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Eat Right: Look Good
How good looks begin with good nutrition
Dr. Wright’s interview for the National Hair Journal

If somebody asked you what you do, it’s likely you would reply, “I’m in the hair replacement and hair restoration business.” But that isn’t the correct answer. That may be your craft or profession, but the service you provide is really “personal enhancement.” Or, putting it another way, making people look better. Our clients and patients mostly come to us when they detect the signs of aging and no longer have the thick and lustrous hair of childhood. But restoring or replacing thinning hair is only part of the solution. There are other things that can be done to restore personal vitality and complement your hair additional services. The National Hair Journal asked Dr. Wright, an international authority on nutritional therapy, to share his medical insights with our readers. As you will discover from this interview, hair management is as much about diet and lifestyle as it is fashion and hair styling.

NHJ: We read everyday about the aging population, and the statistics are indeed dramatic. So today, we’d like to talk about the older client, or the client who wants to protect and preserve their youthful appearance. What steps can they take today to stay younger looking?

Dr. Wright: You are probably expecting me to start with styling and cosmetics, but there are a number of other more fundamental things to think about. Diet is definitely one of them. Protecting the skin against photo-oxidation with specific nutrients is another. Then there are what are sometimes called “nutraceuticals,” which simply means something you eat or drink that delivers larger quantities of essential nutrients than you would find in a normal diet. Then there are “botanicals,” which are self-explanatory, and developing rapidly in the last two or three decades, the use of bioidentical hormones, used internally and externally. All of these are important categories that can provide real benefits.

NHJ: You started with diet. How important is diet in maintaining your appearance?

Dr. W: Let’s go to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. An article entitled, “Skin Wrinkling Can Food Make a Difference?” tells us that skin wrinkles significantly faster not only if we smoke tobacco, which I think everyone knows by now, but also from eating sugar, including sugar sweetened fruit, drinking soft drinks, eating pastries and cakes and from eating potatoes. If your readers want an exact citation, it was published in 2001, volume 20, number one, pages 71 through 80. You should also minimize consumption of processed meats and, of all things, milk. Now the things that were associated with significantly slower skin wrinkling, included eggs, beans, spinach, eggplant, asparagus, celery, nuts, olives, cherries, melons, prunes, apples, pears, yogurt… but not milk. Tea and pure water are fine. So, right there, you have a checklist to keep your skin looking younger.

NHJ: What about the other regimens you alluded to earlier?

Dr. W: There are certainly other things that can be very effective. Let me give you a simple example. There is a plant that has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic* medicine. It is called “Centella Asiatica.” Recent research has found that centella asiatica helps to stimulate the cells that make collagen, called fibroblasts. Centella asiatica is not something that you’d find in your everyday diet unless you live in Southeast Asia. Here in North America, it’s found in capsules. There are several companies that make it. I’ve been in practice since 1973 and I’ve noticed that people who have used it for 20 years or more have much less thinning of the skin on the backs of their hands, where we would normally expect to see these signs of aging. Separate animal experiments with skin biopsies have confirmed these results beyond a doubt. So, in addition to watching your diet, there are a number of supplemental items that can help. I mention centella as one example. We don’t have time to go through all the others, but centella is widely available and it is inexpensive.

NHJ: Do you see supplements and lifestyle changes entering the beauty world?

Dr. W: It’s already happening. I’m not saying that they’ve penetrated very far, but they definitely are beginning to enter the beauty world and with good reason. If we use the tools that nature gave us, not only can they help us, they will very rarely harm us.

NHJ: Utilizing light energy to heal and to promote good health could be described as a natural therapy, as could the use of electrical energy to promote muscle tone and cellular activity. How do you feel about these tools?

Dr. W: Aren’t these wonderful developments! Our bodies run off electricity. If we use natural frequencies and natural microcurrent energies, those that are useful and gentle to the body, we can make a lot of progress.

NHJ: Hair is increasingly in the news because the follicle has been shown to have progenitor cells that can be developed into all kinds of body tissue and organs. Hair also contains a blueprint or history in terms of diet and even stress. We recently read your article entitled, “Thinning Hair and Chipped Nails, the Serious Health Threat Lurking Behind These Cosmetic Conditions.” What is the “threat” lurking behind thinning hair?

Dr. W: That article had to do with a condition I see frequently among premenopausal women. They tell me, “Look, my hair is thinning, my ponytail is a lot thinner than it was,” or, “My nails chip, crack and peel.” Of course, there are many reasons a woman can experience these problems, but often they can be tracked back to a stomach condition; a failure of the stomach to produce sufficient hydrochloric acid and pepsin. These are the principle digestive secretions food needs after we chew it up. Hydrochloric acid triggers the pepsin enzyme, which is a protein-digesting enzyme, and the combination digests the proteins into its individual immunitions and pairs and triplets of immunitions called di and tri peptides and sometimes larger peptides. In order to grow hair and maintain fingernails, we’ve got to be getting an adequate quantity of digestive protein. Nails and hair are predominantly protein, which means they’re made up of amino acids and peptides. If we don’t get enough of those digestives in the stomach, we’re not going to create enough protein and our bodies, like army quartermasters, will send the supplies where they’re most needed. We can live a long time without our hair and nails, so those areas get shorted in order that the rest of the body can stay healthy.

