The ancient Greeks believed that if you were physically beautiful you were in harmony with the universe, and that one’s own physical beauty was a miniature representation of the cosmos.
And while the ancient Greeks credited the Gods for whatever physical beauty they possessed, modern science now knows that nutrition plays a vital role in our physical appearance. Healthy, beautiful, shiny hair and nails can be yours provided you give your body the nutrients it needs to make them. It’s called beauty from the inside out and it’s easier than you might think!
Our recommended nutrients for healthy hair and nails
If your eyes are the windows to your soul, then your hair and nails are windows to your overall health. Healthy hair and nails are dependent upon adequate protein, minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids, complex carbohydrates and water. And if you aren’t getting the necessary nutrients you need for optimal health, or if your body isn’t absorbing or assimilating them properly, the deficiency may appear as lifeless hair and nails.
1. Silica—a bioavailable form of silicon, is called the beauty mineral because it helps you grow lustrous hair and hard nails, fast. It also helps maintain bone density and strength by facilitating the deposit of calcium and other minerals into the bone.1
Why do you need silica?
Next to oxygen, silica is the most abundant element on earth. Your body contains about seven grams of this essential trace element, which is necessary for healthy skin, ligaments, tendons, and bones. Silica helps facilitate the formation of collagen, which is vital to the strength and development of epithelial and skeletal connective tissue.
Silica, along with vitamin C, helps to maintain moisture in the skin and other tissues via compounds called mucopolysaccharides. Also known as glycosaminoglycans, these mucilaginous carbohydrates, together with collagen and elastin, make up our connective tissues.
Silica also plays a role in the body’s healing processes, and is integral to a healthy immune system. Additionally, silica is vital for the structure of your teeth, contributing to the hardening of enamel, and preventing bleeding gums and gum recession.
In one study silica was examined for its ability to improve skin and nail health in women who had sun-damaged skin. Chronic exposure to sunlight has been shown to damage connective tissue, which causes loss of elasticity in skin. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, women were given 10 mg daily of either a bioavailable silica or placebo. Measurements of skin and nail health were taken throughout the study. At the end of 20 weeks, the women taking silica had decreased skin roughness and less-brittle nails and hair, showing that silica had a significantly positive effect on nails, skin, and hair.2
Another study at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Pharmacy investigated the effect of silica on hair. In this randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study 48 women with fine hair were given 10 mg of bioavailable silica a day or placebo for nine months. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that the women taking silica had thicker hair because of increased elasticity and tensile strength.3
Why do you need a silica supplement?
As we get older, our levels of silica decline, and low estrogen levels decrease the body’s ability to absorb silica.
Also, the amount of silica found in food is very low since it is usually found in the skin or outer layers of food, and is removed during processing. For instance, the silica found in rice is usually removed through rice polishing. The current intake of silica by the average person is much lower than it has been in the past.
The main food sources of silica are apples, oranges, cherries, raisins, almonds, peanuts, raw cabbage, onions, endives, carrots, eggplants, pumpkin, red beets, celery, cucumber, fish, honey, and corn. An increased need for silica is best met by increasing your consumption of whole grains, because they are rich sources of absorbable silica. However, absorbing silica from food can be difficult.
A silica deficiency can result in soft or brittle nails, premature wrinkles, thinning or loss of hair, poor bone development and osteoporosis. The chief symptom of silica deficiency is sensitivity to cold, i.e. feeling cold even on a warm summer day.
2. Biotin—is part of the B vitamin complex, and is a co-enzyme involved in several processes in the body. It helps manufacture and utilize fatty acids and amino acids, and helps in the utilization of carbohydrates for body heat and energy. Biotin also aids in the utilization of folic acid, pantothenic acid and vitamin B.
Studies have shown that supplementation with biotin—called the hair vitamin—helps restore dry, brittle nails4 and promotes hair growth.
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These articles are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.
Calomme M, Geusens P, Demeester N, Behets GJ, D'Haese P, Sindambiwe JB, Van Hoof V, Vanden Berghe D. Partial prevention of long-term femoral bone loss in aged ovariectomized rats supplemented with choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid. Calcif Tissue Int. 2006 Apr;78(4):227-32. Epub 2006 Apr 13.
Barel A, Calomme M, Timchenko A, De Paepe K, Demeester N, Rogiers V, Clarys P, Vanden Berghe D. Effect of oral intake of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid on skin, nails and hair in women with photodamaged skin. Arch Dermatol Res. 2005 Oct;297(4):147-53. Epub 2005 Oct 26.
Wickett RR, Kossmann E, Barel A, Demeester N, Clarys P, Vanden Berghe D, Calomme M. Effect of oral intake of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid on hair tensile strength and morphology in women with fine hair. Arch Dermatol Res. 2007 Dec;299(10):499-505. Epub 2007 Oct 25.
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Rosenblat G, Perelman N, Katzir E, Gal-Or S, Jonas A, Nimni ME, Sorgente N, Neeman I. Acylated ascorbate stimulates collagen synthesis in cultured human foreskin fibroblasts at lower doses than does ascorbic acid. Connect Tissue Res 1998;37(3-4):303-11.