A holistic dermatologist says: Dandruff is a reaction to Malassezia furfur, a yeast that lives on the hair follicles. The condition can be aggravated by an overgrowth of yeast in the intestines or an insufficient amount of essential fatty acids in the diet.You can treat the flakes by killing the yeast with an antidandruff shampoo. Formulas that contain zinc work, as does Loprox, an antifungal, prescription-only shampoo. I also recommend eating more yogurt or probiotics and increasing your consumption of healthy oils, like fish oil. Remedies used for treating yeast infections can also help combat dandruff; ask your doctor about herbs like artemisia and grapefruit seed extract that have antifungal properties.—Alan Dattner, M.D., a holistic dermatologist in New Rochelle, N.Y.
A dietitian says: A poor diet exacerbates skin inflammations like dandruff. A lack of omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to the problem, so twice a week eat omega-rich foods like fish (particularly salmon or halibut), walnuts, or flax oil. Even a mild zinc deficiency can suppress your immune system, which can result in a skin inflammation. Meats have plenty of zinc; you can also get it from cashews, pecans, almonds, chickpeas, zinc-fortified cereals, and yogurt. An insufficient intake of vitamin B6 might also be to blame; a medium banana or baked potato provides 35 percent of your daily B6. Lastly, not enough vitamin B12 has been shown to cause dandruff, but a deficiency is rare unless you're a raw foodie or vegan who isn't eating foods fortified with B12.—Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D., and author of S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches (HarperOne)
A TCM Practitioner says: Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine treat dandruff by evaluating and correcting any underlying imbalances. If your skin is unusually dry and flaky, you need to nourish yin (or blood) and lessen "wind" in the body. Acupuncture can help do that by encouraging the flow of qi, an energy in your body considered your life force. The herb Heshou Wu, which is generally used to treat grey or thinning hair, can also alleviate dandruff by fortifying the scalp. The tonic Tang Kwei Gim is a blood nourisher that can help restore yin; another tonic, Shou Wu Chi, is used to strengthen bones but can also improve the condition of your hair. In addition, I recommend washing and stimulating the scalp regularly—try using a brush while showering.—Bryn Clark, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M., Licensed Acupuncturist, National Board Certified Diplomate in Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM)
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