On this blog, I advocate for a one-two combo approach to solving hair loss.
The first punch is often the most neglected, but probably the most important: you have to give your body the building blocks it needs to make skin and hair tissues.
We should get these building blocks through food.
But our modern diets are poor, nutrition deprived, and don’t provide the amount of micronutrients, and nutrient-dense foods our bodies need to rebuild.
This is why it’s essential to include a biotin supplement and a collagen supplement – to make up for what we’re not getting in our food. These nutrients help our body heal from the inside out.
Treating our hair loss causes internally, with supplements and nutrition, goes hand-in-hand with the second punch: external treatments we apply directly to the scalp.
Elsewhere on this blog, I’ve reviewed and recommended many good external treatments including Rogaine, essential oils and herbs based treatments, and caffeine-based and argan-based shampoos.
For a permanent, comprehensive solution to hair loss: you will need to do both.
Now that you have some background, we’ll dive into more detail on what bone broth and hydrolyzed collagen are, and why they need to be on your radar.
What is Bone Broth?
For all the kitchen nerds, bone broth is basically stock. Beef stock, chicken stock – you get the point.
And what is stock? Stock is a soup base made from roasted and boiled bones that extracts all the nutrients and benefits from the bones, into a liquid form we can consume.
If you’ve ever eaten soup, you’ve had stock.
Why are people calling it bone broth? Bone broth is soup stock on steroids.
The bones (chicken, beef, or pork usually) are roasted first, to improve the flavor. But then, unlike normal stock, bone broths are simmered for a very long period of time (often for 8 hours, and sometimes more than 24 hours), with the purpose being not only to produce gelatin from collagen-rich joints but also to release a trace minerals from bones.
At the end of cooking, the bones themselves should crumble when pressed lightly between your fingers – proof that all the goodness has been cooked out of the bones, into the liquid.
If you’ve ever eaten had delicious Vietnamese beef noodle soup, Pho, that’s an example of just how good bone broth can get. It’s slow-cooked and has amazing depth of flavor.
Bone broth is trending hard these days, because people are realizing and experiencing the health benefits of collagen and gelatin, two things lacking in out fast food culture and lack of nose-to-tail eating. In NYC, land of food trends in action, there’s even a bone broth take-out joint!
Bone Broth Benefits
Bone broth is a premium source of gelatin, which supports skin health and digestive health, and helps heal leaky gut syndrome.
For some women, leaky gut syndrome may be the root cause of hair loss and inflammation in the body: hair growth recovery follows gut recovery.
Bone broths are high in other key proteins and minerals. Glycine supports the body’s detoxification process and is used during the synthesis of hemoglobin.
Glycine also supports digestion and the secretion of gastric acids. Proline, especially when combined with vitamin C, supports skin health.
What is the Bone Broth Diet?
People on the Bone Broth Diet drink a quart of this stuff a day, usually throughout the day. For those who have trouble drinking enough water, the bone broth diet is a positive side-effect – you WILL get your liquids with an extra quart to drink a day.
Bone broth enthusiasts generally make the broth at home, with bones they buy from the grocery store, either in a stock pot or a slow cooker.
Drink broth before or with every meal. Instead of bringing your thermos of coffee to work, you’ll bring a thermos of soup! Or two thermoses!
Bone Broth Cost: Inexpensive!
Bone broth is cheap to make.
Bones are about $2/lb. from most butchers, and you’ll need a few pounds for a recipe. You can also use the chicken carcass leftover from dinner, or the bones from your steak or lamb leg or pork shoulder. Try to get grass-fed animals, in all cases.
Vegetables are usually $1-$3 for onion, garlic, carrot celery – whatever you like in soup bases.
And the rest of the recipe is free: water and time.
You should use a crockpot or a big soup stock pot. Crockpots are honestly easiest – set it and forget it.
If you don’t have a slow cooker already, I recommend the more “analog” crockpots to the digital models, because they usually include stoneware, unlike the digital ones which generally have metal insides.
Stoneware conveys heat more evenly than metal. New, they’re usually around $20-$30, but you can also usually find crockpots on the cheap at thrift stores and yard sales (or your mom’s kitchen).
One of our reader, Kim, has shared her ingenious and extremely cost-effective method for making bone broth. Her family saves bones from various meat-based meals until there’s enough to make it in the crockpot, then stores the broth in Chinese soup containers and freezes the remainder.
But I Hate Cooking…
Hahah, ok I hear you. Plenty of people don’t have time to cook, or simply don’t want to fuss with bones. Don’t worried, you’re covered! There are several good prepared bone broths, made from grass-fed hormone-free animals, on the market.
My favorite is this genius concept – bone broth PODS for the Keurig-style coffeepot! They’re lightweight, and there for you at the office, when it’s time for your dose of bone broth!
