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Dandruff

 

Dandruff is a common condition affecting the scalp, and is caused by excessive shedding of scalp skin cells resulting in unsightly and embarrassing flakes. Dandruff affects males more than females and tends to occur in young adults.

As for acne, inefficient carbohydrate and fatty-acid metabolism is probably a contributory factor, although the primary cause appears to be infection of the scalp by a yeast-like organism called Pityrosporum ovale. This fungus is normally present on the scalp, usually without causing any problems. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems to get out of control, leading to dandruff.

Mild dandruff responds very well to topical treatment, but will commonly recur if treatment is stopped.

In serious cases the scalp becomes scaly and itchy. If the scalp shows signs of redness, swelling, scabbing, or if there is fluid leakage, then in all likelihood there could be another scalp disease involved such as psoriasis or ringworm. These are fairly easily treated but it is important to see a specialist.

Medication

A range of anti-dandruff shampoos are available which contain anti-fungal agents of one type or another. Products which contain zinc pyritheone or selenium sulfide seem to be generally the most effective, but if one does not work try another type. Although these shampoos may control the condition, it often returns if use is discontinued.

Alternative treatments

Recently a number of shampoos containing about 5% tea tree oil have become available and are probably as effective as any of the proprietory anti-dandruff shampoos. You can easily make your own by adding raw tea tree oil to any standard shampoo in the right proportion. You can also use rubbing alcohol (if you can get it), ‘surgical spirit’ or alcohol-based aftershave lotion as a carrier for the oil, in much the same way as suggested for acne. Apply some to a piece of towel or a flannel and rub the whole scalp vigorously.

Garlic oil and oil of oregano are also excellent for fighting dandruff. These can be applied topically, diluted in a carrier as suggested above, or taken internally as capsules (obtainable from health food shops).

Nutritional factors

Nutrition can play a large part in helping to control dandruff by improving the metabolism of carbohydrates and especially of fats.

Of particular importance are omega 6 oils, found in nuts and flax seed. Also make sure you get plenty of B vitamins in your diet. Brewer’s yeast and raw wheatgerm are two excellent sources of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B6 which plays an important role in controlling dandruff. Eggs and cabbage also provide vitamin B6 in addition to supplying sulphur, which seems to be important for scalp health.

Dandruff may also result when allergic reactions of the scalp skin open the way for infection. Common allergies of this type are to milk and dairy products, chocolate, nuts and shellfish.

 

 

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