Nutritional deficiencies may be the cause of some cases of hair loss so if your hair is thinning or you’re losing it, you may be lacking in essential vitamins.
Are you anemic?
If you are not yet middle-aged and are struggling with hair loss, it may be due to anemia. Other signs of anemia are:
• Lack of energy
• Pale skin
• Flaking skin around the nails
The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology wrote:
"Several studies have examined the relationship between iron deficiency and hair loss. Almost all have addressed women exclusively and have focused on noncicatricial hair loss. Some suggest that iron deficiency may be related to alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia, telogen effluvium, and diffuse hair loss, while others do not ... It is our practice at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation to screen male and female patients with both cicatricial and noncicatricial hair loss for iron deficiency. Although this practice is not evidence based per se, we believe that treatment for hair loss is enhanced when iron deficiency, with or without anemia, is treated. Iron deficiency anemia should be treated."
So science has not really established whether there is a relationship between iron deficiency and hair loss, but some research suggests that there is. If you have hair loss and any of the other symptoms, see your doctor for a blood test to check for anemia. If you are anemic, a course of iron tablets may be enough to assist hair re-growth.
Food sources that contain iron include leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, dried fruit, fortified breakfast cereals, oatmeal and meat. Make sure your weekly menu contains some of these types of foods in order to avoid anemia. Reducing your caffeine intake can also improve your iron levels as caffeine inhibits your body’s ability to absorb iron.
Additional research has shown that zinc deficiency may be a cause of hair loss and zinc has been employed as a treatment for hair loss even if the person has not been shown to be deficient. Perhaps some individuals need more nutrients than current daily intake guidelines suggest? A study in Experimental Dermatology in 2005 found that short term supplementation with zinc encouraged hair re-growth in mice.
'Oral zinc (Zn(2+)) is often employed for treating hair loss, even in the absence of zinc deficiency, although its mechanisms of action and efficacy are still obscure….. Interestingly, Zn(2+) treatment of cyclophosphamide-damaged HFs also significantly accelerates the re-growth of normally pigmented hair shafts, which reflects a promotion of HF recovery. However, if given for a more extended time period, zinc actually retards hair re-growth. Thus, high-dose oral zinc is a powerful, yet ambivalent hair growth modulator in mice.’
Due to the beneficial effect on mouse hair growth, the researchers suggested doing studies in humans to see whether zinc could prevent hair loss during chemotherapy.
Zinc is a mineral that helps with the absorption of vitamins, cell reproduction and hormonal balance. Symptoms of zinc loss include loss of appetite, weight loss, lack of the senses of smell and taste, skin problems, poor wound healing, lack of menstrual periods, night blindness, white spots on the fingernails, depression and hair loss.
However, zinc supplements can interact with various antibiotics and medications so it’s important to check with your doctor before taking a supplement if you are also taking other supplements or medicines.
1. The diagnosis and treatment of iron deficiency and its potential relationship to hair loss, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 54, Issue 5 , Pages 824-844, May 2006.
2. Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia, NHS Choices. Web. 20 September 2011.
3. Vitamins and minerals – Iron, NHS Choices. Web. 20 September 2011. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Iron.aspx
4. Zinc as an ambivalent but potent modulator of murine hair growth in vivo- preliminary observations, Experimental Dermatology [2005, 14(11):844-53]. Abstract:
5. Zinc, University of Maryland Medical Center. Web. 20 September 2011. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/zinc-000344.htm
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting.
She is a mother of five who practised drug-free home birth, delayed cord clamping, full term breast feeding, co-sleeping, home schooling and flexi schooling and is an advocate of raising children on organic food.
Reviewed September 20, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith