Reversing Gray Hair?

For months I have hesitated to post about this topic, because it is something I don’t understand. In late 2008, I began to get a noticeable amount of gray hair. Not just on the sideburns, but throughout my hair. I wasn’t alarmed. I fully expected it. I was at that age where all my friends were getting gray hair. Personally, I could care less if and when I get gray hair. I’m just fortunate to have a thick full head of hair, which many men don’t have at my age.

Then something happened. My diet changed. I lower my carbs – mostly by eliminating grains. I also stopped cooking with highly inflammatory vegetable oils. I was too busy watching my abs come in to see that the gray hair was slowly going away. Today, I have noticeably less gray hair than I did in 2008. And until this afternoon I didn’t have a clue why.

Jimmy Moore just posted Dr. Luan Pho: Gray Hair Isnt A Sign Of Old Age But A High-Carb, Low-Protein Diet. In this guest blog post Dr. Pho states:

Regarding gray hairs, this happens when your body is unable to synthesize an adequate amount of melanin. Melanin is the pigmentation that gives your hair its natural color. In order to make melanin, your body needs a specific non-essential but yet conditional amino acid called tyrosine. Your body also needs tyrosine in order to make dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, coenzyme Q10, and thyroid hormones. The availability of the needed amount of tyrosine may become deficient due to an incomplete diet low in protein.

As you probably already know, amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins. There are nine essential and eleven non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are synthesized into non-essential amino acids. This fact highlights the delicate balance as to how dietary protein intake acts on the supply of both the essential and non-essential amino acids. Therefore, consuming an adequate amount of protein and supplementation with tyrosine may be the answer to keeping your natural hair color longer.

Tyrosine, where I have heard that before?

A year and half ago after I finished reading the book Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas, I reached out to the author with a question on how I could start a coffee detox protocol. She suggested that I take the supplement L-Tyrosine on an empty stomach to curb my craving for the stimulate effect. And I did. These days I consume almost 30% less caffeine than I did back in 2010.

Did my coffee detox experiment trigger a side effect of reversing gray hair? Or was a result of embracing a more Paleo diet? Or something else? Beats me. I’ll be sure to tune into the podcast interview with Dr. Pho on April 4th.

L-tyrosine

L-Tyrosine

UPDATE (September 2013): Reversing Gray Hair? Part 2

Comments

  1. Steve says

    I noticed a similar effect on the whiskers of my cheeks. My beard was turning greyish white, and about the same time I changed my diet to about 90% Meat – Something I continued with for 11 months. I usually shave my beard so it took a while for me to notice the that the grey was going. I must have left the beard to grow for a week or so, because I distinctly remember my surprise at noticing the grey had gone. Not completely, but very noticably! These days I only sport grey on my chin. I wonder though, Melanin is the pigment in the skin. If you can’t produce enough due to lack of Tyrosin in the diet, wouldn’t that make you more susceptible to skin damage/cancer?

  2. says

    @Steve – Looks like you are correct.
    http://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Tyrosine#Deficiency_Symptoms
    “predisposition to skin cancer due to a lack of melanin”

    Interesting about your beard. Another thing I didn’t mention above is how some people believe copper supplementation helps. The #1 food for copper is beef liver. That is a food I now eat weekly, but never consumed it back in 2008. The plot thickens.

  3. says

    The first thing that comes to mind when I read this is all those slender, otherwise healthy looking vegetarian/vegans who are always rocking a full head of grey hair. I’m thinking yoga instructors and those yuppies who spend hours at the salad bar and supplement section in Whole Foods. Their slim and health conscious-but ALL grey. A lot of the time their hair seems to be frizzy, too.

    Another ‘point’ for the meat eating camp! :)

    I’ve never tried beef liver, how do you prepare it??

  4. Roberta says

    I can’t say I’ve noticed much difference in grey hair, but then it’s usually covered with toxic dye.

    Any thoughts on beef vs chicken liver (both from farmer’s market pasture raised animals).

  5. says

    @Roberta – Everything I’ve read suggests that beef liver is nutritionally superior to chicken liver.

  6. Roberta says

    Thanks, Beef liver scares me, but maybe if I hide it in pate with lots of bacon I’ll survive.

  7. says

    @Roberta – It took a few times before I got used to and eventually enjoying beef liver. The first time I had beef liver since childhood it had almost a drug like effect. The next day I went to the gym and had tons of strength.

  8. thomas says

    Please write post if you come across any credible supplementation to regrow hair. I’ve tried everything from rogaine to horse shampoo; nothing works.

  9. shane says

    my woo meter is hitting red for this post.

    there is so much money behind hair growth/loss. it is the golden goose. reversing gray hair has twice the market.

    my anecdotal evidence has shown that gray hair forms with age. oh and genetics also plays a part.

    my diet is fine, i eat a ton of liver, and i’m getting grayer by the day.

