Bring Up Hair – What you have to know about your mane

I have them, and probably you do too. Anyhow, always knowing what to do with them day in, day out, can be a hassle. They certainly seem to have a mind of their own. We spend so much time with them, and yet we still can’t figure out most of their secrets. And yes! You probably guessed it by the title, I’m talking about hair. I don’t even know what’s up with my own hair. I can even go as far as saying that it grew a totally different personality over the last few years. Without going through any artificial treatment that may affect its structure, it went from being ultra-straight to being wavy. I find this particularly weird. What do you think? The change was very subtle and as previously stated happened gradually over the last few years. I didn’t give much thought to it. It’s only when my family asked me what I’ve done with my hair that I was forced to notice that it really did change. No apparent clue as to why, and no! I don’t braid it; it simply happens on its own.

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This got me interested in the science behind hair. What makes them? Is it alive? Why the different colours? Why does it constantly fall, and is it normal? I had more questions, but you get my point. Lucky me, I didn’t have to dig very deep to find the answers. Hair is such a popular theme on the internet, which is probably driven by the continuous pursuit for a silky mane. Still a symbol of beauty, many people will go the extra mile to make it as fantastic as possible, spending a good portion of their budget on hair products or visits to hair stylists. Now before moving on to the nitty-gritty bits, I just want to mention that all hair is different and thus they hold their very specific secret. There is not going to be any holy grail recipe here. To decipher the mystery of your own hair might take a lifetime, but if you are willing to try and experiment with different approaches you are almost certain to figure out your very own way to discipline those unruly locks.

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Hair is made up of many parts, but I won’t introduce them all to keep it short. So, all hair, and it doesn’t matter the structure, are made up of the same fundamental element, namely keratin. It may sound familiar, maybe you’ve heard that nails are also made up of keratin, maybe you’ve never heard of such things before and that’s also fine. Keratin is a strong and fibrous protein, which makes up the shaft of the hair, the visible part, the one that always annoyingly gets in your mouth or your eyes. What can precisely account for its strength, or resistance, are the bonds between the fibres. The bonds are the same as links. In this case, the links involve two sulphur, which brings us the term disulphide bonds. The way keratin proteins link together is one, even if lesser, component responsible for hair structure. The protein has the tendency to gather in the curve of curly hair thus enhancing the curls. Yet, what really makes for the hair structure is our hair follicle and its tunnel.

The follicle is commonly referred to as the root of our hair, but they are in reality two things entirely. The follicle is found deeper in your hair scalp than the root. The root is part of the shaft. The shape and size of the follicle are the main factor deciding on the final structure of the hair. Straight hair has a circular follicle whereas curlier hair is flatter. As for the size of your follicle, it determines if you have a thick or thin mane. The larger the follicle the thicker your collective hair appears. The follicle is also what nourishes your roots and once your hair makes it out of your scalp, it dies. Hence, we can say that the visible part of the shaft is dead or more accurately made of dead cells. So, it really doesn’t matter what you do with it, even if you try to nourish the Hella of it, it will never come back to life. 

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This brings me back to my hair. It was straight but now is wavy, which means that the shape of my follicles has changed from a round shape to a slightly more elliptic shape. I found few possible triggers for such events. One possibility that was brought up was chemotherapy. I had to dismiss this possibility for me considering I never had such treatment. The other possibility is broader, hormonal changes. A large variety of hormones might be linked to hair changes. When I consider the timing that I first could notice the changes, I doubt that puberty had anything to do with it. As for other big hormonal changes, like pregnancy or menopause, I have not gone through these yet. Hormonal changes could also be linked to some illnesses, but I prefer not letting myself think down that road. As far as I know, I am healthy. It’s probably still worth mentioning that change next time I get to see my family physician. Other than now being on the wavier side, my hair is what I would call thin. It certainly is not as thin as you might see in the worst examples, but it is still not that gorgeously full mane you can see on the supermodels in hair ads.

