The Connection Between Nutrient Deficiencies & Hair Loss

A woman in distress looks at the large amount of hair in her hairbrush.

Ensuring you receive adequate levels of nutrients from your diet is essential for maintaining good hair health.

Hair loss can be a disheartening and challenging experience, often causing distress and impacting self-esteem. While various factors contribute to hair health, the role of nutrient deficiencies in hair loss is often underestimated. 


This article discusses multiple nutrients - including B vitamins, vitamins C and D, iron, magnesium, omega 3, amino acids, vitamin E, selenium, copper, and zinc - and their impact on hair and scalp health.

B Vitamins For Healthy Hair

B vitamins are a group of 8 water-soluble vitamins. The body does not store them, so they need to be replenished daily through dietary intake. B vitamins are found in animal proteins, dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and beans (1). Biotin (vitamin B7), Folate (vitamin B9), and Vitamin B12 support hair health.

Biotin is the only B Vitamin that can be produced by the body. While deficiency without an underlying condition is rare, biotin deficiency is not uncommon in pregnant women, those with a history of frequent antibiotic use, or those who have a disrupted gut flora (2). Sufficient biotin intake is important for maintaining hair and skin health.


Folate plays an important role in DNA synthesis and repair, making it key for the growth and maintenance of healthy hair follicles. A folate deficiency can contribute to hair thinning and graying (2). This may be especially pertinent to individuals with MTHFR mutations who struggle to adequately convert folic acid into its active form (3).


Vitamin B12 is required for red blood cell formation and the transportation of oxygen to the hair follicles (2). Vitamin B12 supports the overall health of the scalp and hair follicles. It is not found in plant foods. Vegetarians and pregnant women are at higher risk of deficiency (4).

A woman with long, healthy, and shiny hair smiles.

A Note About Synthetic B Vitamins

Some people with MTHFR or COMT mutations don’t do well with synthetic B vitamins and struggle to convert them to their active forms (3). Methyl Factors is a high-concentration formula of bioavailable vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin), in conjunction with biologically active folate (methylfolate, L-5-MTHF), formulated for enhanced absorption.

Vitamin C & The Collagen Connection

While many people readily equate vitamin C with immune function, it is less well known that vitamin C is equally supportive of hair health. Vitamin C supports collagen production, which is the most abundant protein in the body and is found in the hair (5). Additionally, vitamin C is important for the absorption of iron, which is another nutrient that supports hair health (6).


Our Immune Liquid Vitamin C is a delicious way to increase Vitamin C intake with the added goodness of acerola and rose hips.

Amino Acids For Strong Hair

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and play a vital role in maintaining the health and strength of your hair, which is made up mainly of the protein keratin (7,8). 

The amino acid cysteine is important for the formation of keratin (9). Methionine, on the other hand, is involved in the synthesis of collagen and keratin, contributing to the overall structure and resilience of hair (10). Arginine, another important amino acid, helps improve blood circulation to the hair follicles, ensuring they receive the necessary nutrients and oxygen for optimal growth (11). 


Including protein-rich foods in your diet, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products, can provide your body with these essential amino acids and support healthy hair growth and maintenance.


Iron For Thinning Hair


Iron is a vital mineral that ensures proper oxygen transportation to your hair follicles and throughout your entire body. Iron deficiency is common in women, and women with low iron can be prone to hair loss (2). 

A man looks at his receding hairline.

Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, and several plant-based foods like chickpeas. 


Iron supplementation may be needed if a deficiency is present. Our Liquid Iron is enhanced with ethically wild-harvested yellow dock root, which is used in Western Herbalism to help with blood building. It is gentle on the tummy and tastes great!

Magnesium For Hair Growth

Magnesium is involved in numerous enzymatic reactions in the body, including in protein synthesis, which is necessary for hair growth (8,9). Magnesium is also supportive of collagen production, and collagen is a main component of hair and skin (10). Magnesium deficiency is extremely common and roughly half of American adults are low in this important mineral (11). Studies and clinical experience both show that when we are stressed, we tend to burn through magnesium at a faster rate, further increasing our magnesium needs (12). Stress is a correlating factor for hair loss (13). 


Food sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, beans, and leafy greens. Supplementation is a reliable way to increase magnesium intake. Our Mighty Magnesium contains a chelated form of magnesium glycinate that we love for its high bioavailability and digestibility!

Omega-3s For Healthy Hair

Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and flaxseeds, are important for maintaining overall health, including hair and scalp health.

Though there isn't much scientific research specifically about Omega-3s for hair loss, we know that Omega-3s are needed for the proper functioning of cell membranes (14), and clinical experience tells us that there is a definite link between Omega-3s and having healthy, thick, and shiny hair. There is some research that shows that increased Omega-3 intake improves hair coat quality in dogs (15), which reinforces what we see in practice.


