Nutritional Causes of Hair Loss
Hair loss can be due to a number of issues: Hormones, heredity, stress, poor diet, and some prescription medications can be the culprits.
Luckily, you may be able to slow down the process by evaluating your diet. You should make sure you are getting the right vitamins and minerals that your hair needs.
Deficiencies can cause hair loss and a large number of vitamins can affect hair growth. If you don't get enough of the following vitamins and minerals in your diet, hair loss and unhealthy hair may result:
- vitamin A
- vitamin B6
- vitamin B12
- vitamin C
- vitamin D
- pantothenic acid
Below, you'll see a full description of how each vitamin works and what you add to your diet to avoid a deficiency.
VITAMIN A AND BETA-CAROTENE
The scalp uses vitamin A to create sebum.
Sebum lubricates the hair roots and keeps hair from getting dry.
Dry hair is more apt to become brittle, break, and fall out. Vitamin A is necessary for healthy hair, nails, skin, and nerves. Beta-carotene, which is found in fruits and vegetables, is converted in the body to vitamin A.
The best sources are spinach, carrots, apricots and peaches. Meat and dairy products are other rich sources of vitamin A.
A vitamin B6 deficiency will cause hair loss. This vitamin stimulates hair growth due to its effect on blood circulation and cell-building.
Good food sources include liver, whole grains, eggs, and vegetables.
A lack of vitamin B12 is a common factor in women's hair loss. It is an important nutrient in the growth and strength of hair.
There does not have to be a noticeable deficiency for the hair to be affected. Often, women who diet neglect the foods that contain B12 and other B vitamins.
Vegetarians often need a B12 supplement because the best sources of the vitamin are meat sources. Good sources of Vitamin B12 include chicken, eggs, milk, and fish. Two good plant sources are bananas and sunflower seeds.
Biotin enhances growth, thickens the hair shaft, and lessens hair loss.
A lack of biotin can result in brittle hair and split ends. Hair that breaks off causes a head of hair to look thinner. Brittle hair is more likely to have split ends that make hair look unhealthy.
Biotin is found in some shampoo formulations. Food sources include eggs, dairy, and liver. Vegetarians should take a supplement to make sure they are getting enough of this vitamin.
Vitamin C is important in maintaining healthy hair because it is instrumental in the production of red blood cells.
Sources of vitamin C are well-known and include strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, and citrus fruits. Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C.
CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D
Everyone knows that calcium and vitamin D are needed for strong bones.
Hair needs this combination in order to be healthy. There are not many studies supporting a direct correlation between hair loss, vitamin D levels, and calcium, however optimal vitamin D and calcium increase general health which is thought to help slow down hair loss.
Vitamin E is essential to good blood circulation.
Good circulation to the scalp feeds the hair follicles and keeps them healthy.
Good food sources of vitamin E include oils such as olive and canola oil, soybeans, nuts, and seeds. Cooked dried beans such as kidney, pinto, garbanzo, and black beans are also good sources.
Inositol is another important nutrient for keeping hair follicles healthy. It plays an important role in maintaining the healthy cell membranes that make up the hair.
You can get inositol from whole grains, citrus fruit, bananas, brown rice, nuts, most vegetables, and liver.
IODINE AND SELENIUM
Today, people avoid salt for various health reasons, particularly high blood pressure, but the salt you buy from the grocery store usually includes added iodine. The reason for this is that an iodine deficiency can cause thyroid problems. Underactive thyroid can cause hair loss and an overactive thyroid can cause problems with hair growth.
Iodine is difficult to get from foods as the amount contained depends on the area where the food is grown.The best food sources of iodine are seafood and seaweed. Most multivitamins contain iodine.
Selenium works hand in hand with iodine. It helps the body metabolize the other mineral. Like iodine, a selenium deficiency also can trigger problems with the thyroid, which could result in hair loss.
A diet high in vegetables usually will cover the amount of selenium needed in the diet and it is in most multivitamins. Another good source of selenium is Brazil nuts. Just a couple of Brazil nuts per day will meet your daily requirement.
An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which is reduction in red blood cells. This is one of the most common causes of hair loss in women.
Eating foods high in vitamin C along with vegetables rich in iron, like spinach and broccoli, will increase absorption of the vegetables' iron.
