Which Vitamin Deficiencies Cause Hair Loss?
According to New York University’s Langone Health, 80% of men and half of women experience hair loss or thinning in their lifetime.
For many people, this is a natural progression of age; for others, it’s hereditary. If you already have a parent or grandparent who struggles with some type of baldness or hair thinning, it may be on the cards for you. However, it doesn’t always have to be.
There are many reasons people may experience hair loss, and not all of them result from age or heredity. In fact, a poor diet can be a huge factor, and we’ll address what vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss in this article.
Other factors for hair loss include stress, health changes, autoimmune disorders, medication side effects, hormone changes, and even pregnancy.
Read on for more information on which vitamin deficiencies may be causing your hair to look duller or thinner than it was.
Which Vitamin Deficiencies Cause Hair Loss? Start with a Doctor Visit
There may well be vitamins and minerals you’re deficient in, and this may be one of the reasons your previously luscious mane is thinning. However, don’t simply read an article online and assume you know what you’re deficient in from the symptoms you’ve read. While this can be a good guide, nothing substitutes for good old-fashioned blood work to look at where your nutrient and vitamin levels are currently.
A doctor can help you determine if your hair loss is from a fungal infection, alopecia, hormone imbalances, and a host of other issues. If your hair loss is from a vitamin deficiency, your doctor can help you figure out which one and get you on the best course of action.
If your vitamin deficiency is severe enough, it may warrant prescription medication, which only your doctor can provide. In this article, however, we’ll go over some of the most common vitamin deficiencies that can make your hair look less than its best.
Malnutrition & Hair Loss
One thing to keep in mind is that hair loss can be a result of malnutrition. In this day and age, it can seem preposterous that one can suffer from malnutrition, but it isn’t all that uncommon, unfortunately. Many individuals, even those who are overweight, are getting the wrong vitamins and minerals through their diet, and this can cause hair loss or thinning.
You should also be aware that there are some disorders and diseases that can prevent you from absorbing vitamins as you should. If this is the case for you, merely taking vitamins over the counter will not solve the issue. Instead, you’ll need to work with your doctor to overcome this, as this can affect more than just thinning hair or hair loss. Your body needs nutrients to function, and hair is just a bonus.
If your body is having trouble getting all of the available nutrients, your hair will become the body’s last priority as it isn’t necessary or vital for life.
Now, let’s talk about the vitamin deficiencies that can cause your hair to be thin or for it to fall out.
Iron or Anemia
Iron deficiency can be known as anemia, and it is when the body doesn’t get enough of it, it can cause your hair to fall out, amongst other serious consequences, including thinning hair.
The nutrient itself is important for sustaining life, as it helps red blood cells in their quest to move oxygen through the bloodstream. If you don’t have enough of it, it can become quite serious.
You should keep on top of your iron intake by eating foods that are rich in iron. Some foods recommended by the National Health Services in the United Kingdom include lentils, beans, meat, fortified cereals, and leafy and dark vegetables.
Losing your hair isn’t the only symptom you’ll have if you’re iron deficient. You may also feel extremely tired, your skin may look pale, and you may suffer from heart palpitations.
If your iron deficiency is serious enough, your doctor may put you on a course of intense iron pills that can help you restore your iron. Some people may become so anemic that they need a blood transfusion, but this is relatively rare.
For most people, a lack of iron in their diet is the cause of iron deficiency, but it can also be caused by things like heavy period bleeding ulcers or more serious illnesses.
When in doubt, get it checked out by your doctor.
If you’ve ever had a baby, you’re probably already aware of folic acid and its importance to your child’s development in utero. But, if you’re deficient in folic acid, this can have an enormous impact on your health, as well as your hair.
Folic acid has several jobs in your body. One is to help keep your red blood cells as healthy as possible. The other is to ensure that the cells in your skin, nails, and hair regenerate and regrow, which has sparked an interest in it becoming a way to mitigate hair loss.
Most people’s hair who will be helped with folic acid suffer from folate-deficiency anemia, in which the symptoms are similar to those of someone with too little iron. With folate-deficiency anemia, you’ll also deal with severe fatigue, pale skin, as well as irritability, and changes to the pigments of your hair and nails. Thinning hair is also another symptom of folate deficiency anemia.
While being deficient in folic acid can cause your hair to be thin or for you to go bad in patches, too much folic acid also isn’t good for you. As such, it is important that you don’t supplement unless your doctor tells you to do so. Or, if you do decide you’d like to try it, it is not recommended that you take more than 400 mcg per day, as this will not help your hair grow.
