry brittle hair.

 

Vitamin E-Vitamin E is also an antioxidant that fights against free radical damage in your cells and reduces oxidative stress.  While we need to breath in oxygen to live, once it enters our bodies-it could cause severe cell damage. Think Fruits and veggies-it’s the exposure to oxygen that causes them to “go bad” quickly. The same reaction occurs within our bodies, and having vitamin E in your arsenal will stop oxidation in its tracks.

 

The Final Conclusion

After a close examination, I have concluded that hair vitamins really do promote long, healthy hair.  However, keep in mind that not all vitamins are created equally, and to maximize both the health and hair promoting benefits of vitamin supplementation, you should ensure that the vitamins are whole vitamins and not synthetic.  Synthetic vitamins are isolated vitamins; whereas in nature, food and vitamins derived from whole foods, contain a complex number of vitamins and minerals working synergistically. Therefore, if you isolate just one of those vitamins, you lose out on the synergistic affect that the isolated vitamin needed to perform its function properly.

 

The Role Vitamin A Plays in Producing Radiant Skin

Vitamin A was the first fat-soluble compound discovered in 1913 by researchers at Yale University. It is absolutely necessary for healthy skin.  If your levels are in the normal range, you’re probably experiencing radiant, glowing skin. However, if your skin isn’t looking so great and/or is dry, you just might be suffering from vitamin A deficiency.  Let’s talk about skin.

 

Skin-Scientifically Speaking

The epidermis and the dermis are the two primary skin layers that vitamin A impacts to give you beautiful, radiant skin.

  • The Epidermis (Outer Layer)– is made mostly of epithelial cells.  The most important function of the epidermis is to protect our internal areas from harmful agents found in the environment by serving as a protective barrier.  On the other hand, superficially, it’s also the layer that gives you a general idea of how well your skin is being maintained because you can actually see the epidermis skin layer. That’s a lot of social pressure for one organ. Yes-the skin is actually an organ.  The epidermis works very hard to make you look good.  At the very bottom of the epidermis, new skin cells are constantly forming.  When the new cells are ready, they move up to the top of the epidermis and the old skin cells die, which is why you should exfoliate your skin about twice a week. The process of new cells forming and moving up to the surface layer of your skin and old cells dying takes about two weeks to one month. But having said that, the epidermis thrives or fails based on how well the dermis perform.

 

  • The Dermis (middle Layer) is made mostly of thick connective tissue and proteins such as collagen, which gives your skin structure. The dermis also has many blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to your skin cells and it’s home to the sebaceous glands, which gives your skin its natural oil.  It’s basically the manufacturing hub for all new skin and as you can imagine, it’s in constant turnover –creating new beautiful skin cells that will eventually move up and become the epidermis.  But don’t get too excited, those news cells will only be beautiful if the dermis is functioning properly, and the dermis can only function properly if your body has the adequate amount of the retinoic acid form of vitamin A.

 

 All about Vitamin A

As stated above, vitamin A is a necessary vitamin for healthy skin and it comes in two forms: Preformed and Provitamin A.

  • Preformed Vitamin A (Retinoids)– include retinal, retinol, and the lifeline of our skin-retinoic acid.  Retinol vitamin A is a fat-soluble compound and is absorbed in the body when you consume animal based foods such as egg yolk, milk, cheese, butter and liver from chicken, beef, and fish liver oils).  We need the retinol form of vitamin A because it is the form of vitamin A that is converted into retinoic acid in the body.
  • Provitamin A (Carotenoids)-includes beta-carotene and is found in plants such as fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, winter squash, carrots, spinach, and orange cantaloupe. The beta-carotene form of vitamin A is also converted into retinoic acid but it must goes through several conversions in the body to become retinol and eventually, retinoic acid.

You can also take retinol as a supplement, but be very careful because supplementing with retinol can lead to vitamin A toxicity.

 

Why is Vitamin A Essential for Healthy Skin?

One of the ways to achieve beautiful healthy skin is through the synthesis of the retinoid acid form of vitamin A in the body. Optimum levels of the retinoid acid are needed to promote the healthy function of epithelial cells-the cells that your skin is made of. Both retinol and retinal converts into retinoid acid so consuming vitamin A through an animal source or a plant-based source will provide you with this critical cell growth, producing nutrient.

 

How Does Retinoic Acid Work?

All of our cells are programmed to have specific functions within the body, and this includes your skin cells. Retinoic acid is a major player in ensuring that cells are programmed properly and therefore, are a must during the programming phase of new cell development. If there isn’t enough vitamin A, the “code” is copied incorrectly and the cell does not perform properly. Retinoic acid also influences the structure and function of epithelial cells.  So if you don’t have enough of it, your skin can become structurally compromised as well appear dull, blemished, and flaky.  Needless to say, if you’re looking to maintain beautiful, healthy looking skin, you definitely will want to make sure your vitamin A levels in are adequate.

 

What is the Optimal Amount of Vitamin A

Because vitamin A is fat- soluble, it should be consumed with food. In addition, if you are supplementing with retinol, you should make sure you are adequately monitoring your levels so that you do not develop vitamin A toxicity. Furthermore, avoid all forms of synthetic vitamin A such as retinyl palmitate, which is found in many anti-aging and sunscreen personal care products. Research has shown that retinyl palmitate is linked to skin lesions and tumors. Below, is a list of what the FDA recommends safely.

 

Pediatric

  • Infants birth – 6 months: 400 mcg
  • Infants 7 – 12 months: 500 mcg
  • Children 1 – 3 years: 300 mcg
  • Children 4 – 8 years: 400 mcg
  • Children 9 – 13 years: 600 mcg
  • Boys 14 – 18 years: 900 mcg
  • Girls 14 – 18 years: 700 mcg

Adult

  • Men 19 years and older: 900 mcg
  • Women 19 years and older: 700 mcg
  • Pregnant women 14 – 18 years: 750 mcg
  • Pregnant women 19 years and older: 770 mcg
  • Breastfeeding women 14 – 18 years: 1,200 mcg
  • Breastfeeding women 19 years and older: 1,300 mcg

So the next time your skin appears to be blah-try consuming more vitamin A based foods before shelling out money to your dermatologist.

 

The Vitamin Guide to Beautiful Skin

Ever wonder why some women tend to have absolutely gorgeous skin that actually glows? Well, if you’re like me, achieving beautiful skin can become a full time job. You buy all of the right topical products that your dermatologist recommends; however, when you look in the mirror, you still see the same dull, blemished or hyper-pigmented skin. Yeah-been there done that…..but, I’ve also done something else that has worked wonders to give me beautifully glowing skin.  I noticed that whenever I detox my body, my skin gets clearer, lighter, and actually starts to glow. Yes glow!  Ladies-in the past, even my doctor has said, “Wow your skin is just glowing-you’re radiant.” Me? No way! But to my amazement, my doctor was right.  As long as I maintained a healthy diet, my skin was radiant and now I’ll share what I’ve discovered so that you can have radiant skin too.

 

While topical products have their purpose in terms of maintaining great skin- true, beautiful skin is found in the food and nutritional supplements that we consume.  Unfortunately, our foods are heavily tainted with pesticides that rob our soil of beneficial nutrients;  therefore, we must take the correct vitamins and minerals to ensure that we have beautiful skin.  

 

Vitamins for Healthy Skin

  • Vitamin A is an antioxidant that’s necessary for maintaining and repairing skin tissue.
  • Vitamin B– biotin is the single most critical B vitamin because it forms the basis of skin, nail, and hair cells.
  • Vitamin C-is an antioxidant that offers protection against free radical damage and has been known to repair damaged skin.
  • Vitamin E– is an antioxidant that’s necessary for the maintenance and repair of skin tissue.
  • Vitamin K-is great for reducing dark under eye circles only when applied topically.

 

Minerals for Healthy Skin

  • Selenium- protects skin from sun damage and possibly reduces the risk of skin cancer.
  • Zinc– Keeps skin clear because  of its amazing ability to slow down oil production. It’s great for acne proned skin.

Other Nutrients for Healthy Skin

  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid-acts similarly to vitamins A and C but is a far more powerful antioxidant that protects the skin from free radical damage.
  • Essential Fatty Acid (omega 3 fatty acids)-Essential fatty acids maintain the integrity of cellular walls. They allow good things like water to enter a cell and remain within that cell; while simultaneously ridding the cell of waste.  This results in plump skin.

 

Whether you are consuming foods with these nutrients or adding them as a supplement to your diet, you should see great results.  After all, true beauty is from the inside out.

 


Breast Thermography: Is it the Safest Screening Method for Breast Cancer?

Possibly one of the oldest forms of human cancers, breast cancer dates back to Egypt in 1600 BC.  During that time, breast cancer was untreatable and  cauterization was the only treatment performed to remove the diseased tissue.  This “treatment” went on for centuries until the 17th century, when doctors began to understand the circulatory system. They made a connection between breast cancer and lymph nodes in the arm pits, and for the first time, a more “humane” approach to treating breast cancer was born.

 

Jean Louis Petit Makes Medical History

Jean Luis Petit was the first surgeon to perform a mastectomy, which then became the only treatment provided to women who had breast cancer.  The radical mastectomy was revolutionized in America through the work of William Stewart Halstead, when he  performed the first mastectomy on American soil.  Again, this treatment remained the only conventional treatment of breast cancer until the 1970s when doctors began to understand metastases better and perceived cancer as both, systematic and localized. Armed with a clearer understanding of breast cancer and how it metastacized, American doctors began to discover better treatment options for treating women with breast cancer.  And more importantly,  life saving cancer screening devices were making their way in hospitals across America.