Research from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey demonstrates that more than 90% of Americans are not meeting recommendations for omega-3 intake (16). Our Elite Omega-3 packs (1600 mg of Omega-3) deliver essential building blocks for cell structure and support.



Vitamin E & Hair Health


Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that plays a crucial role in protecting cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals (17). 

Foods that are good sources of Omega-3s: fish and seeds.

Oxidative stress can potentially lead to hair problems, such as thinning and premature graying (18). Vitamin E's ability to neutralize free radicals may help reduce oxidative stress on the hair follicles and promote a healthier scalp environment for hair growth (19).


Vitamin E is naturally present in various foods, including nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and leafy greens. Incorporating vitamin E-rich foods into your diet can support overall health and potentially benefit your hair as well.

Selenium For Protection

Selenium is an essential trace mineral that contributes to the maintenance of healthy hair by supporting the body's antioxidant defenses (20), helping to protect hair follicles from damage caused by free radicals (21). Selenium is involved in the creation of selenoproteins (20), which are crucial for hair growth and scalp health.


Deficiency in selenium can lead to hair loss (22). However, an excess of selenium can also cause hair loss (23), so it's important to maintain an appropriate level of selenium.


Selenium is naturally present in a variety of foods. The richest sources are Brazil nuts, organ meats, seafood, and fish. The amount of selenium in plant-based foods varies depending on the selenium content of the soil where they are grown.


Pregnant and lactating women have increased selenium needs. Dr Green Life Prenatal & Postnatal Daily Nutrients contains 51 mcg of selenium to help meet those needs.

Balancing Zinc & Copper For Healthy Hair

Zinc and copper are essential minerals that cannot be generated in the body, and as such must be consumed through the diet. Both zinc and copper are beneficial for maintaining healthy hair.

Zinc is involved in the development and recovery of hair follicles and in the formation of hair strands. Research shows that low blood levels of zinc are very common in patients who have hair loss (24). 


Copper is also a required mineral for hair follicle formation (24). However, balancing the intake of zinc and copper is important because the two minerals have an antagonist relationship, meaning that excessive intake of one can interfere with the absorption of the other. For example, researchers found a lower level of zinc in the blood and urine and increased levels of copper in the hair of children with alopecia (hair loss) compared to healthy individuals (25). 


A varied diet is supportive of balanced nutrient intake. Food sources of zinc include oysters, shellfish, lean beef, nuts and some dairy products. Food sources of copper include organ meats, shellfish, dark chocolate and leafy greens. 

Foods that are rich in zinc (shellfish, nuts, beans) rest on a wooden surface.

For some people, supplementation may be beneficial, such as with our Immune Liquid Zinc.

Vitamin D For Hair Growth

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is unique in that it can be taken in through the diet and synthesized from the sun. Vitamin D is involved in various signaling pathways of growth and differentiation of hair follicles (26). In the US, 41% of adults are low in Vitamin D (27). 


Vitamin D status can be improved through increased dietary intake, sun exposure, and through supplementation (28). Our Vitamin D3 Gummies are a great tasting way to increase your intake.


Summary

Hair thinning or hair loss can feel disconcerting. Ensuring you receive adequate levels of nutrients from your diet is essential for maintaining good hair health. Vitamins like B, C, D, E, and minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids, impact hair and scalp health and can be obtained through diet and supplementation, if needed. A holistic approach to hair care includes a sufficient nutrient intake and the use of nourishing non-toxic hair care products to maintain strong hair and a healthy scalp. 


References:

  1. Hanna, M., Jaqua, E., Nguyen, V., & Clay, J. (2022). B Vitamins: Functions and Uses in Medicine. The Permanente journal, 26(2), 89–97. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/21.204

  2. Almohanna, H. M., Ahmed, A. A., Tsatalis, J. P., & Tosti, A. (2019). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatology and therapy, 9(1), 51–70. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6

  3. Vidmar Golja, M., Šmid, A., Karas Kuželički, N., Trontelj, J., Geršak, K., & Mlinarič-Raščan, I. (2020). Folate Insufficiency Due to MTHFR Deficiency Is Bypassed by 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate. Journal of clinical medicine, 9(9), 2836. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9092836

  4. Rizzo, G., Laganà, A. S., Rapisarda, A. M., La Ferrera, G. M., Buscema, M., Rossetti, P., Nigro, A., Muscia, V., Valenti, G., Sapia, F., Sarpietro, G., Zigarelli, M., & Vitale, S. G. (2016). Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment and Supplementation. Nutrients, 8(12), 767. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8120767

