Updated: Jul 1, 2019
Many suffer from hair loss at some point in their lives. While it is often dismissed as a superficial concern, it can be a sign of a deeper imbalance.
Often, those afflicted by hair loss have severe deficiencies, underlying conditions or heavy metal toxicity that can eventually can contribute to other symptoms and conditions. As a functional medicine doctor, I routinely see patients who have wide ranging symptoms that arise from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Rather than taking supplements indiscriminately, it is important to see what you truly need, as taking high doses of unnecessary vitamins can lead to additional imbalances (and wasted money).
Biotin (B7) is marketed as a skin and hair vitamin. While biotin deficiency can certainly impair skin health and hair growth - taking large doses of the vitamin has not been shown to grow hair faster.
On the contrary, patients taking mega doses of biotin often start to develop severe cystic acne, rashes and digestive problems.
This study found that 38% of women with hair loss had biotin deficiency, in order to see if biotin can help you, you must test to see what deficiencies you may have.
By taking only what you need, you supply your body with necessary building blocks without creating additional imbalances (which can happen if you take too many of single B vitamins).
Biotin is found naturally in liver, egg yolks and wheat germ. Vegans and vegetarians are commonly deficient in this and other vital B-vitamins.
Zinc is necessary for collagen production, a key component of healthy hair growth. Almost all of my patients are zinc deficient, as most people do not get enough zinc in their diet. Stress, infections, and high sugar intake can all deplete your zinc stores.
Zinc should be taken based on how deficient you are - taking too much is very easy so be mindful of how you feel.
Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea can be the result of taking too much zinc or may indicate you are taking the incorrect form of zinc and your body is having a difficult time absorbing it.
3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E supports hair thickness, health and growth. In a small study with 30 people, nearly all subjects showed improvement in hair thickness and density.
It is important to only take pharmaceutical-grade mixed tocopherols for the best results and ensured safety.
4. Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B deficiencies are often seen in women who are dieting off and on for long periods of time, who have had dramatic weight loss, or in those women taking over-the-counter or prescription antacid medication.
For supplementation it is best to take a vitamin B complex rather than taking single B vitamins (if you do not know your specific deficiencies) as this will increase the likelihood of balanced repletion.
If you have genetic variants (like MTHFR) that require you to take methylated B12 and Folate, a functional medicine doctor can ensure that you are taking the dose you need.
Taking mega doses of B12 and Folate can cause anxiety, irritability, depression, dizziness and nausea in those who do not take the correct form or who take too high of a dose, too quickly.
Antacids decrease stomach acid and impair B vitamin absorption.
Chronic antacid use contributes to B vitamin deficiencies and B12 in particular because stomach acid is necessary for B12 absorption. Chronic B12 deficiency can cause nerve pain, depression symptoms, and fatigue.
Avoid taking formulas that contain cyanocobalamin as this form of B12 is not optimally utilized by the body and may hinder overall vitamin and nutrient status long-term.
Both insufficient protein intake and ineffective protein digestion can stunt hair growth.
Just because you may be ingesting adequate amounts of protein on a daily basis does not mean that your body is consistently breaking it down and absorbing it.
If you find yourself having more difficulty digesting animal protein, or having low energy levels, then your body may not have enough protein to work with.