Your hair and nails help protect your body. They also keep the temperature of your body steady. As you age, your hair and nails begin to change.
Hair color is due to a pigment produced by hair follicles.called melanin. Hair follicles are structures in the skin that make and grow hair. With aging, the follicles make less melanin, and this causes gray hair. Graying often begins in the 30s. Scalp hair starts graying at the temples and extends to the top of the scalp. Hair color becomes lighter, eventually turning white. Body and facial hair also turn gray, but most often, this happens later than scalp hair.
Graying is largely determined by your genes. Gray hair tends to occur earlier in white people and later in Asians. Nutritional supplements, vitamins, and other products will not stop or decrease the rate of graying.
Thick, shiny hair is a hallmark of youth. Hair is made of many protein strands. A single hair has a normal life between 2 and 7 years. That hair then falls out and is replaced with a new hair. How much hair you have on your body and head is also determined by your genes. Over the years “miniaturization” occurs. This change in the follicle makes each individual strand of hair emerge from the scalp thinner in diameter.
Hormonal shifts, specifically in women who produce less estrogen and progesterone as they age, decreases the production of sebum, the natural emollient that coats the hair and makes it appear shiny, explained Dr. Erika Schwartz, and integrative medicine doctor who founded Evolved Science, a functional longevity practice in NYC. Spinach, broccoli and kale are packed with vitamins A & C which help in sebum production.
Nearly everyone has some hair loss with aging. The rate of hair growth also slows. So the thick, coarse hair of a young adult eventually becomes thin, fine, light-colored hair. Many hair follicles even stop producing new hairs.
Men may start showing signs of baldness by the time they are 30 years old and many men are nearly bald by age 60. A type of baldness related to the normal function of the male hormone testosterone is called male-pattern baldness. Hair loss may be at the temples or at the top of the head. Women can develop a similar type of baldness as they age. This is called female-pattern baldness. Hair becomes less dense and the scalp may become visible.
Rogaine is the only medically proven topical solution that dilates the blood vessels in the scalp which may extend hair’s growth phase. Supplements like Nutrafol use maca powder, saw palmetto and other ingredients to combat hair loss related to hormonal changes in perimenopaus and menopause.
As you age, your body and face also lose hair. Women’s remaining facial hair may get coarser, most often on the chin and around the lips. Men may grow longer and coarser eyebrow, ear, and nose hair.
Debra Lin is a scientist and engineer and head of product and innovation for Better Not Younger, a line of product to combat age-related hair concerns. She recommends conditioners formulated with fatty acid-rich “plant butters” like mango and macadamia nuts and light oils from sunflower seeds and camellias. These will smooth strands and decrease breakage without leaving the hair looking greasy and limp. People also use pure argan oil rather than products with silicones to improve manageability.
It is advised to wash your hair no more than twice a week with a gentle shampoo. Use a hydrating mask when needed. John Barrett, a well-known hairstylist says most hair problems are self inflicted. “Do less” is his mantra.
It’s been said that nails are a barometer of your overall health, and that is certainly true even when your condition is simply getting older.
Like hair, nails undergo changes over time, due to disease, internal processes in the body as it ages, nutritional deficiencies, or external factors like long-term exposure to chemicals or ultraviolet light.
Nail growth slows slightly over time. On average, fingernails grow about 0.1 inches per month; toenails only a third of that, or 0.04 inch per month.
As early as the age of 25, that rate slows by about 0.5% per year. So by the age of 85, your fingernails may only be growing 2 mm in length per month.
With age, nails may become brittle and prone to breaking. Repeated wetting and drying, or exposure to harsh cleaning chemicals or cosmetics like cuticle and nail polish removers, can worsen the problem. More serious brittleness can cause ridges along the length of the nail and fragmenting of the nail tips.
Conditions like anemia, hardening of the arteries and hormonal problems can be a cause, so consult your health provider if you notice significant texture changes in your nails.
Nails may become thicker or thinner with age. Skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema can also result in thicker nails.
Fungal infections, which account for about half of all nail disorders and are more common in the elderly, can cause nail thickening and discoloration. Toenails are particularly vulnerable because shoes provide a warm, moist environment for fungus to grow. Factors that predispose someone to nail fungal infections include:
- Being male
- Diseases like diabetes and immune deficiency conditions
Treatments for fungal nail infections include oral or topical (applied to the nail) antifungal preparations, which may need to be administered for a period of months. Choosing the right medication will depend on other prescriptions you may be taking (to avoid drug interactions) and the severity of the infection.
How curved your nails are may change as you age. A dramatic shape change with very rounded nails is clubbing, a sign of long-term oxygen deprivation. It can occur with a variety of cardiovascular, endocrine, or gastrointestinal diseases, and should be investigated by your healthcare provider.
Pressure from too-tight shoes or foot deformities that pushes a nail inward can cause ingrown toenails. Though more common in younger people, ingrown nails in the elderly can cause substantial pain and walking problems.
Over time, nails may become discolored, turning slightly yellowed, gray, generally pale, or opaque.
Darker-skinned people often develop longitudinal melanonychia as they age. The stripes are made up of the same pigment, or melanin, that accounts for the color of your hair.
To naturally keep your nails in the bast shape possible, keep them hydrated with rich creams, wash dishes with rubber gloves, and avoid harsh nail polishes. Mayoclinic.org suggests that you ask your doctor about biotin which might help strengthen weak, brittle nails.
Saw palmetto is one of the most popular and commonly used over the counter nutritional supplements. In 2010 alone, it had over $700 million in total sales.