As for another descriptive for my hair, I would say it is dry and brittle. I barely produce any oil, this grants me the ability to go days before having to wash them. Along with dry hair are very frequent flyaways, dry scalp and dandruff. The latter is the most unpleasant part. Those tiny white dead skin flakes are enough to ruin a perfect look. This problem is newer than all the other changes, I must say. Usually, I only have dandruff during winter, but in the last year, it has been the most loyal and unwanted companion. It really doesn’t matter what I do. I tried using dandruff treatment shampoo and other home-made concoction, but nothing worked. As a last attempt, I tried to get rid of the dandruff by means of scalps exfoliation and it did absolutely nothing. So, I am now at a decisive point where I chose to surrender and accept them as part of me.

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I may have already given up on the dandruff’s situation, but I didn’t give up yet on the flyaway’s situation. I learnt that hydration truly helped manage those bad boys. We may not be able to feed them once they’re dead, but we are still able to keep them well hydrated. This is due to the nature of keratin, which, as well as the disulphide bonds, has hydrogen bonds. That bond is definitely weaker, but as the saying goes: “We’re stronger together” and those bonds make no exception to this rule. They are much more prevalent than the previously mentioned bonds which make for it one of the principal sources of hair strength. It is for this exact reason that hair is weaker when wet. Since there is hydrogen in water, the hydrogen competes with the already-formed hydrogen bonds and almost instantly breaks them upon slight injury. That is the reason why you really shouldn’t brush your hair when it’s wet. 

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Another last thing you must definitely consider doing for your hair is check at what you eat. As another saying goes: “You are what you eat” and this couldn’t be truer for your hair. Eating too much junk food can prevent them from accessing sufficient and required levels of certain nutrients which will directly and negatively reflect on the appearance and state of your hair. If you want your hair to look as healthy as possible, make sure to ingest enough proteins and vitamins. You can get them from fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts and more. 

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Are you worried that you are losing too much hair? You probably aren’t. Your hair maturation is produced in three distinct phases. First, there is the anagen phase when your hair grows. It will do as such for a time that can reach up to 7 years, but more often would last only 3–5 years for most people. Secondly, your hair enters the catagen phase, which is an intermediary step where your hair stops growing. This phase only lasts around 10 days. At last, there is the telogen phase when your hair falls out. After this cycle is completed, the follicle (or your hair bulb) will stay inactive for up to 3 months and then will begin the anagen phase again. Each hair cycle is not synced with one another, which prevents your hair from falling out all at the same time. On average we lose 80 hairs a day.

PS: Hair colour like skin colour is induced by a pigment called melanin, the more melanin the darker your hair will be.

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

Bring Up Intermittent Fasting – What should my eating schedule look like

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Although I was, until most recently, studying the physiology of pain (see Bring Up Pain for more about this topic), it definitely wasn’t the only topic I was interested in. One topic in particular got my attention in the last couple years, Intermittent Fasting or IF. Its many mentions in multiple media platforms was enough to ignite a spark of curiosity, but it was certainly not sufficient enough to have me follow this trend blindfolded. However,  a careful study of the science and its effects from an extensive literature review got me entirely convinced of its benefits. I hate to be a sheep and follow the newest fad, but I have to say that this one might be totally worth trying out.

Being overweight never really felt like a terribly wrong physical state to be in. I like my body and I like that it has led me to have a different perspective on myself. In the last article (Bring Up The Beginning) I’ve mentioned that I was bullied, mainly because I was a full blown nerd, but another reason was my very thin figure. Some people were spreading rumors that I was anorexic. From bad to worst, my family doctor was insisting that I should gain some mass since I was below my intended BMI. However, it was really difficult for me to gain mass. I ate so much, and no, I didn’t purge. Though, I was very athletic, and it was, with hindsight, probably why I could remain so slim.

At the end of high school, I began receiving another type of attention from guys. They started flirting with me. It took me a couple of years to figure out that the only thing they were interested in was my appearance. This realization led me to despise myself, and I then really thought that no one really cared about me. This was definitely the darkest time of my life. Finally, my objective to gain weight finally saw some success and simultaneously I started to date this incredible man that despite my emotionally unstable predisposition was patient and caring. Unconsciously, I started to link gain weight to my potential to be loved and cared for.

