Extra hair in the shower drain can cause some people undue stress and anxiety. While there are a number of reasons for hair loss, sometimes vitamin deficiency is to blame. Hair follicles need a steady supply of certain nutrients for optimal health, and a less-than-adequate diet can lead to excessive shedding. Fortunately, vitamin deficiency hair loss is easily corrected with better nutrition and/or supplements.
The Growth Process
Hair on the head sprouts from specialized follicles, forming strands of condensed cells. Normal hair growth follows a cycle which includes an active phase, a transitional phase, a resting phase, and a new growth phase. During the last phase, follicles push out the old hair, and it sheds. A vitamin deficiency or other condition that disrupts any part of the growth cycle can cause more shedding than is normal.
Vitamins Important to Hair Health
Due to busy lifestyles, many people eat on the run or skip meals. Nutrient-poor fast food and not eating at all can add up, resulting in a vitamin deficiency. Low levels of any of the following nutrients can affect hair health.
A number of B vitamins help guard against vitamin deficiency hair loss. B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B7 (biotin), and B12 (cobalamin) all help promote stronger hair follicles. In addition, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) makes hair more flexible and shiny, and B6 (pyridoxine) helps prevent dandruff.
Foods high in many B vitamins include dairy products, fortified whole grain cereals, leafy green vegetables, various meats, legumes, and nuts, but people can take a vitamin B-complex supplement to ensure adequate daily amounts of all of these nutrients and more.
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A study from Cairo University showed that women with Telogen effluvium (TE) and female pattern hair loss (FPHL) showed lower levels of vitamin D than women in a control group. People can get most of the vitamin D they need through the sun, but inhabitants of northern regions or those who don't spend much time outdoors can benefit from foods rich in vitamin D and/or vitamin D supplements. Wild-caught salmon, mushrooms, beef liver, and fortified grains are good sources of vitamin D.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Many people are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids, which help keep various parts of the body healthy, including the hair. Good sources of these important fats include cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines; and plant sources like walnuts and flaxseed.
In addition to vitamin D deficiency, the study from Cairo University also showed low levels of iron for women with TE and FPHL. Because too much stored iron can also cause health problems, people should get this mineral from foods in lieu of supplements, unless otherwise specified by a medical professional. Good food sources include clams, oysters, red meat, fortified cereals, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and spinach.
Excessive hair loss can be distressing, but sometimes it's only a side effect of nutrient deficiency. People can correct vitamin deficiency hair loss by simply changing their diet. Because excessive shedding is a symptom of several conditions, people dealing with this problem should consult with a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment options.