How to treat hair loss with diet and supplements

Hair loss is a clear sign of some deficiency in your diet. This deficiency can be of specific nutrients, or overall calorie deficiency or a macronutrient deficiency such as protein deficiency.  

Hair follicles are among the most metabolically active in the body. They require constant and proper nutrition to support their growth.

Research shows that hair loss is common, with about 50% of the population affected by hair loss by the age of 50 [1]

Food is the best source to receive all of the nutrients your body needs, but it is not always obvious how to supply all of our bodily needs through the foods we consume. For more information on how to care for your physical needs through a nutritious diet, you can visit the online Guerrilla Diet Bootcamp. This 12-week program teaches you how to care for all of your health needs.  

At different times in our lives, we may find it hard to supply all of our bodily needs through our diet; this is when supplementation will come handy (2).

Here are some of the most researched supplements that support hair health and prevent hair loss:

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral required by over 300 different enzymes, including metalloenzymes and transcription factors important in the building of proteins and cell division and regulation of gene expression [3]. Therefore, zinc deficiency will affect multiple organ systems and also lead to hair loss.  

People with malabsorption syndromes, such as inflammatory bowel disease [4] or following gastric bypass surgery, or those with liver or renal dysfunction, or pregnant women [5], or patients with alcoholism will often suffer from zinc deficiency[6]. Also, some anti-epileptic drugs and antihypertensives may lead to zinc deficiency. [7].

Vegans also may suffer from zinc deficiency since the bioavailability of zinc is lower in vegetables than meat [35]. Furthermore, people who regularly consume legumes and whole grains containing phytates bind to zinc and inhibit absorption [8].

However, excess supplementation may reduce immune function and lead to iron deficiency, which will also lead to hair loss [9].

B Vitamins

Vitamin B12 helps hair regrowth as well as preventing hair loss. B12 helps produce red blood cells, which carry nutrients and oxygen to the hair follicles. A deficiency of B12 will prevent enough nutrients from reaching the hair follicles.

Another B vitamin for hair growth is biotin. Research shows a link between biotin deficiency and hair loss as well as alopecia (10). Biotin deficiency is rare because gut bacteria usually produce adequate levels of biotin for our use. But, deficiency may come after antibiotic use disrupting the microbiome and the use of some anti-epileptic drugs.  

Niacin or vitamin B3 deficiency may result in alopecia, complete hair loss from some regions of the head, face, or body.

You can get all of the B-vitamins from foods such as almonds, whole grains, or dark leafy green vegetables.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a role in hair follicle cycling [11]. It can help produce new hair follicles and re-energize existing ones. You can get Vitamin D from supplements and fortified foods, as well as mushrooms exposed to sunlight.

Your body produces vitamin D through skin exposure to the sun. It would be best if you tried to spend at least 10 minutes daily in the sun during hours when UVB rays are highest, especially between 11 and 13:00 during summer months.

A  2019 review  found several studies that prove a link between vitamin D deficiency and alopecia.

Antioxidant vitamins

Antioxidant vitamins and minerals neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) everywhere in our environment and within our bodies, preventing oxidative damage. Many substances can be classified as antioxidants, including zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, C and E, and polyphenols [12]. Oxidative stress has been linked to hair loss.  

Free radicals can block the growth of your hair and cause it to age. Antioxidant nutrients help protect against this stress (13).

Vitamin C

Additionally, vitamin C is used to produce collagen, an essential part of your hair structure.

Vitamin C also assists with iron absorption, which is necessary for hair growth and hair loss prevention. Peppers, strawberries, citrus fruits, and guavas are all great sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin E

Like vitamin C, vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that prevents oxidative stress.  

In a study, patients with hair loss saw a 34.5% increase in hair growth after using supplements with vitamin E for eight months (14).

Where can you find Vitamin E? Almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados, and spinach are good choices. You can also use vitamin E supplements.

But, if you go for supplementation, then it is essential to note that over-supplementation of certain antioxidant nutrients, including selenium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E, has been linked to hair loss as well as other health issues. [15-19]

Iron

Iron is the world’s most common nutritional deficiency and is a well-known cause of hair loss. Iron helps red blood cells get more oxygen to your cells. It is an essential mineral for many functions in the human body, including hair growth.

A significant cause of hair loss is anemia caused by iron deficiency, especially in premenopausal women, due to menstrual blood loss. In contrast, postmenopausal women and men may have iron deficiency due to gastrointestinal blood loss. (20).

Many genes have been identified in the human hair follicle, and some are regulated by iron [21]. Iron also requires an acidic pH for its absorption. In cases of celiac disease, and some medications, iron absorption will be hindered.

Vegans and vegetarians are at risk for iron deficiency since their iron requirements are much 1.8 times higher than for meat consumers, because non-heme iron found in plants has a lower bioavailability than heme iron, found in meat and fish.  

It is important to note that too much iron through supplementation can lead to iron toxicity. Toxicity may also occur when iron supplements are taken regularly for long periods, even in small doses [22].

It is best to get iron from iron-rich foods such as seeds, leafy green vegetables, and lentils.

Protein

Consuming enough protein is essential for hair growth since hair is made almost entirely of protein. Studies done on animals show that protein deficiency can decrease hair growth leading to hair thinning and even cause hair loss (23).

However, keep in mind that protein deficiency is rare in Western countries.

References:

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