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We have to face it. Life is not that easy. If only taking weight would be the solution to finding love then everyone would be aiming for it, I am right? Additionally, with knowledge came the realization that being overweight can lead to several health problems. Turns out, even though I don’t have a negative view of my appearance, I came to accept that I need to redefine what acceptable is. I can see that I will never be that very slim beanpole that I was in high school, ouffs! But I just can’t be ok with being 25 kg over my intended BMI. I understand that most professionals would suggest undertaking moderate physical activities, but it was simply impossible for me and trust me, I’ve tried. I am not saying that I’m abandoning the idea of physical activities forever. For now, I have limitations that make those very difficult to perform while aiming for weight loss. Meanwhile I have to say that I’ve tried outdoor running, at home workout and indoor yoga, none of them seemed suited for me, at least for now. 

Then one day I fell upon an online post claiming intermittent fasting as a healthier alternative for weight loss than stricter dieting methods. The following research I did surprised me. Not only is there scientific evidence claiming that IF can lead to weight loss, at least temporarily, but there are also plenty of other benefits that accompany the adoption of IF. Contrary to many promoted weight loss methods, IF is more of a lifestyle rather than a specific diet change. First, it doesn’t require you to add or suppress certain food. Second, it doesn’t ask you to keep track of your calorie consumption, and at last, you are in control of when you want to stop it or not. The only major difference with If compared to the usual eating habit is the timing of your feeding. Depending on the IF style you choose, you may have more or less freedom, but that decision is up to you.

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I am not claiming here that fasting a revolutionary novelty, but it has been studied very little over the years. Although, recently, there has been a great increase of fasting studies, that may probably have been caused by the reported advantages it could bring to people who have been fasting for cultural or religious reasons. Now, people are intrigued by the fasting phenomena and thus there was the development of a particular type of IF, which got named Time-Restricted Feeding. It is based on a schedule that dictates feeding period over 24-hour days. The most popular TRF are 14:10, 16:8, and 18:6. Those ratios represent how many hours you need to fast next to how many hours you can feed. Thus 14:10 is the most lenient and 18:6 the most stringent of the options mentioned above. The fasting windows might seem harsh, but while fasting requires you not to eat anything, you may still drink as much water, tea, or coffee as you’d like, giving the absence of any sugar or milk addition. There are also many other variations of IF, but it won’t be mentioned here. I personally prefer the 18:6 TRF since it was the technique that created for me the most benefits and the least negative side effects. 

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So, as I’ve mentioned, feeding is not restricted. You can eat as much or as little as you normally do. Yet, you will probably find yourself eating less overall, since you have a shorter eating window. Also, the hunger pangs that often lead to excessive eating and craving may disappear and get you to develop a more mindful eating. The first time I adhered to IF, it took me four days to notice the complete vanishing of hunger pangs. For you, it may take less or more time, but the idea is to stick with it and see where the process will lead you. Tips: Drinking more water really helps you manage your hunger pangs in the first few days. I usually kept with the program for a week before switching it up to allow me to better evaluate where the lacks where, if any.   

As for weight loss, I experienced a loss of 15kg in three months, but I can’t assure you that your loss will be the same, as everyone’s experience will be different. Still, don’t give up if you don’t see the number on your scale dropping. It could simply mean that it could take longer to see any difference. The differences that you will be able to notice are not only pertaining to your weight, but could also benefit your energy level, your concentration, your focus and reduce inflammation. On a more subtle view, it may also have protective effects against many illnesses, like diabetes, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, heart diseases, and more. It may additionally help you fight ageing.  So even though you might not be interested in losing weight, you could still benefit greatly from adopting an IF approach. 

From the negative side effect perspective, IF could potentially lead to malnutrition, the development of eating disorders or mood changes. Those side effects are triggered by either an over-management of your feeding habits by excessively restricting your eating and/or by not listening for what your body really needs. Malnutrition can be avoided by making sure you eat enough vitamins and nutrients from the different food groups. If you have a very negative self-image triggered by your weight, please abstain from adopting IF, and please I strongly recommend you to ask help from a psychologist or a physician before attempting any feeding habit modifications. If your mood becomes the issue, like becoming irritable, angry, etc., those are normally indicative that you are not consuming as much calorie as you should and I would definitely encourage you to either change your intermittent fasting to a more lenient variation, increase your meal size and/or add snacks between your meals. Warning, please never ever fast intentionally for a period of more than 25 hours or more than 18 hours for consecutives days as it may lead to severe health issues. 

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.