Hair Loss Due to Iron Deficiency:
Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Medical Director Dr. Hans-Georg Dauer
May 20, 2022
Whether on social media, in the latest blockbusters or in glossy magazines - time and time again we are confronted with an age-old ideal of beauty - strong, silky and shiny hair. But the reality often looks different. It is not uncommon for our hair to appear thin and lifeless. What could be the reason for this?
The good news up front is that it's not always androgenetic alopecia, a rare autoimmune reaction, or a hormonal imbalance that's behind the cosmetic blemish. Often, a nutrient deficiency is simply the culprit. A lack of iron in particular can really mess up our scalp.
But what actually happens with an iron deficiency, how exactly does it affect our hair and what can we do about it? Let's take a closer look at the matter.
How Does Hair Loss Actually Occur?
The words hair loss alone are already enough to hurt our ears. After all, who wants to lose a portion of their vitality? But, not to worry: hair loss is not always pathological. To a certain extent, it is even completely natural. Did you know that we actually lose up to 100 hairs per day?
It’s only a matter of concern once more than 100 hairs start to disappear from our mane. Then at the latest, we officially speak of effluvium, the dermatologist's technical term for hair loss.
The search for the cause of the effluvium is not always easy. Often it drags on for what feels like an eternity. After all, there is not one cause for hair loss. On the contrary: the most diverse triggers are conceivable. How about a little overview? Here is a brief summary of the most common causes:
Androgenetic Alopecia: It is the most common cause of hair loss. Around 80 percent of all men and 40 percent of all women have to deal with this diagnosis. The reason for the hereditary hair loss is a hypersensitivity of the hair roots and hair follicles to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). They cannot cope with the so-called hair loss hormone. Sooner or later, the contact between DHT and the hair roots leads to alopecia. As soon as they come into contact, the sensitive hair roots switch from the growth phase (anagen phase) to the resting phase (telophase).
Alopecia Areata: We also like to call this rare form circular hair loss. Its hallmark: Suddenly, coin-sized, circular bald patches form on the scalp, which are most likely due to an autoimmune reaction of the body.
Diffuse Hair Loss: Alopecia does not always follow a clear structure. Often it runs completely randomly. Sometimes we lose a tuft here, sometimes there. Thus, the entire hair coat loses its fullness and vitality. The triggers are manifold. From psychological stress to hormonal fluctuations to infections or diseases of the scalp, everything is possible. Just as often, a nutrient deficiency hides behind the suffering - particularly often an iron deficiency. Because without iron, no healthy hair growth.
What are the Causes of Iron Deficiency?
An iron deficiency always occurs when the body's iron reserves are exhausted. Especially in physical and emotional exceptional situations, we use up our iron stores extremely quickly. If we cannot balance them out in time, our organism quickly gets into an imbalance.
Pregnancy & Lactation
Every pregnancy is a challenge for our body. Both the development of the child in the womb and the production of the placenta and the supply of the umbilical cord demand a lot from it. It is not without reason that the need for iron is six times higher during pregnancy. It is therefore understandable that this extraordinary phase in life is considered one of the most frequent causes of iron deficiency.
The reason: Many pregnant women do not react quickly or strongly enough to the increased need for iron. With their usual diet, they cannot sufficiently quench their thirst for iron. The result: they feel tired, weak and weary.
Not only during pregnancy, but also during breastfeeding, the body literally craves iron - especially in the initial phase. This is precisely when the newborn baby needs the antibodies from breast milk most urgently. The risk of severe iron loss is all the greater in the first few weeks after birth. And the more iron our body loses, the more likely we are to develop anemia.
Did you know? Anemia increases the risk of so-called postnatal depression, better known as baby blues.
Who doesn't know this cliché? The tall, skinny teenager comes home after school completely exhausted. Wait, time for studying already? Maybe later, he needs a nap first. It’s all just laziness, right? Not at all, the body really is really already performing at its best.
The growing body is quite demanding. It requires twice as many nutrients and iron as the body of an adult. Especially when it comes to supplying oxygen to the brain and muscles, it needs a powerful energy boost. No wonder that it needs a little break after this hard work.
With competitive athletes, the body works at full speed. No wonder that the body demands a higher iron supply. Especially for the strong muscle work and sweat production it wants an extra portion of iron.
By the way, the iron stores are particularly empty for competitive athletes who swear by a low-meat or meatless diet.
Passionate runners are particularly affected. Due to the constant vibrations during running, the gastrointestinal tract quickly contracts microbleeds. Clinically, these are not a cause for concern, but they still deplete the iron reserves.
One of the most common causes of iron deficiency in women is heavy menstrual bleeding. The reason: if too much blood and thus iron is lost during menstruation, the deficiency often cannot be balanced out quickly enough through food. But what does heavy menstruation actually mean? We have done some research:
Tampons alone can no longer keep the heavy blood loss under control
Per period the woman consumes more than 12 pads
Per day the bandage must be changed more than four times
Blood clots (blood coagulates) are also excreted
Menstruation lasts longer than 7 days
Chronic bleeding occurs
Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Many chronic inflammatory bowel diseases also upset iron absorption. This is especially true of Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and gastric ulcers.
Admittedly, only microhemorrhages occur here. In the long term, however, these can also lead to significant iron loss.
Particularly in hip, knee or thoracic operations, there is a risk of severe blood loss. And this often does not remain without consequences. It is not uncommon for the patient to suffer from a persistent anemia after the operation, which noticeably delays the regeneration phase. This has even been scientifically proven.