  10. says

    Shane,
    Woo meter? MAS is just sharing his experience noticing he has less grey hair now than a couple of years ago.
    Take what you want from it, but I’m glad people write about their thoughts and tinkerings with this kind of lifestyle.

  11. says

    @Shane and @Aaron –

    My thoughts are that each individual has 2 “gray dates”. The earliest and latest dates that person could go gray. My guess is the doctor can’t reverse gray once that person is past the latest date, but he probably has techniques for delaying the earliest date. That difference may be years or a decade. I doubt it is more than that. Still a cool thought though.

  12. shawn says

    I have recently found that the best way to prep liver is to marinate it in lemon juice and water for 4 to 6 hours. It comes out so tender!

    I’ve been paleo for about a year with great results but still have the gray hair slowly coming in. Maybe I will try some supplementation.

  13. says

    @Shawn – Thanks for the liver idea. I’m heading to the Farmers Market tomorrow to buy some more!

  14. garymar says

    I just had a thin piece of liver this morning. Pan fried in ghee for 2 minutes until only the middle third was still red, smothered in fried onions and lotus root, little bit of butter on top and of course some fresh kimchi on the side. Also salty miso soup to top it off.

    The strong flavors of liver require a strong supporting cast!

  15. Glenn Whitney says

    Good post – thanks!
    I’m 47 and have had about the same amount of grey for the past 15 years – about 5 to 10% of my hair is grey.

    The weird thing is that the amount of grey fluctuates. What I think happens is some grey hair falls out and is replaced by my original mid brown hair color. I can accelerate this by vigorous brushing with a high-quality metal and rubber hair brush.

    Over the past 2-3 years of 90% pure paleo, I’ve even noticed new hair growing in new places on my forehead.

    BTW – There is “male pattern baldness” on both sides of my family…

    I do eat *a lot* of animal protein (mostly meat and offal) plus sporadic doses of branched chain amino acids and also broad spectrum amino acids.

    It’s been fun to watch my younger colleagues in their early 30s catch up to me with their incipient grey hair…

  16. says

    @Glenn – I too have added BCAA in the past year. Maybe it too has a role? Although my money is on the tyrosine, offal and consuming a low inflammatory diet.

    Perfect Health Diet linked to this story about young women today going gray in their 20s. The story speculates that oxidative and emotional stress might be the reason. Also said in the article:

    ‘Similarly, some studies in humans have shown that certain B vitamins taken in large doses can begin to reverse the process of greying.’

    What food is a great source of B Vitamins? Beef liver.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1368239/Why-todays-women-going-grey-25.html

    http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/beef-products/3469/2

  17. says

    @Chuck – Yes, I started back up a few months ago as a test to see if it improved mood. It actually does help a little.

  18. Joey says

    The grey is “caused” by bleaching from hydrogen peroxide, naturally produced in the follicle. The enzyme catalase neutralizes the hydrogen peroxide, until we run out, which occurs naturally with ageing (and perhaps environmental stress, etc)

    So if you can figure out how to increase your catalase levels, then cha-ching!

    http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/03/02/gray-hair.html

  19. says

    @Alex – 500mg on an empty stomach in the AM. I may need to increase that depending upon what we learn on the upcoming podcast.

    Even if it does nothing for hair, it does improve mood. I tend to find 99% of supplements useless. This one is an exception.

  20. says

    @Chris – Good to know. I recently had some Icelandic sheep liver. It tastes better than beef liver – even raw.

  21. Michelle Maani says

    I am a vegetarian, and I eat plenty of carbs. My hair was going very gray until this summer, when it started gradually getting darker. No change in diet. So what happened? I have an auto-immune disease that seems to have gone into remission. I always take lots of supplements and eat lots of greens. No meat, no low-carb. I don’t think it has to do with carbs as much as the type of carbs. Processed carbs like most Americans eat are really bad for you. So is meat, it’s really hard on the kidneys. I wouldn’t touch liver with a ten-foot pole, it’s the part of an animal’s body that filters out toxins…and they feed most of our cows trash nowadays, like leftover candy and dead animal parts, stuff cows shouldn’t eat. Plus cows are so stressed that they are flooded with stress hormones when they are killed. Not good for you either.

  22. says

    @Michelle – Toxins are stored in fat, not in the liver. I source my liver only from 100% grass pastured animals. As for the gray hair, I really don’t know. After listening to the Dr. I quoted above in the podcast, I sort of lost faith that he knew what he was talking about.

  23. Vivian says

    Interesting that I came upon this blog. I actually have become vegan and have been aiming for 100% raw foods, I’m not there yet, dinner usually has some cooked vegan foods.

    What I find interesting is that my grey hair is going away and coming back as my normal deep dark brown color.

  24. Daniel says

    Tyrosine is the key element in reversing gray hair. An accidental finding in imatinib receivers proved this. Imatinib is an anticancer drug, working through tyrosine kinase inhibiting. They noticed that patients on this drug regained their hair color after 6-7 months. Some of these patients were over 60! So I think that increasing tyrosine itself may also have the similar effect. By the way, spinach is a good source of tyrosine for vegs and those who dislike animal-drived proteins.
    Cheers!