What Does It Taste Like?
Bone broth tastes like soup. You can season it however you like, with whatever herbs and spices you prefer. It’s a blank slate: make it yours!
Are There Any Side Effects to Bone Broth?
For bone broth, you will have increased urination, since you’re consuming more liquids. And you’ll need to modify your salt intake in the rest of your diet, if you are salting the broth to make it more drinkable. But other than that, nope.
People have been eating soup and making complex stocks from all parts of the animal for thousands of years. It’s safe.
And make no bones about it (bah, sorry): the bone broth diet is NOT for vegetarians. Vegetable stock is delicious and healthy but doesn’t have the same benefits; the good stuff comes FROM the animal bones.
What is Hydrolyzed Collagen? – An Alternative to Bone Broth
Collagen makes up 1/3 the protein in our bodies. It’s a major structural protein giving strength and support to all of our body tissues, including skin, bone, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, muscles and blood vessels.
Hydrolyzed collagen is a powder supplement made directly from animal bones. The bones are crushed and processed and sterilized, and the collagen from the bones is broken down into small amino acids.
These amino acids “fill in the blanks” in our bodies, and go anywhere we need them in our tissue regeneration – think of them as a one-size-fits-all protein.
To name just a few benefits, hydrolyzed collagen supplements:
- Are absorbed quickly into the body,
- Help with tissue regeneration,
- Help with increased lean muscle mass stores,
- Improve hair and nail strength.
Hydrolyzed Collagen has existed in a slightly different (but related) form as gelatin, the basis for jello for over 100 years. It is safe, odorless, and tasteless. Unlike gelatin, hydrolyzed collagen will not thicken liquids when added.
Does it work?
A 2014 double-blind placebo-controlled study on women ages 35-55 found that hydrolyzed collagen peptides had a significant impact on skin elasticity over an 8 week period.
How Do I Take This Stuff?
The best and easiest way is to mix the powder with your beverage of choice. Most people just add it to their morning coffee routine, since it contributes no odor or flavor to the coffee.
I usually dissolve it in a glass of water – it’s that unnoticeable. It tastes like nothing.
My preferred hydrolyzed collagen supplements is made by Sports Research, and available on Amazon.com at the lowest price, $24.95 for about 6 weeks of daily servings. That picture of my actual container at home.
The animals used in this product are grass-fed and pasture raised.
This is really important – you want to be getting nutrition from well-fed animals who haven’t been suffering indoors, in captivity, their whole lives. Happy cows, chickens, and pigs, are well-fed and healthy cows, chickens, and pigs.
This particular product is made only from cow bones, which makes the product ok to use for those who abstain from pork, such as people following Kosher, Halal, or Hindu dietary traditions.
Are There Any Side Effects to Hydrolyzed Collagen?
When you look up the side effects, collagen supplements come up pretty squeaky clean. Some people may experience some bloating initially, others may have a nasty taste in their mouth.
Beyond that, hydrolyzed collagen is safe to use. Others may notice an improvement in osteoporosis or arthritis even when taking this supplement mainly for skin or hair purposes: that’s a pretty desirable side effect, if you ask me.
Vegetarians can get some of the same benefits from marine collagen powder, which is not made from land animals, but instead, from fish, shrimp, and krill.
People with a seafood allergy should refrain from any collagen supplements with seafood origins. Read your labels! The supplement that I recommend above is sourced from 100% beef bones, and safe for those with seafood allergies.
OK, so both Bone Broth and Hydrolyzed Collagen improve skin elasticity…but what about my HAIR?
This is simple.
Improved skin tone and elasticity means our scalps, which are made of skin and collagen, do a better job of holding onto our hair at the follicle. This means less hair loss.
The individual diameter of the hair gets thicker on collagen rich diets and supplements. Thicker individual hairs means a thicker overall head of hair. Win-win.
- Drink Bone Broth. Make it yourself at home in the crockpot, or buy it.
- Take a quality hydrolyzed collagen supplement every day.
You always hear experts discussing how health starts from the inside out. For those of us dealing with the frustrations of hair loss, which is very much visible and on display to the world, it can be a little maddening to have the patience for dietary solutions.
I can only speak to what I’ve observed in myself and others, but I think many people prefer external treatment methods (oils and potions and serums, oh my!), on the assumption that they work faster than supplements or dietary solutions.
However, I know that I didn’t start seeing real improvement until after I started supplementing and including daily collagen.
Not all hair loss patterns are the same, and the causes couldn’t be more varied, especially for us women. Regardless, vitamin and mineral and element supplements have a definite, positive role in dealing with hair loss, even if the answer is by no means one-size-fits-all.