About 57% of the Indian women population suffers from iron deficiency, mostly women of childbearing age and girls in their teen years and 8/10 times this iron deficiency in women leads to hair that feels thin and weak due to the lack of oxygen and blood supply which causes this hair thinning to convert to severe hair loss. Let’s understand why this happens in detail.
What Is Iron Deficiency?
One of the most common causes of hair loss in women is anaemia. This occurs when people have lower than the required levels of hemoglobin in the red blood cells. (RBCs). Now, for those of you who don't know much about Hemoglobin, it is a protein present in your Red Blood Cells that are responsible for supplying oxygen from the cells to your tissues. Hemoglobins are the reason why red blood cells appear red in color.
As mentioned earlier, the condition is very common, especially in women of childbearing age, however many people or rather women don’t realise that they have this iron-deficiency anaemia. It often goes neglected and is likely possible that they realise and experience the symptoms for years without knowing the cause.
Why Is Iron Important For Hair Growth?
As mentioned earlier, iron is needed by the body in general. It is used by the body to carry out various bodily functions. Hemoglobin (Hg) is made up of iron and in some people, mainly women, this iron-deficiency anaemia is the most common type of anaemia. This normally occurs when the body doesn’t have enough iron stored that needs to be used for various functions of the body. One of the reasons why iron is essential is that the body needs to make hemoglobin to help carry this oxygen to the tissues. So, when there is a lack of iron in your blood, the rest of your body doesn't get the amount of oxygen that is ideally required. This applies to hair follicles as well. If iron is lacking in these Hgs, it will not carry the required oxygen to the hair cells and the follicles will not grow healthy. This is why when someone lacks iron or is deficient in iron, their hair appears dull and lifeless along with hair thinning that eventually leads to hair loss.
Iron deficiency hair loss can look like a traditional male- and female-pattern hair loss. A studyTrusted Source published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science found that iron may not only play a role in hair loss, but it may cause hair to fall out in a fashion similar to that of genetic male- and female-pattern baldness.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, you may notice more hair than usual in the shower drain or in your hairbrushes. In more advanced cases you may notice bald spots on your scalp.
How Iron Deficiency Can Lead To Hair Loss In Women?
There are some cases when many women of childbearing age, the common cause of iron deficiency is a loss of iron in the blood due to heavy bleeding during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy. This is because the blood or iron that is getting lost from the body in the form of periods or pregnancy is not getting restored either due to a poor diet, or certain intestinal diseases that can affect how the body absorbs iron, which in turn is a leading cause of iron-deficiency anaemia. Sometimes it is very likely that mothers who have iron deficiency tend to give birth to girls who also tend to be deficient in iron. But this can be reversed with the right diet.
Causes Of Iron Deficiency In Women
If you aren't consuming the required amounts of iron on a daily basis, or on the other hand, if you are losing excessive amounts of iron, your body can't produce enough hemoglobin, and iron deficiency anaemia will eventually reflect in these individuals or especially women. The causes can be many, including the ones listed earlier.
Loss Of Blood
Blood contains iron. This means the iron that is present in the red blood cells. If there is a severe injury or periods with a heavy flood of blood, women tend to lose a certain amount of iron. Women with heavy periods are very highly at risk of iron deficiency anaemia because they lose blood during menstruation. Chronic blood loss within the body for example from a peptic ulcer or colorectal cancer can also develop into iron deficiency anaemia. A few other cases include gastrointestinal bleeding. This tends to happen due to the constant use of some over-the-counter pain relievers including and most importantly aspirin.
A Diet That Lacks Iron
Iron is usually obtained from the foods that you consume on a regular basis. If you have too little iron-rich foods, over time your body can lack the required amount of iron. Some sources of iron-rich foods include meat, eggs, leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and iron-fortified foods.
