Can or does iron deficiency cause hair loss? What is the role of iron in hair growth and regrowth? What are signs and symptoms of anemia and how can these symptoms be reversed? What are the supplements and food sources can help? Read on to find out.
Iron Deficiency and Hair loss-How is Iron Linked to Baldness
Amongst the many causes of hair loss, iron deficiency is a leading factor that causes the loss. More specifically, baldness is associated with iron deficiency. Baldness mostly occurs in men and it is the eventual result of continued hair loss on mostly the front part of the head.
The reason behind this is that, the hair follicles at that given region are not well supplied with oxygen which is necessary for hair growth. Usually, iron produces hemoglobin and hemoglobin is very necessary for transportation of oxygen. When iron is deficient, it simply means that production of hemoglobin is highly affected which then means hindrance in transportation of oxygen to the hair follicles. When the hair follicles are not well supplied with oxygen, the eventual result is loss of hair which after a period results to baldness.[i]
Who Suffers Hair Loss from Iron?
There is no one who is safe from being deficient of iron. This therefore means anyone could suffer from hair loss due to lack of sufficient iron. However, iron deficiency cases in men are lower as compared to the cases of women; and so is the hair loss. For instance, for girls in their adolescents, they are at a risk of suffering from Anemia resulting from deficiency of iron since they may over bleed in times of menstruation. Adolescent girls who lose a lot of blood are known to also face irritating moments of hair loss. Excessive blood loss is what results to iron deficiency and hence hair loss. Pregnant women are as well associated with iron deficiency and are usually tested for iron deficiency on visiting hospitals. [ii]
Symptoms & Causes Iron Deficiency Hair Loss
In order to be sure the hair loss problem you may be having is due to iron deficiency, there are some symptoms you should look out for. These include; hair fall out accompanied by shortness of breath, brittle nails and fatigue. If your hair is falling out and you also experience a combination of the above symptoms, it is more likely than not that you are deficient of iron.
Causes of Iron Deficiency Hair loss
The reason as to why hair loss is directly associated with lack of sufficient iron is due to the major role iron plays in the body. Usually, the body cells function well when supplied with sufficient amount of oxygen through blood transportation all over the body. However, transportation of oxygen through the blood requires that hemoglobin be
Production of hemoglobin is dependent on presence of iron in the body. That means, when iron is limited in the body, the hemoglobin is as well in reduced amounts. That will mean the oxygen required by the hair cells in this case will be insufficient. The hair follicles require that there be enough oxygen so that they can strongly support growth of strong hair that does not fall out any how upon brushing it or just straightening it using a blow-dryer.[iii]
How to Diagnose Iron Deficiency
One might be experiencing terrible hair thinning and hair loss and we may all assume that it is as a result of iron deficiency. However, it is not assured until a test is done in the medical centers. For a conclusion to be drawn, for instance on the real cause of hair loss as iron deficiency, a diagnosis is definitely done. This is a test to determine whether the patient in question is actually lacking as much iron as the body requires. Doctors have three ways to determine the levels of iron in one’s body. These are discussed as follows;
Storage of iron in the body is aided by proteins such as ferritin. The doctor can easily determine how much iron has been used by the body out of the amount of iron stored in the body. When the levels of serum ferritin are low, there is hindrance in hair growth. This can be explained by the fact that hair growth is considered to be a minor role amongst the roles iron plays. This means that the limited amount of iron available is used for body functions that are considered more crucial and hence, hair growth is interfered with and also weakening of the hair results to hair loss.
This is a test which doctors carry out by measuring the amount of iron in blood. This test however is not among the best tests for iron levels. The reason is that, your blood iron level could appear normal while the total iron amount required by the body is insufficient.
Total iron binding capacity
Transferrin is a protein that assists in carrying iron all over the body. This qualifies it to be used in determining the iron levels in the body. If a large amount of transferring in the body is found not to have iron, then the patient is most likely having iron deficiency. As the name suggests, doctors try to find out the capacity of iron in transferrin. [iv]
Iron Rich Foods for Hair Growth
As mentioned earlier, iron is very important in ensuring proper functioning of hair follicles and as such preventing hair loss. Iron deficiency interferes with how well crucial nutrients reach the hair follicles. Since everyone desires healthy hair and more especially, hair that does not fall out, there is need to feed on foods that are good sources of iron. These foods include;
- Red meat
The vegetarians might wonder what then they are required to feed on since the above foods are not favorable for them. Good news is, the above foods are not the only sources of iron. They could include foods such as ;
That way, they will still be in a position to obtain sufficient iron. [v]
Iron Supplements Dosage & Side Effects/Safety
What supplements are available?
At times, the amount of iron obtained from the diet is not sufficient. That is when they can use supplements to increase the iron levels in their bodies. These supplements include; ferric iron and ferrous iron salts.
These are the most preferred form of oral supplements. Their absorption to the body is very easy. They are also said to be available more readily than ferric iron. The available ferrous supplements include; ferrous fumerate, gluconate and sulfate. The preference of these salts as iron supplements is also because they are in different forms. These include; liquids, tablets, extended release, and capsules.
These salts are not as preferable as ferrous salts. This is because; they must be reduced into their ferrous form before they are absorbed. This means that a lot of time is taken before their absorption is complete. Doctors are therefore extremely careful in case they have to prescribe this supplement for a patient.
How much of the supplements are recommended?
For doctors to determine how much of the supplements the patient requires, they look at elemental iron level. All these are determined based on how high the level of iron deficiency is. As more of the dosage of iron supplements is administered, the level of absorption decreases. The most preferred dosages three or two doses a day with a similar spacing. It is therefore very advisable to seek medical advice before using any supplements.
Possible Side Effects of the Supplements
There are side effects of using iron supplements and they occur differently to different people and depending on how much of the supplements one takes. This necessitates getting full information on the side effects of whatever supplements a person intends to use. The side effects associated with the use of iron supplements include;
- Abdominal distress
- Skin rashes.
It is significant to note that the more supplements you take, the more likely is the severity of the side effects. Since everything good has its negative side, it is also upon anyone who wishes to overcome hair loss caused by iron deficiency to consider these side effects. The side effects especially if they are mild should not be a reason why you do not want to boost your iron levels.[vi]
Tips and Ideas to Prevent Iron Deficiency Hair Loss
Having discovered that one of the reasons there are so many cases of hair loss is iron deficiency, it is prudent to take note of some very important ideas on how to prevent iron deficiency.
To begin with, iron levels can be kept as high as possible by maintaining a diet with a lot of iron rich foods mentioned above. Even though some of the foods rich in iron may not favor your tastes and preferences, there is an option of supplements; also outlined above. Despite the side effects that come with using the supplements, there is need to overlook the manageable effects and still get all desired benefits from the supplements.
In addition, it is also wise to major on taking the supplements before your meals. This is most preferable since the absorption of the supplements takes place more easily. In cases where one can get vitamin C such as juice, it should be taken with the supplements since it is also known to enhance the absorption process.[vii]
Moreover, it is very advisable for pregnant women and girls undergoing menstruation to monitor their iron levels in the body since sometimes iron levels may go very low without a quick notice. At such times, they are also required to feed on foods rich in iron especially to recover that which is lost, for instance, during menstruation.
Sources & References