Eating lean cuts of beef is also a good way to increase iron intake while avoiding excess fat. If you avoid beef in your diet, then the dark meat from chicken and turkey is also high in iron.
Magnesium is another mineral required for strong bones. A deficiency is linked to muscle spasms, hair loss, and anxiety.
Food sources include seafood, meats, beans, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, whole grains, nuts, dairy, and cocoa. If you have hard water or drink mineral water, you may be getting magnesium from water, as well.
Blood circulation in the scalp is important to hair growth and keeping the follicles healthy. Niacin, a B vitamin, helps in circulation. As an added bonus, it is also beneficial in keeping cholesterol levels in check.
Good diet choices that for niacin include fish, poultry, meat, and wheat germ.
PANTOTHENIC ACID (VITAMIN B5)
Pantothenic acid is well-known for promoting healthy hair because it is advertised as an ingredient in some shampoos. It is thought to help prevent graying hair, too.
Whole grains, eggs, beef, fresh vegetables, beans, pork, saltwater fish, whole rye flour, and whole wheat flour are valuable sources of this vitamin.
A zinc deficiency affects the function of the hair follicles. If the hair follicles are not healthy, then hair will grow improperly or not at all. Zinc affects the androgen level in men, which has been shown to affect male hair loss.
Zinc ointments and shampoos with zinc included are helpful. Multivitamins always include zinc.
The best food sources of zinc are meats, seafood, and poultry. Vegetarians can get a good amount of this mineral from whole grains, nuts, and brewer's yeast.
Getting Enough Vitamins to Prevent Hair Loss and Promote Growth
Multivitamins. To make sure you are getting enough of each of these vitamins, take a good multivitamin. The vitamins required in a healthy diet also are required to reduce or prevent hair loss and promote healthy hair. This is particularly important if you are dieting or are a vegetarian.
Protein. Since hair is made of protein, you also need to get adequate protein in your diet. As part of each meal, have something that is a protein-high food. L-cysteine and L-methionine are amino acids that improve the texture and health of hair. They help prevent premature hair loss. A high quality protein supplement can help your hair as these usually have a balanced mix of amino acids.
Good blood circulation in the scalp is imperative for healthy hair. Massaging the scalp can help promote circulation to the follicles.
Again, whatever makes your body healthier is also good for the hair. Exercise also increases blood circulation, which will affect the health of your hair.
Take care of your body and your hair will be healthy, too!
Michelle jacobs on September 11, 2018:
Ive been losing my hair for 8 months and my dr.said i was vit. D deficit so i got some vit D and multi vit. My bones no longer hurt and my hair stopped falling out and breaking off a week after i started the vit.s...i feel alot more mentally fit as well. Vitamins are soooo important!
ER MANU JASWAL on September 05, 2017:
THANKS TO THE TEAM
Alex on July 26, 2017:
Biotin: "Vegetarians should take a supplement to make sure they are getting enough of this vitamin."
Wrong! Biotin is found in plenty of plant foods and if you eat a well balanced whole food plant based diet the only nutrient you must supplement is B12.
Sushmitha on March 06, 2017:
Rachel Hopkinson on February 09, 2017:
I have been losing my hair at a massive rate for ten months. I've probably lost a 1/3 to 1/4 but as i had a lot of hair is not noticeable to others. I have been put on iron through the doctors as my levels are 40 and should be 80? It is still falling but not at the same rate. How do I know if it is the iron and nothing else? I do diet and don't eat much meat but I can't take multi vitamins as well can I as they contain iron.
SAMIR JANA on December 03, 2016:
MY HAIR LOSS
MY PROBLEM SOLUTION ?
Toni Boucher on July 27, 2014:
Succinct but thorough too- including vegetarian diet. Just what I was looking for- . Thanks!
progressivehealth (author) from Boise, Id on November 04, 2012:
Alice, age is definitely a factor. Meds are definitely a factor. All of this has an effect on your body chemistry.
Vitamins can definitely help. Its about finding what works for you and continuing use if it fits with your treatment protocol.
alice age on November 03, 2012:
how much is age a factor,the lengeth of hair,and meds, it seems a person can never take enough vitamins ,and how do you know if what they say is correct