Having an iron deficiency might not just make you feel more lethargic, have brittle nails, a pale complexion, or a fast heartrate -- it may also have a negative effect on your hair.
Healthy iron levels are important for the proper functioning of many parts of your body, including your hair follicles. And, while it has been known for a while that inadequate iron levels are one of the more common deficiencies, it can still be challenging to avoid for some.
Below, we will cover just how too little iron can lead to hair loss, the most common cause leading to an iron deficiency, ways to confirm that you have an iron deficiency, tips to increase your iron levels, and review if replenishing your iron stores can lead to improvements in your hair.
The connection between iron and hair has to do with a few things.
Firstly, iron is a necessary component for making hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying component of your red blood cells, so not having enough of the ingredients to put this together can mean that your boy is struggling to distribute enough oxygen effectively to all of your cells.
When it comes to your hair follicles, less oxygen delivery may mean slowed growth, more shedding, or a worsening of existing genetic hair loss conditions like male pattern hair loss or female pattern hair loss.
The hair follicles may also have trouble growing new cells when iron stores in the body are too low, leading to slowed growth.
Finally, there may be a connection between women with low iron levels and a condition called telogen effluvium, which causes a reversible, but sudden shedding of a significant amount of your hair.
There are a few different reasons why your iron levels may not be up to par.
One of the most common causes of iron deficiency can occur in women of menstruating age, due to the monthly losses of blood during their menstrual cycle.
Other scenarios may be people who are not consuming enough iron in their diets to keep levels adequate. This may occur from an all-around poor and not well-balanced diet, or not planning enough iron-rich foods into a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Often, this scenario may be easily remedied by just making sure to insert more iron-rich foods into your meals, which can be done using either animal or plant sources.
Alternate causes of iron deficiency may be a signal of other things going on in the body like a gastrointestinal bleed, or malabsorption of nutrients in the intestines.
If you are concerned that your iron levels may not be adequate, it is important to ask your doctor to measure your levels.
A doctor may measure your hemoglobin levels and your serum ferritin concentration, as well as potentially a few other measurements, to try and pinpoint the causative factor.
Your doctor would be able to easily determine if your iron levels are adequate with these tests, and recommend a treatment protocol if so.
There are two ways to increase your iron levels if you are deficient, you can either eat more iron-rich foods, you can supplement with iron, or you could do a mix of the two.
However, it is important to always include your doctor in the decision to supplement with iron, as too much iron can cause dangerously high levels and be an even worse problem if not done correctly. It is not necessary to use an iron supplement if your iron levels are normal, and this may even be dangerous. Discuss with your doctor the route, dose, and frequency of iron supplementation that would be the best fit for you.
Foods that have high iron content include: fortified cereals, oysters, white beans, dark chocolate, beef liver, lentils, spinach, tofu, kidney beans, sardines, chickpeas, tomatoes, beef, potatoes, and cashew nuts.
As you can see, there are many more options than just the often recommended “red meat” for including more iron into your diet. So, vegans and vegetarians should be able to achieve their daily levels no problem with just a little bit of planning.
Also, vitamin C may be a way to help your body absorb more iron from your food. So, you may be able to top your meals with a spritz of lemon or lime juice, or include vitamin C-rich vegetables to your meals to help get even more iron out of your diet.
If the cause of your hair loss or slowed hair growth was only due to a chronic iron deficiency, you may be able to see hair improvements from correcting the deficiency.
However, most causes of hair loss are not from a lack of iron, but from a genetic predisposition to hair loss. We often call this genetic hair loss androgenetic alopecia, with includes male pattern hair loss as well as female pattern hair loss.
If your hair loss is due to these genetic factors, only correcting your iron levels is unlikely to reverse or stop all hair loss. But, inadequate iron levels may exacerbate genetic hair loss, so some level of improvement may be noted.
Even if keeping your iron levels adequate can’t undo or stop genetically predisposed hair loss, it is still important and beneficial to your overall health to keep your iron levels in a normal range.
Always talk to your doctor before starting on an iron supplement regimen to avoid dangerously high iron levels. People without iron deficiencies should not start taking iron supplements without a reason for them.
It is important to work with a doctor to help get your iron levels up to normal if you are experiencing hair loss. But, that may not be the whole treatment plan. Since most hair loss is caused by androgenetic alopecia, you may benefit from using a medication to target this genetic source of hair loss as well.
Here at Strut, we focus on treating the most common reason for hair loss in both men and women -- androgenetic alopecia (male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss).
We offer a range of treatment options from oral to topical, as well as customized formulas which can combine multiple active ingredients into one easy formulation.
If you are experiencing hair loss and want to see if a prescription medication may be able to help slow your losses or encourage regrowth, you can have a free online questionnaire and image-based consultation with our U.S. licensed doctors in under 15 minutes.
If you are a good candidate for treatment, your medication can be shipped o your front door with our free shipping.