Folic Acid Rich Food
The best way to ensure you get enough folic acid is to have a diet rich in nutrients, so you don’t have to worry about supplementation. Foods containing a high amount of folic acid include leafy greens, chickpeas, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, kidney beans, and liver. However, it is not recommended that you consume liver while you are pregnant.
Did you know that not getting enough calcium can make your hair both coarse and fall out in patches? Scarily, being deficient in calcium may not come with any warning signs. On the positive side, for most people, it is entirely treatable, and you need to follow your doctor’s advice.
Hypocalcemia, as this condition is known, is usually related to other health problems than simply not getting enough calcium in your diet. While getting enough calcium, as well as supplementation, is important, if you have such low calcium that it is causing you to lose hair in patches, the disease has progressed quite far.
In addition to losing hair, those with this condition may develop brittle bones that easily break, brittle teeth, weak tooth roots, muscle problems, and extreme depression.
Often, a calcium deficiency this extreme is due to a medical condition, so you’ll want to discuss treatment options with your medical team.
Otherwise, it is important to keep healthy skin, hair, and nails by eating calcium-rich foods or supplementing. Foods rich in calcium include dairy, soy milk, broccoli, tofu, beans as well as nuts and seeds.
Keep your bones healthy and strong and your hair and nails looking great by ensuring you’re getting enough calcium.
Selenium is technically a mineral, but it is essential when it comes to the body’s function. Selenium is actually necessary to grow hair, as a 2016 study from Menopause Review noted that selenium is involved in creating new hairs. Once the newly formed hair takes gets the “go ahead” from the blood to create itself, it then intakes selenium to get it on its journey.
Therefore, you definitely want to have enough of it in your body to keep your hair looking strong. Of course, not enough of it will result in the opposite, brittle looking or thin hair.
It is important to note that too much selenium can actually cause the opposite effect, making your hair brittle and fall out. As such, you want to keep to a happy medium, around 400mcg of selenium per day.
This can be done through supplementation, but the best way, of course, is to do so by eating foods rich in selenium. One of the best foods for selenium is Brazil nuts, in which one can have as much as 90mcg of the mineral. As such, you shouldn’t over-consume them, or you’ll have the issue of a selenium overdose. If you’re eating Brazil nuts for the selenium, don’t eat more than four per day, even if it can be tempting to nosh on more.
You can also get selenium in eggs, meat, dairy products, and cereals.
You’ve probably heard of the wonders of Omega oils and fatty acids. They’re great for our brains, our skin’s elasticity, and our joints. But did you know they’re also great for our hair? If you become deficient in omega oils, you’re at risk for developing quite a few issues, hair loss amongst them.
Omega oils are part of your cell membranes, and your body needs them to help several parts of your body work properly. These include your cardiovascular system, immune system, pulmonary system, and endocrine system.
At the moment, there is no test to determine if you are deficient in omega oils, and only preliminary research has determined what happens when you’re omega-3 deficient. In addition to joint pain, depression, dry eyes, and skin irritation, if you think you may be suffering from omega oils, or specifically omega-3 deficiency, you may also notice your hair becoming brittle. You may also notice that your hair is falling out or is thinning.
As we stated above, there is no clear-cut way to determine if you have an omega oil deficiency, so it is important that you try and eat a diet rich in omega oils or supplements when necessary.
You can get your omega oils from fish oil or fatty fish, specifically salmon, tuna, or trout. For some people, especially vegans and vegetarians, this is a no-go, so you should be aware that you can get your omega oils from alternate sources.
Plant-based sources for omega oils include chia seeds, algal oil, flaxseed, and hempseed. You can also find vegan or vegetarian omega-3 or omega complex supplements at most health food stores.
What Other Vitamins & Minerals Play a Role in Healthy Hair
So, which vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss? Is this list exhaustive?
Well, there are many vitamins and minerals that play a crucial role in keeping your hair lustrous, shiny, and thick. Other vitamins and minerals to look out for include: protein, biotin, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, and niacin. In fact, all of these nutrients play a role in ensuring you live a healthy life, hair and all.
However, if eating right and ensuring your body is absorbing nutrients properly isn’t enough for you, you may wish to invest in something to boost your hair growth a little more. There are a variety of products for hair loss that can have you looking your best.