At best, the risk of anemia is already thoroughly checked in advance. In other words, before the operation is released, the laboratory checks the patient's ferritin level. If the examination reveals an iron deficiency, this can be treated in good time. The better the ferritin levels, the shorter the recovery time after the operation.
Another possible cause of iron deficiency is malnutrition. Vegetarians and vegans in particular often consume too little iron. After all, meat is considered one of our most precious sources of iron.
All the more circumspection is required when designing the menu. These little iron wonders are expressly desired:
Legumes: beans, peas, soybeans
How Much Iron Should I Take in Daily?
There are many myths surrounding iron intake. The trade magazines and online guides are literally overflowing with well-intentioned advice - especially on the daily dose of iron? How much can and should I take?
For adults, doctors recommend a daily dose of 10 to 15 mg of iron.
For children, doctors recommend a daily dose of mg 8 to 10 iron.
Anything below the ideal levels is considered too little iron and promotes iron deficiency.
Iron Deficiency - What Should I do?
Good news: Most of the time, iron deficiency is easy to treat. The prerequisite for a successful therapy: The cause must be known. After all, what good is a change in diet, for example, if the problem is not the diet, but a chronic illness? It is not for nothing that experts always recommend a blood count when iron deficiency is suspected. It reliably determines the nutrient reserves in the human body.
If the iron deficiency can be clearly traced back to the diet, a new menu is worthwhile. Iron suppliers such as beans, peas, meat, wheat bran and pumpkin seeds should not be missing.
If a chronic inflammatory bowel disease is responsible for the iron deficiency symptoms, it is worthwhile to have a detailed discussion with the internist.
Occasionally, the expert also recommends taking iron supplements - especially after exceptional situations such as childbirth or surgery. They are available as tablets, capsules or drops.
Prevent Hair Loss with Iron Tablets: Does it make Sense?
There is a persistent rumor that circulates: hair loss can be effectively prevented with iron supplements. But be careful: Iron capsules & co. are not the ultimate solution for everyone. Because hair loss is an individual matter. It cannot be generalized. Sometimes alopecia is genetic, sometimes hormonal. Other times it is a strong autoimmune reaction of the body. So it is not worth taking iron supplements on the off chance. It is possible that the iron stores are well filled.
Our tip: With any form of alopecia, regardless of your initial suspicions, you should always have the exact cause clarified by a doctor. With the help of a blood test you will know in record time: Is it really an iron deficiency or does my hair loss have a completely different trigger?
Iron Deficiency and Hair Loss: How are they Related?
Iron deficiency and hair loss are two close allies. Often they occur as a double. First, of course, there is the iron deficiency. Our bodies don't have enough iron in stock. It then switches into survival mode. In other words, it stores all the iron left over for our key organs, such as the lungs and heart. In this way, it can continue to supply them in an emergency.
Other organs that are not essential for survival unfortunately go empty-handed. Nails and hair are particularly hard hit. When it comes to the fight for survival, they only play a minor role. The less trace elements such as iron, selenium and zinc they get in an emergency.
Unfortunately, the trace element deficiency is not without consequences. Sooner or later, of course, it shows in the nails and hair. The nails become thin, brittle and fragile. But brittle nails are not the only evil.
Our hair also has a hard time in this case. Without iron, they quickly become thin and weak. The worst case: The iron deficiency interferes so strongly with our hair growth that we lose our hair. Sometimes we hardly notice the hair loss, but sometimes it leaves unsightly bald patches in our hair.
By the way: Our hair follicles, the structures around the hair roots, have a particularly high iron requirement. This is because they are eager cell dividers. In fact, they belong to the type of cells in the body that divide most diligently. And because cell division makes us hungry, they need a lot of vitamins, nutrients and trace elements - whether vitamin C, folic acid, calcium or zinc.
How to Treat Hair Loss due to Iron Deficiency?
Fortunately, iron deficiency can be treated well - for example with a change in diet. Even a simple blood count provides information about the body's iron levels. In this way, a possible iron deficiency can be identified quickly and reliably - just like the potential causes for the questionable blood values.
PRP Therapy - Natural Growth Turbo for Hair Loss due to Iron Deficiency
Granted: Until an iron deficiency is detected and successfully treated, some weeks and months can pass. After all, the body needs its time. Unfortunately, it does not find its balance again overnight.
Some find it easy to wait, others find it difficult. They feel uncomfortable with their damaged hair and want their old self back - as quickly as possible. PRP therapy, the number one treatment for iron deficiency anemia, is just what they need.
This is an autologous blood treatment. The main actor is your blood. The doctor at HAIR & SKIN takes a small amount of your blood and carefully prepares it. And it is precisely this careful preparation that gives him access to your platelet rich plasma, the precious plasma in your blood.
Because did you know that this plasma is a real growth turbo for the hair roots? As soon as it is injected into the scalp, it pushes the pedal to the metal. It gently awakens your tired hair roots and stimulates them to grow. All the faster, they can recover after hair loss due to iron deficiency. Within a very short time they are finally back to their old selves.
Good to know: PRP therapy also works wonders after a hair transplant. It reliably stimulates the regeneration of the scalp so that the freshly transplanted grafts grow faster.
Sounds interesting? Then find out about your options today at HAIR & SKIN, your Swiss specialist for stunningly full hair.
Are you interested?
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