The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss
Relatively small amounts of vitamins are required for good health, but they are essential for the creation of new cells and as such, they keep skin and hair healthy and help prevent hair loss. The body is not able to manufacture most vitamins, diet or dietary supplements are primary sources of vitamin intake. Given that hair and skin are external physical signs of wellbeing, hair loss can be an early signal of vitamin deficiency or a progression toward deficiency. Blood tests can show if a vitamin deficiency is the cause of hair loss. In this case, thinning hair is considered temporary and an improved diet will stop the hair loss. A normal hair growth cycle will resume after a short period
The B Group of Vitamins
The B vitamins are a group containing B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenate), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cyanocobalamine), B9 (folate), PABA, inositol, biotin, and choline. The B vitamins are water soluble and when grouped together they act as a complex because when naturally occurring they are found together
The B group vitamins play a pivotal role in maintaining healthy skin. They help rebuild and repair skin tissue, have a role in the production of red blood cells and promote healthy blood circulation. High levels of red blood cells help oxygenate hair follicles. Vitamin B does not directly affect hair growth, but a deficiency in vitamin B may cause temporary hair loss.
Many foods contain some B vitamins. Foods which are strong in B complex vitamins include lean beef, free range chicken, free range egg yolks, leafy greens, liver, chia, soy, sunflower seeds, almonds, fresh wheat germ, avocados, molasses, peas, beans, alfalfa, whole grains, cauliflower, carrots and brewer’s yeast.
Ultraviolet rays from sunlight come into contact with skin causing a reaction which produces vitamin D. Not many foods contain Vitamin D. Some studies have found that women with hair thinning have lower levels of vitamin D than normal and that levels continue to decrease as hair loss advances. For this reason, it makes sense to screen for vitamin D deficiencies and correct low levels with supplements or a diet which includes D vitamins.
Fatty fish is probably the best food source of Vitamin D: Salmon, tuna, mackerel and cod liver oil. Other sources include egg yolks, chia seeds and of course sunlight. Common foods fortified with vitamin D include fortified orange juice or milk. Mushrooms raised in sunlight can contain vitamin D but most varieties are grown in the dark and are therefore deficient.
The body cannot make Vitamin C and, because it is water soluble, it cannot store it. A daily intake of Vitamin C is essential to allow the body to perform the large number of functions Vitamin C is known to aid. Smoking, prolonged or chronic stress, alcohol abuse can deplete vitamin C levels and lead to a deficiency. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is one of the vitamins required for hair follicle health. However, the body will use Vitamin C for essential body functions before hair growth. Hair loss or thinning may be a sign that vitamin C is missing or deficient in the diet. It is preferable to obtain daily vitamin C from food rather than a supplement.
Because of the water-soluble nature, food can lose its vitamin C content if boiled in water or subject to prolonged storage. Examples of fresh food options include oranges, pineapple, peppers, blueberries, strawberries, black currants, watermelon, kiwi fruit, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes and kale.
Iron deficiency is known as anemia. Low numbers of red blood cells is a characteristic of anemia. It can cause fatigue, under active thyroid and hair loss. Hair loss can be the result of an iron deficiency or the body using iron stored in hair follicles when the body is iron deficient. Some women diagnosed with a degree of anemia or iron deficiency have problems with thinning hair or hair loss.
Iron requires vitamin C for absorption foods which contain iron include: lean red meat, lentils, spinach, prunes, parsley, beetroot, molasses, apricots and potato skins.
Zinc helps with hormonal balance and the absorption of vitamins. Zinc may help to limit the production of DHT by adjusting hormone levels. DHT is a major factor in hair loss in both men and women. Hair regrowth products focus on the blocking of DHT in the fight against hair loss. Zinc may not block but can monitor DHT levels and in this regard, it is unlikely that zinc alone would regrow lost hair but can be useful in the prevention of hair thinning
Foods containing zinc include oysters, shrimps, free range egg yolks, sweet potatoes, chickpeas and spinach.
Other Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals need to be in balance, too much of one can cancel the effect of another. It is essential to have a varied diet which includes fresh fruit and vegetables to maintain optimum vitamin and mineral levels. Hair is an indicator of mineral levels and toxic accumulation. Hair strands in acute hair loss cases can be tested to show vitamin and mineral levels and deficiencies. Copper, silicon and iron are also important minerals and all vitamins play a part in good health. Hair loss is often one of the first indicators that something is wrong as the body diverts minerals and vitamins to essential bodily functions and away from hair follicles when deficiencies are present.