Saw palmetto, also commonly known as Serenoa repens or American dwarf palm tree, is a plant native to the southeastern regions of the United States. The medicinal part of the saw palmetto plant is its maroon colored, oblong shaped berry. Saw palmetto extract is composed of fatty acids and phytosterols that are responsible for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects.
Saw palmetto, which has been used since the 1800s, is a commonly recommended phytotherapy (“phyto”, meaning plant) in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Saw palmetto has been shown to benefit men struggling with urinary tract and prostate issues, females affected by hormone imbalances, and individuals with hormone-related hair loss.
Saw palmetto is often used to balance hormone levels and combat hair loss. According to one study, saw palmetto may help block the activity of 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into another sex hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that is linked to hair loss. Saw palmetto may prevent hair loss by reducing the uptake of DHT in your hair follicles, which decreases DHT’s ability to bind to specific hormone receptors.
One review of 7 studies found that oral and topical supplements containing saw palmetto improved hair quality by 60%, raised total hair count by 27%, and increased hair density in 83% of people with hair loss.
A small 2014 study of 25 males showed positive results when the participants used topical saw palmetto and 10% Trichogen as a treatment. The study showed an 11.9% hair count increase after 4 months.
A second small study of 50 males confirmed the effectiveness of topical saw palmetto for treating male baldness. Hair count increased at weeks 12 and 24 compared with the baseline.
Saw palmetto has been widely used by men with prostatic conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition caused by a non-malignant enlargement of the prostrate that can reduce or inhibit the flow of urine from the bladder. By inhibiting the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, saw palmetto may slow or prevent the growth of the prostate gland and promote healthy urine flow through the urinary tract, which reduces the occurrence of urinary tract symptoms in men and supports a healthy prostrate.
A nine week study showed that men who received saw palmetto supplementation demonstrated a decrease in urinary tract symptoms and an increase in urine flow when compared to a placebo. (There are also studies that show that saw palmetto didn’t help any more than a placebo for BPH. Please check with your doctor before starting a supplement.)
Research has shown that saw palmetto acts as an anti-androgen, also known as a testosterone blocker. Testosterone is an androgen hormone necessary for numerous body functions, including growth and reproduction. Testosterone levels in women vary throughout their menstrual cycles and life stages. While testosterone is essential for both men and women, excess testosterone levels can lead to harmful health effects.
Saw palmetto may help relieve symptoms associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition characterized by elevated testosterone levels, irregular or absent menstrual cycles, infertility, acne, hirsutism, cardiac disease, and insulin resistance.
Saw palmetto has been shown to be safe for the majority of healthy individuals; however, mild headaches and digestive side effects have been reported. Saw palmetto has not been shown to interact with other medication.
Combining saw palmetto with Proscar or Avodart has unknown effects. The cumulative effects could potentially additive (and positive) but may also increase the risk of certain side effects. You should discuss the use of saw palmetto with your doctor if you are already taking a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor.
Saw palmetto may interact with hormone containing drugs, including testosterone and estrogen. Multiple studies show that saw palmetto has both antiandrogenic and anti-estrogen effects. Therefore, in theory, saw palmetto could antagonize the actions of these hormones, so potential drugs that could decrease in effectiveness include testosterone or estrogen replacement therapy and oral contraceptive pills.
Saw palmetto should be used cautiously with anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs, including:
- NSAIDs (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen)
- Coumadin (warfarin)
- Plavix (clopidogrel)
How to Buy
As a dietary supplement, saw palmetto can be obtained in many different forms, including whole dried berries, capsules, soft gels, tablets, topical creams, tinctures, and powders. It is recommended to look for saw palmetto products that contain plant sterols and 80% to 90% fatty acids.
Saw palmetto is often combined with other ingredients that help enhance prostate health, such as pumpkin seed extract.
Most research is conducted using saw palmetto in dosages of 320 mg per day, often divided into 2 doses.
Some experts recommend taking the supplement with food, which may minimize digestive issues and prevent adverse effects.
How to Store
Store all supplement in a cool, dry and dark cabinet.
How to Cook
Many saw palmetto teas are available on the market.
Look for organic saw palmetto in bags on your co-op shelves or online from Bulk Apothecary.
Broccoli Kale Soup with Crispy Chickpeas
Parsnips and Pastries
FOR THE SOUP:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large shallots, diced
- 4 celery stalks, diced
- 1 leek, diced (white and light green parts only)
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 2 large broccoli heads, chopped
- 1 large zucchini, chopped
- 3 cups chopped kale
- 2 cups chopped spinach
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
FOR THE CHICKPEAS:
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained/dried very well
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- Pinch of cayenne
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
FOR THE ROASTED CHICKPEAS:
- Rinse and drain the chickpeas. Lay them on paper towels to dry and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When chickpeas are dry, toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, cumin, paprika, cayenne, ginger, salt, and pepper. Evenly coat and spread out on a greased sheet pan.
- Cook the chickpeas in the oven until they are crispy and evenly brown, stirring once or twice to bake evenly, about 30 minutes.
FOR THE SOUP:
- In a large soup/stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the shallots, celery, leek, and garlic cloves until softened, but not browned. Season with salt and pepper.
- Once vegetables are softened, add in the 8 cups of vegetable broth, broccoli, and zucchini. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the broccoli is tender. Add the kale and cook for 5 more minutes.
- Turn the soup off the heat and stir in the spinach, ginger, parsley, and tahini.
- Blend the soup in batches until smooth and creamy.
- Top with the chickpeas, parsley, and a swirl of olive oil.