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Hair Loss – What Do Nutrients Have To Do With It?

Hair loss, or alopecia, of the scalp

Alopecia, which means hair loss, can occur anywhere on the body, but most often is thought of as affecting the scalp (1).

Hair loss can affect men or women, and it can occur as a gradual thinning on the head, as patchy bald spots, or a sudden loosening of the hair with handfuls of hair being lost as it is brushed or washed (1).

We all lose hair each day, but for most this hair is replaced with new hair growth, so it is not as noticeable.

Why does hair loss happen?

Hair loss can be hereditary (androgenic alopecia) and a part of the aging process which tends to happen gradually (1) (2).

Alopecia can result from auto-immune conditions (alopecia areata), like thyroid issues that disrupt hormones, which can be caused by environmental factors (2).

Certain medications like those used for acne, birth control, cancer treatment, depression, gout, and high blood pressure, can also cause hair loss (1).

Nutrients like protein, B complex, zinc, iron, omega 3, vitamin C, and selenium in proper amounts are all necessary for healthy hair growth. And, nutrient deficiencies, like vitamin D, or nutrient excesses, like vitamin A, have been linked to hair loss (3).

Vitamin D Deficiency and Hair Loss

There are about 100,000 hair follicles on the scalp, and about 90% of these are in the active phase of the hair growth cycle which requires essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals for healthy hair (3).

Vitamin D regulates the growth and differentiation of the cells responsible for keratin production, which is the main structural protein of the hair (3).

So, when vitamin D levels are deficient, new hair growth can be affected.

Autoimmune-related hair loss (alopecia areata) causes inflammation around the hair follicles that are actively growing, and vitamin D plays a role as an anti-inflammatory nutrient able to reduce inflammation (4) (6).

Vitamin D Sources

The recommended daily amount for vitamin D is 1500-2000 IU for adults (5).

While we can get vitamin D from certain foods like fatty fish, egg yolk, and mushrooms, it can be difficult to get the level we need each day through our diet alone.

Most of our vitamin D comes from the sun as the body makes this nutrient when the skin is exposed to sunlight (5).

Diseases affect Vitamin D levels

Vitamin D is metabolized in the liver and then converted in the kidneys to its active form, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, which is regulated by the parathyroid, calcium, and phosphorus levels in the body (5).