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Iron Deficiency and Hair Loss

Hair loss iron deficiency is a problem for millions of women and men, but with simple changes in diet and a visit to your doctor, you can test for iron deficiency and find out low iron level is causing your hair loss.

Who is at risk for iron deficiency?

Iron deficiency (anemia) is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the U.S. Iron deficiency is especially common among women and in people who have a diet that is low in iron. An estimated 11% of women between the ages of 20 and 49 have iron deficiency. The following groups of people are at the highest risk for iron deficiency:

  • Menstruating women, especially those whose menstrual periods are heavy
  • Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or who have recently given birth
  • People recovering from recent major surgery or physical trauma
  • People with gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • People with peptic ulcers
  • People who have recently undergone bariatric surgeries such as gastric bypass
  • People who eat vegetarian or vegan diets, or diets low in iron.
  • Children who drink more than 16-24 ounces of dairy milk per day (cow's milk contains little iron and it can decrease the absorption of iron and irritate the intestinal lining causing blood loss)

Does iron deficiency cause hair loss?

Hair loss and thin, brittle hair can be a symptom of iron deficiency. Low iron can cause hair loss because iron produces hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is the structure that carries oxygen around the body for the growth and repair of all cells, including those that make up the hair follicles. Iron deficiency and hair loss often occur simultaneously.

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency?

Symptoms of iron deficiency may include fatigue, unusually pale skin, shortness of breath, restless leg syndrome, headaches, an anxious or nervous feeling, underactive thyroid, and hair loss. To check for iron deficiency, visit your doctor, discuss your symptoms, and ask that you get checked for low levels of serum ferritin. Low serum ferritin can impair hair growth and hair regeneration as your body seeks to conserve iron.

The best diet for iron deficiency

Your body absorbs heme iron—the iron that comes from animal or marine protein, such as meat, poultry, fish and seafood—two to three times more efficiently than non-heme iron, which comes from vegetarian sources. If you are a vegetarian, it is possible to get adequate iron through food but it requires careful meal planning. Eat plenty of dark leafy greens, whole grains, and legumes are all rich in iron. Eat them with vitamin C-rich foods such as red bell peppers, berries and broccoli to boost your absorption.

Top 5 Iron-Rich Vegetarian Foods:

  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • Chickpeas
  • Blueberries
  • Seaweed

If you believe a low-iron diet is causing your hair loss, consider a supplement rich in hair growth vitamins and minerals, such as Viviscal. Viviscal Extra Strength contains the minerals Iron and Zinc, plus essential hair growth vitamins including Biotin, Niacin and Vitamin C, as well as a proprietary marine complex called AminoMar®, to nourish hair follicles and promote hair growth.

If you believe there is a link between your hair loss and iron deficiency, see your doctor for tests. Your low iron and hair loss can be remedied with an iron-rich diet or a clinically proven hair growth supplement that nourishes hair follicles with iron from within.