Iron Deficiency and Hair Loss – Are They Related?
If your body lacks iron, there will be a corresponding decrease in the production of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is responsible for transporting reb blood cells (oxygenated blood) around the body to support proper bodily functions. When you lack iron, your body is starved of oxygen – which explains why iron deficiency causes symptoms of fatigue and weakness.
When you lack iron, the body starts its “survival mode” whereby haemoglobin, red blood cells and iron are reserved for the body’s most vital organs. In turn, less important functions (i.e. hair growth) are temporarily disregarded until iron levels improve.
- How Do You Know if Iron Deficiency is Causing Your Hair Loss?
- What Are The Causes and Symptoms of Anaemia?
- How Can I Make Hair Loss From Iron Deficiency Grow Back?
How Do You Know if Iron Deficiency is Causing Your Hair Loss?
Hair loss due to iron deficiency is common among people who have anaemia (they are anaemic). Therefore, the definition of anaemia is people who have significantly low iron levels. There are many types of anaemia but iron deficiency anaemia is the type most likely to cause hair thinning.
If you suspect that you are anaemic, there is an easy way for your GP to check. A simple blood test is an effective way to analyse the amount of ferritin in your blood. Your blood test will reveal whether your ferritin levels are high, low or normal. Generally, if the results are low then the body has low iron storage which may explain why your hair is thinning.
There Is A Scientific Reason Behind Why Iron Deficiency Can Cause Hair Thinning:
- When you ingest iron, it is stored by a globular protein (a spherical, globe-like water-soluble protein) called Ferritin. This protein is responsible for storing and releasing iron in order to control the iron levels within the body.
- When iron levels are low, Ferritin makes the decision to reserve it for the most important body functions. This is what happens if you have iron deficiency anaemia.
- However, when there are sufficient levels, it is released and distributed (with the assistance of haemoglobin) throughout the body.
What Are The Causes and Symptoms of Anaemia?
Iron deficiency is more common in women than men, however, men also need to look out for the symptoms. Women experience it more due to menstrual cycles and pregnancy, however other causes include:
- Vegan / Vegetarian diets that are lacking iron-rich foods (e.g eggs and meat)
- Blood loss (e.g heavy menstrual bleeding, peptic ulcers, and hiatal hernias)
- Intestinal disorders (i.e. coeliac disease) that affect your ability to absorb iron and other nutrients.
The symptoms can vary from person to person. Therefore, you may experience only one of these symptoms, or your may notice a few of them. If you suspect that your hair loss is caused by iron deficiency (anaemia) then you need to speak to your doctor.
The 9 Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anaemia Are:
- Weakness/ low energy
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and feet
- Thinning hair and hair loss
- Brittle nails
- Heart palpitations
How Can I Make Hair Loss From Iron Deficiency Grow Back?
The best way to counteract iron deficiency hair loss is to eat iron-rich foods or through iron supplements. This will help ensure that the body can maintain a proper balance between the iron intake and how the body absorbs and uses it.
You should also pay attention to your vitamin consumption, especially vitamin C and B12, as it also improves the retention and absorption of iron. Foods that have a high iron content include lean red meat, brown rice, eggs, dried fruit, green vegetables, beans, nuts and fish.
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What Should Your Ferritin Levels Be to Ensure Hair Growth?
In “The New England Journal of Medicine”, Alexander Kratz, M.D., PhD., M.P.H., Maryjane Ferraro, PhD., M.P.H., Patrick M. Sluss, PhD., and Kent B. Lewandrowski published the Laboratory Reference Value” report on PubMed which states that normal ferritin levels range between 20-300 ng/mL (for men) and 10-200 ng/mL (for women).
For ferritin hair loss recovery, you need to ensure that you are consuming sufficient iron to keep your ferritin levels within these normal ranges. Dr Wilma Fowler Bergfeld, MD, found that when hair loss patients increase their iron levels their ability to regrow hair is maximised. This is because they are recieving optimal ferritin levels for hair growth.
How Long Does it Take Hair to Grow Back After Falling Out?
It is not a permanent condition albeit an early detection of the condition is crucial. Therefore, the sooner that you identify that you’re suffering from iron deficiency hair loss the sooner you can grow your hair back.
As soon as you believe that you may have low iron levels, you should arrange an appointment with your doctor. They will measure your ferritin levels in your blood to analyses whether you are anaemic. Then they will be able to recommend which treatment options are best for you depending on the cause.
Sometimes, consuming more iron-rich foods is the only solution that your need to increase ferritin, and thus making your hair grow back.
Iron is an important part of your body’s natural function. Therefore, when there is a shortage your body isn’t able to function as efficiently as it should. Symptoms of iron deficiency can vary from person to person, however, hair thinning is a well-known symptom. Hair follicles need oxygen-rich red blood cells to function properly, thus when they don’t receive sufficient nutrients the hair becomes weak and falls out.
To prevent this, it’s important to consume iron-rich food and supplements. We recommend speaking to your GP for advice about how to manage your iron deficiency and for a blood test to monitor your ferritin levels.