NHJ: So once again, diet and nutrition are playing a pivotal role in hair and skin health.

Dr. W: That’s right. Many women, who are suffering from excessive hair loss or have nails in poor condition prior to menopause, can blame it on their digestion. Now there are many reasons their stomach is not doing its job effectively, from viral infections to autoimmune conditions and allergies. Drinking too much alcohol can do it too. But the big point is this; if this is happening to you, find a doctor who understands the role of nutrition and digestion. Unfortunately, the problem of inadequate stomach function has been largely overlooked by conventional medicine since the early 1900’s, but if you look in medical textbooks from the 19th Century and the early 20th Century, you’ll find there are routine prescriptions for the use of hydrochloric acid and, later on, hydrochloric acid with pepsin for a variety of conditions. Those prescriptions dried up and people stopped diagnosing the condition when high-profit antacids and acid blocking medications came onto the market.

NHJ: More people are losing their hair than ever before. Is this lifestyle related?

Dr. W: In many ways it is. It’s a combination of poor diet and the toxic chemicals that have been getting into the food supply, the air, water and everywhere else. Stress, is also a big contributor.

NHJ: Are you optimistic about the future or is this an irreversible trend?

Dr. W: I’m quite optimistic. Who would have thought that we would see the day when Wal-Mart had an organic food section? Or walk into nearly any supermarket and find a gluten-free section? Today you see labels emblazoned with “GMO free” or “Genetically-Modified Organisms Free.” Look at the market for organic food. Organic farming is booming. The sales of vitamins and minerals are climbing. So yes, I’m optimistic for the future.

NHJ: If I were to give you one strand of hair from a patient, what could a scientific analysis tell you?

Dr. W: One of the most common tests can analyze the hair for mineral content. This will identify the good minerals that are essential to life as well as toxic substances such as lead. There are also labs that will analyze the hair for drugs or dangerous chemicals and pollutants.

NHJ: What should cosmetologists know about anti-aging treatments and therapies?

Dr. W: I haven’t kept up with the education of stylists, but I am sure they have not been made aware of the importance of lifestyle and diet. They certainly have not been educated in toxicology and yet these things play a huge part in how those clients look today and how they will look in the future.

NHJ: Let’s role play. I am a typical client. My skin looks tired and my hair is thinning. I know there are things beauty professionals can do to disguise the fact that I don’t look the way I want to, but I know could be doing more myself. Do I go and talk with a dermatologist, get more sleep or go buy a bunch of vitamin supplements?

Dr. W: I would start with a nutritionist who is naturally oriented. In other words, someone who works with whole foods and organic foods. Notice that I didn’t say a “dietician.” Unfortunately, many dieticians are trained to feed us things that I would not feed my children. After nutritionists, we have the naturopathic profession. To become certified in naturopathy requires four years of schooling, five in some states. It is as rigorous as medical school and naturopathy students often score higher on the medical college entrance examinations than applicants to orthodox medical schools. Naturopathy is widely available on the West Coast and is a licensed profession in 17 states. We’re seeing more, and more and more licensures among established MDs. These doctors want to work with diet, exercise, natural energies, and natural substances things that do not use molecules that don’t belong in the human system. You can find a naturopath by going to naturopathic.org.

NHJ: We’ve talked a lot about nutrition, but what about lifestyle?

Dr. W: I’d like to discuss the benefits and risks of exposure to the sun. First, a little background. It’s clear that mankind was created and evolved in sunny climates. That’s what the early fossils tell us. The skeletons go back hundreds and thousands of years. These people did not live underground; they lived outdoors in the sunshine. Now, if the sun was really that bad for us, humanity should never have made it to where we are now. But here we are and we’re doing fine. So why are some people claiming that sun exposure is harmful? The answer may be found in an article in Nutrition Review that pointed out that it’s actually not the sun that’s the problem, it’s the diet. The author, a PhD from Israel, pointed to the Greek population and showed that the rate of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, was dramatically different between people of the same genetic composition who happened to be living in different locations. In Greece, the incidence of melanoma was 2.8 per 100,000 people, but it rose to 36 per 100,000 among people of the exact same genetic makeup (Greeks) living in Australia. What was going on? It’s just as sunny in Greece as Australia, but the difference in skin cancer was dramatic. The author then pointed to what’s called the ‘Mediterranean diet” and listed the things found in abundance in a Mediterranean diet that are not found in so called “Western” diets. In fact, not only did she list them, she then proceeded to give scientific references to each and every one of the nutrients involved and explained how they contributed to the protection of the skin against damage from ultraviolet radiation.
It was a long list, but let me take just one example, the red pigment found in tomatoes. It’s called lycopene. In one scientific experiment, animals were either fed lycopene or not fed lycopene and then subjected to intense ultraviolet radiation. The research showed that lycopene animals could go 80 percent longer before their skin started to turn red and burn compared with the animals that had not been fed lycopene! So what does this mean for us? Well, obviously we would all benefit from converting to a Mediterranean diet, but how many people are really prepared to make this lifestyle change? Or we could find another way to supplement our diets to include the beneficial nutrients that work so well for the Greeks. So I tried to find one supplement that would do it all, and you know what? I couldn’t find one. So I contacted a high-end manufacturer and had one put together. It’s been on the market only for about a year and a half, but last summer people were telling me that, if they took it for a month or so prior to exposure to more sun than we usually get in the Seattle area which probably means they went to Mexico or Hawaii they could stay out in the sun a whole lot longer before they started to turn red. Now I’m not saying that we should all spend 12 hours a day in intense sunlight, but I am saying is it’s natural for humans to be on the planet. It’s natural for the sun to be in the sky, and it is not natural for everyone to be getting skin cancer. What we need to do is look at what we’re eating and take appropriate supplementation to cut our exposure risk. The problem is poor diet. The problem is not the sun.