  25. says

    @Daniel – Thanks for sharing. I started to suspect it was copper, so I stopped taking L-Tyrosine and took copper daily. The result was the gray slowly started returning. So starting yesterday, I resumed L-Tyrosine. We will see.

  26. Daniel says

    @MAS. Thanks for your personal experience. Keep us updated. I’m working professionally on the hair health (gray hair, androgenic alopecia), trying to find a cure. Don’t forget using selenium and Zn supplements, either.
    Regards

  27. Pete says

    There are 4 key ingredients in reversing grey hair.
    -Tyrosine the precursor to the pigment melanin . higher levels of hydrogen peroxide that occur as a result of lower levels of catalase result in lower levels of tyrosine as well inhibiting its ability to produce melanin. The reactivity of the catalase is improved by the presence of tyrrosine which can assist in the oxidation of the Fe(III) to Fe(IV).
    *Copper helps produce melanin and Tyrosinase is a copper-containing enzyme present in plant and animal tissues that catalyzes the production of melanin and other pigments from tyrosine by oxidation
    *PABA is typically known as the hair color vitamin. It has been used to treat Vitiligo, a condition where patches of skin lose color.
    *Catalase , which breaks down the hydrogen peroxide which cause grey hair. When eating foods that contain catalase, your body reduces it to its component amino acids before absorbing them, that is why catalase pills do not work efficiently. People tend to put onion juice which contain catalase on their scalp which is also absorbed by the skin. Mollasses also has shown some results as it contains both PABA and copper amongst others.

  28. Graham says

    Guys, the only reason I am posting here is because I came across you all in a google search. I have noticed that my grey hair around the temples is reversing and becoming brown again. The major change to my lifestyle has been a switch to a vegan diet. I was just googling to see if there is any link at all………

  29. Bill says

    I, like Graham, noticed that the hair on the top of my head is getting darker. My hair was actually quite white but it is returning to it’s natural color. I am 66 years old and became a vegan with out reined oil two years ago. Besides losing 45 pounds in 2 years, I have also noticed other effects, especially to my skin. I have lost many moles that my doctor told me were precursors to skin cancer. I have also been able to get off two blood pressure meds I was on and need no statin drugs because I eat none and my cholesterol tests normal now. I ate lots of meat, eggs and cheese before becoming a vegan and seemed to be losing my health, which, happily I have now regained. This could all be a coincidence but it does seem to be related to giving up animal protein and fat. I am certainly not complaining, just puzzled.

  30. Caroline says

    Thank you for a really interesting post, I was doing some research on grey hair after reading about hydrogen peroxide and grey had and taking a closer look at my own hair it has turned very grey sooner then what I would have expected, especially seeing my mothers hair not turning fray till about 50!

    have a question/comment, so I am definitely the thin not much meat eating, yoga practising type mentioned above but my question/comment is apart form that, I have been using a whole lot of teeth whitening products containing a lot of hydrogen peroxide. I am just pondering if this has affected my hair in terms of greying and if anyone else has any idea about it?

    I am definitely going to try the L-Tyrosine and Copper and al to of Foie Gras and liver pate! :)

    Thanks again for a grate post!

  31. says

    I am 62 and was almost totally gray. i had shifted to a heavy vegetable and some chicken diet. Lost 20 pounds, but the hair continued gray- no worries-I looked great! Then I started lemon and hot water instead of coffee in the morning and coconut oil (unrefined virgin) twice a day.Now I am a calico cat with brown hair coming back in like crazy. Really strange and a shock to some. Is this normal?

  32. says

    @Steve – I have read a few places that applying lemon juice to the hair can delay or reverse gray. But I didn’t know consuming it could have an effect.

  33. Michelle says

    I found this conversation using google and wanted to share in the hopes it helps someone.
    I have found that Virgin coconut oil which you can cook with or just take a little raw (acquired taste) in association with castor oil ( apply to any lymph node, ie; inner elbows ) has caused my hair to revert back ( mainly) to it’s natural colour and has also sprouted so much new (baby soft ) hair to start growing in places it had long since disappeared from.
    My 27 year old son (unfortunately having his fathers reseeding hairline ) has started the same regime and hey presto his hair is also coming back.
    A table spoon of coconut oil a day. A dab of castor oil on two lymph nodes a day.

  34. john eckles says

    Dear Danny Roddy l am going gray howdo l reversing the gray do l take L-Tyrosine pills the strongest in the pills what should l do for the best l am bald too what can l do to bring back all my hair back as l want it my dark brown hair back what pills do l take your book hair like a fox can you send it to me free if possible what can l do to reversing the balds please tell me l must know thankyou .

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  1. […] year and half ago I posted on the idea that the amino acid L-Tyrosine might be able to reverse or delay gray hair. L-Tyrosine is used to make melanin, which gives your hair its natural […]

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