 

Introducing Breast Thermagraphy and Mammograms

In 1982, breast thermography was approved by the FDA for the adjunctive screening of breast cancer. Four years later, on July 8, 1986, Patrick Panetta and Jack Wennet received their patent for the first Universal Mammography Comprehension System, aka, mammograms.  Almost everyone knows what a mammogram is; yet, breast thermagraphy remains relatively unknown to most women.

 

So Why Haven’t You Heard of Breast Thermagraphy?

Doctors highly preferred the mammogram when screening for breast cancer primarily because when young women were given mammograms, they were less likely to get false postive results.  On the other hand, there were a very high amount of young women being diagnosed as false positive with breast thermography.  Needless to say, the large amount of false positives caused a major concern in the medical community.  As a result, mammograms became the most trusted method for detecting breast cancer within the conventional medical community.   But is it really more reliable than breast thermography? Let’s take a closer look at both exams.

 

The Mammogram

The life time risk for developing breast cancer 50 years ago was one in 20, and today it is one in eight. As a result of this huge increase in breast cancer diagnosis, most women today intimately know the many “ins and outs” of mammograms. They are recommended for women age 40 and above, and require her to place each nude breast, one at a time, between the two plates on the mammogram machine.

 

This procedure is often very uncomfortable to women. An ionizing high dose (1000 times higher than a chest x-ray) of radiation is administered. The radiologist gets an an x-ray image of the examined breast from above and from the side. The results are recorded on a computer or on x-ray film and are reviewed by the radiologist. After the exam is complete, the doctor will convey the results to the patient. Unfortunately, the results are not always accurate. Now the question becomes, are mammograms really saving the lives of women through early detection?

 

Research suggests that mortality from breast cancer has gone relatively unchanged for the last 40 years. Moreover, when women conducted self breast exams only (not combining it with mammograms), their rate of detecting a tumor was equal to the mammogram’s rate of accurate detection. In other words, just performing a self breast exam is as equally effective as having a mammogram in regards to detecting breast cancer early and saving your life. Research shows that if you screen 10,000 women age 50-70 with a mammogram, at best, only 26 of them will be saved. On the other hand, breast thermography boasts a rate of 87-96% accuracy. What is breast thermography and why is it so effective?

 

Breast Thermography

Breast Thermography is a clinical exam that uses infrared heat that emanates from the patient’s body. She is placed in a temperature controlled room (66°F to 70°F), and the thermographer blows cool air over her breasts. This cool air regulates the patient’s temperature so that she is at equilibrium with the room temperature. However, the pool of blood and blood vessels that the cancer cells create is not under autonomic control and is not affected by the cool air. This results in a hot spot because the pool of blood will clearly stand out. Once the patient’s body is cooled, usually 10-15 minutes, she will be asked to hold her arms up so that images can be captured. These images will include both breasts from the fronts, the sides, underneath, and from a 45 degree angle. After the procedure is complete, the patient will be asked to hold a cold gel pack for one minute, which produces a neuralgic response in the breast and cools them. This cooling only affects healthy breasts, but not cancer. If there is cancer, it will remain hot. A second set of images are taken of the breasts. In some offices the patient will get her results on the spot; while in other offices, she will leave and receive her results later. Unlike mammography, this procedure comes close to a 100% accuracy rate for early detection.

 

A breast thermography boasts an early cancer detection rate of 87-96%. It is non-invasive and does not expose women to additional radiation, which can actually cause cancer. Needless to say, this is why naturopathic doctors highly recommend it as a replacement to mammograms. According to Dr. Shawn Sieracki, a Traditional naturopath located in Lewisville, Texas, comparing breast thermography to mammography is like comparing apples to oranges. Dr. Sieracki says that mammograms find the tumor that is already present in the body, while on the other hand, breast thermography is based on physiology and will detect abnormal patterns in the breast tissue up to five year before it becomes a malignant tumor.

 

As noted above, breast thermagraphy was dismissed as ineffective because of the high rates of “false positives;” however, 5 to 10 years later, those young women who were diagnosed as false positives actually did develop breast cancer. Therefore, they were not “false positive”-they were in their very early stages of developing breast cancer and could have possibly reversed the condition before it developed into cancer. Conversely, the mammogram could not detect the developing tumor at such an early stage so those women who had a mammogram and were told that they had healthy breast, were actually in the early stages of developing breast cancer.

 

This is great news for women, especially those who have been shown to carry the BRCA1 gene. Doctors generally recommend a mastectomy for BRCA1 gene carriers. Now these women can partner with their naturopathic doctor to get frequent breast thermography exams done and immediately detect any physiological changes that might be taking place. Conversely, a frequently conducted mammogram screening might actually cause cancer due to the high level of radiation exposure.

 

So What’s the Right Answer?

Like everything else, deciding which option to use for your next annual breast exam is a personal choice. Women can continue to do self breast exams solely or in conjunction with a mammogram, but perhaps it’s best to use all three until you definitely know which exam is best for your particular situation. Consult with your physician to schedule a mammogram and to find a practitioner who specializes in breast thermography, you can visit www.breastthermography.com