NHJ: What role do hormones, the bodies own regulatory system, play in maintaining skin and hair health?

Dr. W: Hormones are fundamental to everything. I have been working with bioidentical hormones. These are hormones that are precisely identical to those created by our bodies, and I have to tell you that bioidentical hormones reduce our risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and even help to preserve lung capacity. When you look at women who have been using bioidentical hormones for an extended period, you can immediately tell the difference in their appearance. A woman who has been using bioidentical hormones for some 20 years looks ten to fifteen years younger than her same age peers, and I’m not over claiming. My wife routinely gets carded when she asks for a senior citizen discount. People routinely take her for 15 or 20 years younger than she is.

NHJ: Where do you turn for hormone therapy? Do you ask your GP who probably will not understand it? Do you talk to an urologist who has more likelihood of understanding the science but little interest in the cosmetic benefits, or is there a better place to go?

Dr. W: The same two groups I gave you before; a licensed naturopath and the naturally inclined medical doctor. They both have prescriptive ability. Not only that, but they have the knowledge to keep it as safe as possible with careful follow up and supervision.

NHJ: Any footnotes?

Dr. W: There’s something I should have thrown in. My wife tells me I should do this more often, but I haven’t got accustomed to it… Dr. Lane Lenard and I have published a book called “Stay Young & Sexy with BioIdentical Hormone Replacement, The Science Explained” which explains the science behind bioidentical hormones and appearance much more thoroughly than I just did.

NHJ: Dr. Wright, we have covered a huge area of discussion. Thank you for finding the time to talk to us late on a Friday evening. Your weekend begins now. Jonathan V. Wright, M.D.

Dr. Jonathan Wright is the Medical Director of Tahoma Clinic in Renton, Washington where he also practices medicine. A Harvard University (A.B. 1965) and University of Michigan graduate (M.D. 1969), Dr. Wright has taught natural biochemical medical treatments since 1983 to thousands of physicians in the USA, Europe, and Japan. In 1982, Dr. Wright personally developed the use of bioidentical estrogens in daily medical practice, and was the first to use DHEA in private practice. He originated successful natural treatment for the elimination of childhood asthma and D-mannose treatment for E. coli urinary tract infection, and discovered cobalt’s and iodine’s effects on estrogen detoxification.

In 1973, Dr. Wright founded Tahoma Clinic, which focuses on disease prevention and treatment by natural biochemical means. Tahoma Clinic is staffed with medical doctors, naturopathic physicians, nutritionists, allergists, nurses and administrative personnel committed to the vision of providing patients with the best holistic medical care. The infamous 1992 FDA Tahoma Clinic “raid” (“The Great BVitamin Bust”) was a major impetus for Congressional reform of vitamin/mineral regulation. Dr. Wright continues to be an advocate for patient freedom of choice in healthcare.
Dr. Wright is internationally known for his books and medical articles. He has authored/co-authored 11 books, selling over 1.1 million copies, with two texts achieving best selling status: “Book of Nutritional Therapy” and “Guide to Healing with Nutrition”. Dr. Wright authors Nutrition and Healing, a monthly newsletter emphasizing nutritional medicine in medical practice that reaches over 90,000 in the USA, and another 20,000 or more worldwide. Along with Alan Gaby, M.D., Dr. Wright routinely presents the comprehensive and scientifically documented “Nutritional Therapy in Medical Practice” seminar, which has helped numerous health professionals gain insight into nutritional approaches for disease. Dr. Wright speaks nationwide at various medical association conferences on varied topics including nutritional medicine, natural hormone replacement therapies for men and women, the natural treatment of cardiovascular diseases, asthma, diabetes, D-mannose for bladder infection, Vitamin D usage and laboratory testing, clinical uses of nutrient elements, and many other subjects.

Further Reading

Skin Wrinkling: Can Food Make a Difference? Martalena br Purba, BSc, MCN, Antigone Kouris-Blazos, PhD, Naiyana Wattanapenpaiboon, PhD, Widjaja Lukito, MD, PhD, Elizabet M Rothenberg, PhD, Bertil C. Steen, MD, PhD and Mark L. Wahlqvist, MD, FACN

Åyurveda, “the complete knowledge for long life”) or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India [1] and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine. [Wikipedia)