Can Vitamins Be the Answer to Your Hair Loss Woes?
Before taking vitamins and other supplements, learn more about how vitamins relate to hair loss.
You have probably seen a number of hair loss vitamins on the market. These pills are often created from a combination of biotin and other B vitamins along with zinc, folic acid and other nutrients. Before running out to stock up on these supplements, read on to learn more about vitamin deficiencies and their relation to hair loss, as well as information about the effectiveness of hair loss vitamins.
Biotin deficiency and hair loss
Biotin (vitamin B7) is one of the nutrients most often discussed in relation to hair loss. Many hair care products or hair loss vitamin supplements tout claims about their "biotin-rich" formulas promoting hair growth. And though it's true that hair loss is one of the symptoms associated with biotin deficiency, there is little documented medical evidence to support the theory that biotin supplements are effective in treating (or preventing) hair loss.
According to Dr. Alan Christianson, N.M.D., author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease, biotin pills are effective only in treating biotin deficiency caused by consumption of raw egg whites. Christianson recommends a different treatment rather than taking pills -- he says to just stop consuming the eggs.
Very low levels of other B vitamins can also be associated with hair loss, such as B12 deficiency; however, the body generally does a great job of recycling and storing vitamin B12. If it's found that you are lacking, it's important that you find the underlying medical condition causing the deficiency and seek treatment.
Iron deficiency and hair loss
The link between iron deficiency and hair loss isn't clear or agreed upon by medical experts. "We believe that treatment for hair loss is enhanced when iron deficiency, with or without anemia, is treated," Leonid Benjamin Trost, M.D.; Wilma Fowler Bergfeld, M.D.; and Ellen Calogeras, R.D., M.P.H., wrote in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. And they aren't the only doctors who are making the connection between iron deficiency and hair loss.
"From our clinic's experience, it is clear to me that if you replenish hair loss patients' iron stores with iron supplements, they are more likely to regrow hair, or at least stop hair shedding," Dr. George Cotsarelis, director of the University of Pennsylvania Hair and Scalp Clinic, told WebMD.
Many other doctors may disagree, and none will recommend that you run out and start taking iron pills as a hair loss vitamin without being tested. Taking iron supplements if you aren't actually deficient can be dangerous. Christianson, who believes hair loss can be caused by anemias of absorption, recommends taking iron along with vitamin C but not near the time you would consume dairy foods or take calcium supplements.
Folic acid deficiency and hair loss
Folic acid is essential for the growth and development of the various cells, organs, tissues and structures in the body, including the hair. Some researchers recommend a dosage of 400 mcg of folic acid daily for men and 200 mcg daily for women. Christianson explains that the body turns the folic acid into MTHF before using it to benefit the hair. For some people, however, the body can't create MTHF, no matter how much folic acid is consumed; therefore, Christianson recommends taking supplements of MTHF instead.
Zinc deficiency and hair loss
Some signs of zinc deficiency include diarrhea, skin lesions and hair loss. Zinc deficiency can lead to a malfunction of organs and body functions. Hypozincemia, insufficient zinc for the body's metabolic needs, is generally considered a nutritional deficiency; however, it can be associated with a number of diseases and chronic illnesses as well, ranging from chronic liver disease to diabetes to sickle-cell disease.
Taking more vitamins isn’t always better
Just because a certain vitamin deficiency is associated with hair loss doesn't mean that a person with healthy vitamin levels should take “extra” vitamins to promote hair growth. In some cases, consuming more than the recommended amount of a vitamin is harmless, but in some situations, too much of a vitamin (such as vitamin A) can actually lead to more hair loss. And in other circumstances, too much of a vitamin or mineral can cause serious health complications.
Before taking any type of hair vitamin, mineral or other supplements, consult with your regular physician or an endocrinologist to determine if you actually have a deficiency and could benefit from the supplements. If you are lacking certain nutrients, normally it is suggested that you change your diet before taking pills.
Although hair loss can be associated with some vitamin deficiencies, there's no hair loss vitamin that is going to miraculously make you begin to regrow hair. If you are suffering from hair loss, talk to a dermatologist in conjunction with your primary care physician to help determine the cause of your hair loss before beginning any type of treatment plan.
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