Important Nutritional Therapies for Hair Loss and Hair Regrowth
DISCLAIMER: CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE DECIDING ON A TREATMENT PLAN FOR ANY DISEASE OR INJURY.
While not all cases of hair loss are based on nutritional deficiency, there are certain situations in which hair loss may be heavily influenced or even entirely caused by a single deficiency or a set of deficiencies. Even in situations where hair loss isn’t caused by deficiency, nutritional supplementation with the appropriate nutrients may dramatically improve a patient’s response to different natural medicines. Below are some of the most important nutrients to consider when trying to prevent hair loss and encourage hair growth.
Minerals for Hair Regrowth
Zinc supplementation may be especially valuable for patients with alopecia areata (autoimmune hair loss), androgenic alopecia, telogen effluvium hair loss, and those with thin or brittle hair. A deficiency in zinc has long been noted as having a negative effect on hair, and as with any nutrient deficiency, supplementation in cases of deficiency can reverse the damage done (especially when the deficiency is caught and treated sooner rather than later).
In multiple studies done in various countries, patients with hair loss were shown to have notably lower serum zinc levels than healthy control subjects. In other studies examining the use of zinc as a treatment for hair loss, the administration of this mineral (in combination with other nutrients) frequently resulted in notable hair regrowth and patient recovery in a short period of time. One study observed hair regrowth after 3-5 months of treatment.
Zinc has the unique role of being a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor. This enzyme normally converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more powerful androgen that can cause negative effects in men specifically when present in excessive quantities. Inhibition of 5-alpha reductase also inhibits the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Through this mechanism, zinc can be of particular benefit for patients with androgenic alopecia (male-pattern/female-pattern hair loss) since it can regulate hormone levels.
Individuals at risk of becoming deficient in zinc include those with malabsorption issues (such as patients with inflammatory bowel syndrome), women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, individuals who consume excessive amounts of alcohol, cancer patients, patients with liver or kidney dysfunction, and patients taking anti-hypertensive drugs or valproic acid. Vegans and strict vegetarians may also be at an increased risk of developing a zinc deficiency. Besides hair loss, other symptoms of zinc deficiency may include the following (use this list to consider if you may have a true zinc deficiency):
- Impaired immunity or overactive immune system
- Delayed wound healing
- Decreased sense of smell and taste (ageusia and anosmia)
- Dermatitis / skin cracking (especially around the mouth or on the fingers, ears or limbs)
Patients with hair loss who suspect that they may have a zinc deficiency should take a zinc gluconate supplement of 30-50mg daily in combination with a 2mg copper supplement (this is because long-term zinc supplementation can result in decrease in copper levels, so it’s important to maintain copper with a supplement in this case so as to avoid developing a copper deficiency by accident).
Iron deficiency is a potential stress-related risk factor for the development of telogen effluvium. In this particular type of hair loss, iron deficiency should be considered (though of course, it may not be the cause of hair loss in all cases of TE, since there are many sources of stress that can cause this condition). Other types of hair loss may be partly caused by low iron levels or an iron deficiency as well.
One study done on iron deficient mice noted that hair loss was reversed when the mice were given supplemental iron and the deficiency was corrected. Other studies done on humans have observed low serum iron levels in patients with chronic androgenic alopecia (both male-pattern and female-pattern hair loss) and alopecia areata. Iron deficiency has been noted as being significantly more common amongst women who are menstruating than other populations, and while in reality most sources disagree on the importance of iron in hair regrowth, menstruating women in particular should consider iron deficiency as a possible factor in their hair loss (as well as other health symptoms that may accompany the hair loss).
Risk factors for developing an iron deficiency include pregnancy, cancer, malabsorption disorders, recent loss of blood, use of H2 blocker drugs, and the adherence to a vegan or strict vegetarian diet. Women who are menstruating may also be at an increased risk of developing an iron deficiency due to monthly blood loss. Other symptoms of iron deficiency that may accompany hair loss include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Brittle nails
- Coldness in the extremities
- Tongue inflammation or soreness
- Brittle nails
- Light-headedness and/or dizziness
- Heart palpitations
- Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
It’s important to take care when supplementing with iron, since it is possible to take too much. Do not go beyond 40mg of iron per day. In most individuals, 20mg daily will be sufficient to restore iron levels, particularly when the iron supplement is taken at the same time as a vitamin C supplement since vitamin C helps enhance iron absorption.