  5. Wu M, Cronin K, Crane JS. Biochemistry, Collagen Synthesis. [Updated 2023 Sep 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507709/

  6. Li, N., Zhao, G., Wu, W., Zhang, M., Liu, W., Chen, Q., & Wang, X. (2020). The Efficacy and Safety of Vitamin C for Iron Supplementation in Adult Patients With Iron Deficiency Anemia: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA network open, 3(11), e2023644. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.23644

  7. Lopez MJ, Mohiuddin SS. Biochemistry, Essential Amino Acids. [Updated 2023 Mar 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557845/

  8. Yang, F. C., Zhang, Y., & Rheinstädter, M. C. (2014). The structure of people's hair. PeerJ, 2, e619. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.619

  9. Vernon W. B. (1988). The role of magnesium in nucleic-acid and protein metabolism. Magnesium, 7(5-6), 234–248.

  10. Sims, R. (1968). HAIR GROWTH AS AN INDEX OF PROTEIN SYNTHESIS. British Journal of Dermatology, 80(5), 337–339. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2133.1968.tb12308.x

  11. Cleveland Clinic. (2022, May 23). Collagen: What it is, Types, Function & Benefits. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/23089-collagen

  12. Rosanoff, A., Weaver, C. M., & Rude, R. K. (2012). Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: are the health consequences underestimated?. Nutrition reviews, 70(3), 153–164. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00465.x

  13. ‌Pickering, G., Mazur, A., Trousselard, M., Bienkowski, P., Yaltsewa, N., Amessou, M., Noah, L., & Pouteau, E. (2020). Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients, 12(12), 3672. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12123672

  14. Peters, E. M. J., Müller, Y., Snaga, W., Fliege, H., Reißhauer, A., Schmidt-Rose, T., Max, H., Schweiger, D., Rose, M., & Kruse, J. (2017). Hair and stress: A pilot study of hair and cytokine balance alteration in healthy young women under major exam stress. PloS one, 12(4), e0175904. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0175904

  15. Office of Dietary Supplements - Omega-3 Fatty Acids. (n.d.). Ods.od.nih.gov. Retrieved January 5, 2024, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional

  16. Papanikolaou, Y., Brooks, J., Reider, C., & Fulgoni, V. L., 3rd (2014). U.S. adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results of an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003-2008. Nutrition journal, 13, 31. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-31

  17. Böhm V. (2018). Vitamin E. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 7(3), 44. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox7030044

  18. Trüeb R. M. (2009). Oxidative stress in ageing of hair. International journal of trichology, 1(1), 6–14. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-7753.51923

  19. Beoy, L. A., Woei, W. J., & Hay, Y. K. (2010). Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers. Tropical life sciences research, 21(2), 91–99.

  20. Selenium - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Www.sciencedirect.com. Retrieved January 5, 2024, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/selenium

  21. ‌Guan, B., Yan, R., Li, R., & Zhang, X. (2018). Selenium as a pleiotropic agent for medical discovery and drug delivery. International journal of nanomedicine, 13, 7473–7490. https://doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S181343

  22. Kil, M. S., Kim, C. W., & Kim, S. S. (2013). Analysis of serum zinc and copper concentrations in hair loss. Annals of dermatology, 25(4), 405–409. https://doi.org/10.5021/ad.2013.25.4.405

  23. Senthilkumaran, S., Balamurugan, N., Vohra, R., & Thirumalaikolundusubramanian, P. (2012). Paradise nut paradox: alopecia due to selenosis from a nutritional therapy. International journal of trichology, 4(4), 283–284. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-7753.111206

  24. Dastgheib, L., Mostafavi-pour, Z., Abdorazagh, A. A., Khoshdel, Z., Sadati, M. S., Ahrari, I., Ahrari, S., & Ghavipisheh, M. (2014). Comparison of Zn, Cu, and Fe Content in Hair and Serum in Alopecia Areata Patients with Normal Group. Dermatology Research and Practice, 2014, e784863. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/784863

  25. Kil, M. S., Kim, C. W., & Kim, S. S. (2013). Analysis of serum zinc and copper concentrations in hair loss. Annals of dermatology, 25(4), 405–409. https://doi.org/10.5021/ad.2013.25.4.405

  26. Saini, K., & Mysore, V. (2021). Role of vitamin D in hair loss: A short review. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 20(11), 3407–3414. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.14421

  27. Forrest, K. Y., & Stuhldreher, W. L. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.), 31(1), 48–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2010.12.001

  28. Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin D. (n.d.). Ods.od.nih.gov. Retrieved January 4, 2024, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional

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