Which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss & thinning hair?
Vitamins play an integral role in the functioning of our cells. From supporting cells in building new bone material to helping electrical impulses in cardiac cells, vitamins are necessary for all parts of our bodies. And that includes making hair grow as well. Several vitamins play a vital part in hair growth, as micronutrients are essential for supporting a normal hair follicle growth cycle. However, the research is not entirely clear on just how the micronutrients affect the hair growth cycle. For that, more research is necessary. But here is what we do know about some of the vitamin deficiencies that cause hair loss and thinning hair.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Perhaps the most common vitamin deficiency associated with alopecia, or hair loss, is vitamin B12. This vitamin is an essential nutrient that comes from our diet. When a vitamin is classified as essential, it means we must ingest it, as our bodies do not make it on their own. B12 is naturally found in animal food sources, but it is also fortified in other non-animal products so that it is available for people who do not eat animal products (like vegetarians and vegans).
Vitamin B12 deficiencies can occur in anyone, but certain people have a greater risk for it, including those that eat a plant-based diet, individuals with autoimmune disease, and those with HIV. Because vitamin B12 is synthesized in the stomach and small intestine, it can also become a deficiency for people who have had part of their digestive tract removed, such as those who undergo gastric bypass surgery.
Aside from causing hair loss, a vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest in a lot of other symptoms. The most common is fatigue and lethargy, but people can also experience:
• Weight loss
• Low appetite
• Low mood
• Signs of nerve cell damage like numbness or tingling in the extremities
The reason for a vitamin B12 deficiency causes hair loss is complex and not fully understood, But one of the biggest theories is that it is due to pernicious anemia, which is a condition where the stomach is unable to make intrinsic factor, a stomach protein that is essential for helping the body absorb B12 from food. People that have autoimmune disorders often lack this protein, meaning they have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12.
When a person has anemia, it means they are not getting enough blood flow or enough oxygen to their tissues to support cellular processes. Thus, people who have a vitamin B12 deficiency may not get enough circulation to their scalp to nourish and support hair follicles. For this reason, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to hair loss until it is corrected with dietary changes or supplemental vitamin B12 (often in the form of injections, nasal gels, and sublingual tablets).
Most associated with supporting healthy bone growth and immune system function, vitamin D supports numerous body systems. We can get vitamin D from our diet or the sun (some call it the sunshine vitamin). And because of its role across most cells in the body, a lack of this vitamin is common in many health conditions, including autoimmune disorders. Indeed, vitamin D deficiency is also common in people with hair loss conditions, such as alopecia areata (an autoimmune disorder) and telogen effluvium.
Increasing your vitamin D intake is essential to help promote hair growth, especially when lacking in this nutrient. One of the most common ways to increase vitamin D is to take a vitamin D3 supplement daily. You can also increase vitamin D through diet by eating food high in this nutrient, such as chia seeds, avocados, fatty fish, and fortified foods (like orange juice and cow’s milk).
And because it is the sun vitamin, spending more time in the sun without sun protection can also increase vitamin D synthesis in the skin. However, the older people get, the harder it is to convert vitamin D in the skin, and excess sun exposure can lead to skin damage. So, be mindful of how you get your daily dose of vitamin D.
A Note About Minerals
Your hair cycle is influenced by hormones. As a result, any hormonal changes will have an impact on your hair growth and might cause hair loss.
If you’ve recently started taking or changed birth control pills, it could be the reason for your hair loss, especially if you’re sensitive to hormonal fluctuations. To remedy this, experiment with different types of pills to find one that will provide you with the benefits of contraception without sacrificing your hair growth and quality.
You may also experience hair thinning post-pregnancy when hair growth levels drop dramatically. Fortunately, hair grows back in time with this type of hair loss.