Copper is an important mineral for many reasons, though unfortunately, a lot of people pass over this nutrient and don’t ever consider its importance for health. This trace mineral can be toxic when present in high quantities in the body, but it can also be detrimental when the body doesn’t have enough.
One study on patients with hair loss observed that individuals with male-pattern hair loss and telogen effluvium were more likely to have a copper deficiency (approximately 30% of patients in these groups had low serum copper levels). Another similar study observed that 10% of patients had a reported copper deficiency, while, a different study noted that patients with alopecia universalis, a type of alopecia areata, had lower serum copper levels than the control subjects.
Other symptoms of copper deficiency include:
- Fatigue and/or weakness
- Decreased immune function
- Memory problems
- Difficulties with coordination
- Vision loss
- Pale skin
- Cold sensitivity
If you suspect that you may have a copper deficiency, take 2mg of copper daily. Do not exceed this dose, and make sure that if you take a multivitamin or any other combination supplement that you’re not already taking copper (only take a dedicated copper supplement if none of the other supplements you’re taking contain copper).
Selenium and iodine go hand-in-hand, and since iodine deficiency/bromine toxicity is heavily implicated in all types of hair loss, supplementation with selenium is also vital. However, besides being a supporting player for iodine, selenium also has its own unique benefits when it comes to the treatment of hair loss.
In rats and mice, studies have shown that a selenium deficiency can result in limited hair growth, and that a lack of selenoproteins causes gradual hair loss after birth. Human studies into selenium and hair loss/regrowth are relatively limited, though one study on a group of 29 alopecia areata patients showed that the patients with autoimmune hair loss had significantly lower serum selenium levels than the control subjects. A different study on infants with alopecia and pseudoalbinism observed that supplementation with 5mcg/kg of selenium per day improved the symptoms of both conditions.
Risk factors for selenium deficiency include disorders that cause malabsorption, HIV infection, long-term hemodialysis, and living in an area where soil selenium levels are low (or eating foods grown in selenium-deficient soil. Other symptoms of selenium deficiency may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Weakened immune system
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Depression / Anxiety
- Memory loss
Like the other minerals on this list, it’s possible to take too much selenium. Check all of your supplements to see if you’re already taking selenium before adding in a dedicated supplement. In either case, do not exceed a dosage of 400mcg per day. A daily dose of 200mcg of selenium for adults will be sufficient to correct deficiency for most people, and is well within the safe dosing range for this mineral.
Vitamins for Hair Regrowth
Vitamin D (+ Vitamin K2)
Before I even write about vitamin D for hair regrowth, I want to make sure that readers are aware that you should never take vitamin D without also taking vitamin K2! Vitamin D supplementation can be very bad when people don’t take it in combination with vitamin K2, and can lead to soft tissue calcifications, fragile bones, and tooth decay. Therefore, while vitamin D may be an important supplemental nutrient for some patients with hair loss, it should only be taken with vitamin K2. There are many supplements available that combine these two vitamins in the appropriate proportions.
Some studies have demonstrated that patients with hair loss may have lower-than-average levels of vitamin D than other healthy individuals. One study observed that a group of 8 female patients with either telogen effluvium or female-pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia) exhibited significantly lower vitamin D levels than the control subjects, and that lower levels of vitamin D were associated with increased disease severity. Other studies from various countries have also demonstrated similar results in patients with hair loss due to alopecia areata (autoimmune hair loss). Vitamin D supplementation may also be beneficial for patients with cicatricial alopecia.
However, though vitamin D supplementation may benefit some patients with hair loss, it’s also worth noting that having too much vitamin D can also cause hair loss. If you’ve been taking high dose vitamin D (especially if you haven’t been taking it with vitamin K2), vitamin D toxicity may be more likely than vitamin D deficiency.
Supplementation with a vitamin D3+K2 supplement can help reverse the symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency, including hair loss. Patients should obtain a supplement that contains a natural form of vitamin D3 and the MK7 form of vitamin K2 (since this is the nutrient’s most bioavailable form). Do not exceed a daily dose of 5000IU or equivalent of vitamin D3 per day in supplement form, and keep in mind that the best way to obtain vitamin D is by getting plenty of sun whenever possible. Consider incorporating 30 minutes of full sun exposure (with no sunscreen and as little clothing as possible) with a dose of the Budwig Smoothie into your daily routine.
