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.
Functional medicine testing can readily assess whether you are digesting your protein as well as if you are eating enough.
6. Vitamin D
Low vitamin D levels have been implicated in hair loss. Vitamin D plays a major role in overall health including hair, skin, and nail health.
The optimal level of vitamin D is above 50 ng/mL in those without kidney disease.
Stress can significantly hinder hair growth. The body will loose more magnesium the more you are stressed.
Magnesium can not only help your body de-stress by helping produce relaxing brain chemicals (called GABA), it can help strengthen and lengthen your hair.
Dosage and form of magnesium must be tailored to your health status to ensure its efficacy.
Magnesium glycinate is most likely the form that you will be given if you are magnesium deficient and if your hair, skin and nails show signs of dryness and damage. But if you are tired all the time and are magnesium deficient - then magnesium malate would most likely be best for you. Other conditions have different requirements, find out what you need by getting functional medicine testing and consulting with your doctor.
Low iron levels are associated with hair loss and poor hair health.
If you find yourself fatigued, winded after going up a flight of stairs, and notice you have cravings for vinegar foods, ice, or foods naturally rich in minerals then you might be iron deficient and testing would be a good idea.
Iron is crucial in assisting with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body.
Helping Your Body Heal Naturally
Getting thorough functional medicine testing goes beyond what you would get at your doctors office at your annual checkup - often there are over 10 pages of results ranging from organ function, to protein absorption to antibody presence to full hormone panels.
Our office can arrange testing (even out of state) and most testing goes through your insurance.
Utilizing this testing offers us a window into how your body is functioning at a fundamental level. Many of my patients come to me after struggling to find a diagnosis elsewhere and sometimes have been told 'its all in their head'.
If you are suffering from chronic symptoms like hair loss, fatigue, rashes, digestive problems, or other 'unexplained' symptoms - functional medicine will fill the gap missing in your care.
If you would like to speak to me to ask questions about functional medicine, chronic illness or how I can help you, please schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation or call or text my office at 913-728-5291.
If you think that you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Nor should you ever delay seeking medical advice or treatment due to the information contained on this Website.