Understanding vitamins is as easy as learning the ABCs – or is it? In all, there are 13 vitamins that are essential to human life. They come from a variety of sources and benefit the body in a variety of ways. If you’re not getting enough of a vitamin, you may become sick or experience some other ailment. If you take too much, you may be at risk for harmful effects.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many of the body's functions. A vitamin D deficiency may cause numerous problems, including hair loss. In this article, we look at how vitamin D and hair growth are connected, if a deficiency causes hair loss, and if it is reversible.
Despite its name, vitamin D is not a vitamin. Instead, it is a hormone that promotes the absorption of calcium in the body. The challenge is that, aside from a few foods like oily fish, vitamin D is hard to find in the average diet. But in the presence of ‘ultraviolet B’ rays, our skin can produce its own vitamin D from a common cholesterol.
There are two main types of D. The first is vitamin D3, which is found in animals including fish and is the kind the skin makes when exposed to sunlight. The second is vitamin D2, which comes from plant-based foods including mushrooms. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D including infant formula, milk, breakfast cereal, orange juice, and other food products. A lack of sunlight or not eating enough foods rich in vitamin D are the most common causes of a vitamin D deficiency.
Does vitamin D deficiency cause hair loss?
There is some evidence that having a vitamin D deficiency does cause hair loss and other hair problems. Vitamin D stimulates hair follicles to grow, and so when the body does not have enough vitamin D, the hair may be affected. A vitamin D deficiency may also be linked to alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that causes patchy hair loss. Research shows that people with alopecia areata have much lower levels of vitamin D than people who do not have alopecia. Vitamin D deficiency can also play a role in hair loss in people without alopecia. Other research shows that women who have other forms of hair loss also had lower levels of vitamin D.
How does vitamin D affect hair?
Vitamin D affects the health of many parts of the body, including the skin and hair with Vitamin D playing a significant role in supporting the physical processes related to hair growth. Vitamin D helps create new hair follicles as part of the hair life cycle. Maintaining a healthy hair cycle is crucial for thicker, fuller hair.
Other vitamin D deficiency symptoms
People with a vitamin D deficiency may have no symptoms, or their symptoms may be nonspecific and change over time. Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency include:
changes in mood, including depression or anxiety
loss of bone density
new or worsening high blood pressure
A person's first defence against hair loss caused by a vitamin D deficiency is spending 15 to 20 minutes outside per day and eating foods that are rich in vitamin D. A person may also want to add a vitamin D supplement to their routine to support their vitamin D intake goals. Brittle or sparse hair requires gentle treatment, so anyone experiencing hair loss can prevent further breakage by:
not pulling the hair when brushing
avoiding ponytails and other tight hairstyles
using a gentle and natural conditioner
putting long hair in a loose braid before bed to prevent tangling
Research suggests that when a person lacks Vitamin D, the most effective treatment is for them to take vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin D supplements should be taken with meals, particularly ones with plenty of healthful fats. Fat helps the vitamin D to be absorbed into the body.
Good sources of dietary fat include:
some fish, include salmon, trout, and sardines
Supplements come in a variety of forms. Some may be taken daily, once a week, or once a month. When treating low vitamin D levels, a doctor will do a blood test every few months to see if a person's levels are increasing. The Endocrine Society recommend that adults between the ages of 19 and 55 receive 600 IU of vitamin D daily. The unit "IU" stands for international unit, which describes how potent a vitamin or supplement is, rather than its mass. The Endocrine Society recommend that adults over 55 years old receive between 600 and 800 IU per day of vitamin D. Finally, they recommended between 400 and 600 IU per day of vitamin D for children.
Vitamin D affects many aspects of a person's health and well-being, including hair growth. Having a vitamin D deficiency makes people more likely to experience hair loss and many other problems. People concerned about vitamin D deficiency-related hair loss should consult a doctor who will likely suggest supplements, dietary changes, and spending more time outdoors to help combat the deficiency.
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