Vitamin B9 / Folate / Folic Acid
Vitamin B9, otherwise known as folate or folic acid, is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin that contributes to the production of nucleic acids and in the metabolism of amino acids and proteins, meaning that it plays a crucial role in the growth and strength of hair follicles. Experts disagree as to the extent to which vitamin B9 deficiency plays a role in hair loss and hair regrowth, but regardless, there are still some studies that demonstrate that this vitamin may be able to improve hair loss symptoms in some situations.
In one study done on 29 patients with different types of alopecia areata, researchers observed that the patients with alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis had the lowest serum folate levels of all, while the patients with patchy alopecia areata generally had lower serum folate levels than the control subjects. Another study done in Turkey noticed that patients with alopecia areata were more likely to have the MTHFR gene than healthy control subjects; this gene regulates folate metabolism, and when present, can make vitamin B9 deficiency more likely.
Other symptoms of folate deficiency anemia include:
- Fatigue and/or weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Smooth and/or sore tongue
- Anorexia (decreased appetite)
- Pale skin
Hair loss patients who suspect that they may have a vitamin B9 deficiency should supplement with a methylated vitamin B9 supplement rather than a regular vitamin B9 supplement. In people who have the MTHFR gene mutation, this form of vitamin B9 is more accessible to the body and can more readily correct a deficiency in the case that the person has one. In patients who do not have this gene, the vitamin B9 is still available; taking this specialized form of vitamin B9 won’t do any harm. Thus, this is to account for the possibility of a patient having the MTHFR gene mutation.
Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should take 800mcg per day, or even up to 1000mcg daily. Individuals (male and female of any adult age) who are trying to correct a potential deficiency in folate can use this as a guideline for dosing.
Vitamin B12 / Cobalamin
Vitamin B12 deficiency is becoming somewhat of an epidemic in the United States, especially as more and more people take to following a vegan diet (which I don’t recommend, except over the short term in extreme, unique circumstances, since the vegan diet is nowhere near sustainable for adequate human health). Like vitamin B9, vitamin B12 also contributes to the production of nucleic acids and red blood cell formation, and also plays a key role in the production of methionine synthase.
Vitamin B12 deficiency has been known to cause hair loss, especially when in combination with other deficiencies. There are various stories of people who experienced hair loss that completely reversed after they received an injection with vitamin B12, suggesting that the hair loss was entirely caused by this nutritional deficiency, though the actual research into this is somewhat limited. One study did, however, demonstrate that 2.6% of 115 individuals with acute and chronic telogen effluvium were deficient in vitamin B12.
Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency and information about risk factors for developing this deficiency can be found at this link. While some boutique health clinics may offer vitamin B12 injections on IV therapy that includes vitamin B12 (this is the best option, since oral vitamin B12 isn’t well-absorbed in most cases, especially in people older people), it’s also possible to combine a pure vitamin B12 supplement with DMSO to apply to the skin to supplement vitamin B12 effectively. Read more about how to do this correctly and safely at this link.
Additional Cures for Hair Loss: The AlivenHealthy Living Database
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Also, consider downloading our package that includes The Psoriasis Cure and The Gallbladder as a book bundle to begin working with the core issues underlying hair loss.
Guo, Emily L. and Katta, Rajani (2017). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Retrieved September 16, 2022 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/
Thompson, Jordan M., et. al. (2017). The role of micronutrients in alopecia areata: A Review. Retrieved September 16, 2022 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5685931/
Gowda, Dinesh, et. al. (2017). Prevalence of Nutritional Deficiencies in Hair Loss among Indian Participants: Results of a Cross-sectional Study. Retrieved September 16, 2022 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5596642/
Almohanna, Hind. M. (2019). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Retrieved September 16, 2022 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
N/A (n.d). Thinning Hair May Signal Rare Vitamin B12 Deficiency Disease. Retrieved September 16, 2022 from: https://www.belgraviacentre.com/blog/thinning-hair-may-signal-rare-b12-deficiency-disease/