The Body’s Inability To Absorb Iron
The foods that you eat are absorbed from time to time to help the body get the right amount of nutrients. Similarly, iron that is consumed from the foods you eat is absorbed into the bloodstream by your small intestine. However, some people suffer from an intestinal disorder also known as celiac disease, where the small intestine is not able to absorb nutrients in the required quantity that are ingested from the food you eat and this can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. If part of your small intestine has been bypassed or removed surgically, that may affect your ability to absorb iron and other nutrients.
Another important thing that affects most women with iron deficiency anaemia is pregnancy. Not giving your developing body iron supplementation can lead to iron deficiency anaemia in many pregnant women. This happens because of the fact that their iron stores need to serve their own increased blood volume as well as be a source of hemoglobin for the growing baby.
How To Identify Hair Loss Due To Iron Deficiency
Most people tend to neglect the most common signs and symptoms that the body experiences when they slowly become deficient in iron. This tends to happen because most likely the symptoms of iron-deficiency anaemia can turn out to be very mild during the initial phase. According to the American Society of Hematology (ASH), many people aren’t really aware that they have mild anaemia until they are advised to do a blood test. Some of the symptoms of moderate to severe iron-deficiency anaemia can include:
- General tiredness
- A pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling dizzy
- Hair thinning and hair loss
- A strange craving to eat foods that lack nutritional value
- A tingling or crawling feeling in the legs
- Swollen tongue or soreness
- Cold hands and feet
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Severe brittle nails
- Constant headaches
Iron Deficiency Hair Loss Treatment
The best treatment to treat iron deficiency hair loss is to address the underlying problem behind it which is in fact the iron deficiency in your body. The first thing if you show these symptoms is to do a blood test which will determine if your blood lacks iron or not. The next thing your doctor will advise you to do is eat foods rich in iron and also supplement this with iron tablets. It is best not to expect results just in the first months. It will take a minimum of 3 months to allow the supplements and dietary changes to react in the body. If you don't see any improvements in hair loss after this time, ask your doctor if you should get your ferritin and iron levels retested.
As for regrowth, along with having the right foods, you can also opt for hair growth actives that boost the hair cells and improve hair growth and would help to control hair loss. This would include hair growth serums like minoxidil (depending on the stage of hair loss you are at) or even natural alternatives like redensyl, capixyl and procapil growth actives that work well.
If you are someone who does not have iron deficiency yet but is still worried that you may develop it in the future, it is best to prevent this by following a well-balanced diet that is rich in food sources of iron like spinach, peas and lean proteins, as also consume foods that have a lot of vitamin C to it like oranges, broccoli and tomatoes. This helps the body to absorb foods better. It’s also best if you do not tie your hair too tightly. On the other hand, if you are someone who is already deficient and is facing iron deficiency hair loss, you too might wanna follow these steps along with the right supplementation for more details take the Traya hair test. This iron deficiency hair loss is definitely temporary and if you follow the right treatment, you will definitely see the change.
Q1 - Can Having An Iron Deficiency Cause Hair Loss?
Ans - Yes, iron is in general required by the body. So, when there is a lack of iron in your blood, the rest of your body doesn't get the amount of oxygen that is ideally required. This applies to hair follicles as well. If iron is lacking in the hemoglobins, they will not carry the required oxygen to the hair cells and the follicles will not grow healthy. This is why when someone is deficient in iron, their hair appears dull and lifeless along with hair thinning that eventually leads to hair loss.
Q2 - Will Hair Grow Back After Iron Deficiency?
Ans - Iron deficiency hair loss is definitely temporary and if you follow the right treatment along with consuming foods that are rich in iron and give your body the right iron supplementation, you will definitely see the change.
Q3 - Do Iron Pills Make Your Hair Grow?
Ans - It will take a minimum of 3 months to allow the supplements as also dietary changes to react to the body. If you don't see any improvements in hair loss after this time, ask your doctor if you should get your ferritin and iron levels retested. As for regrowth, along with having the right foods, you can also opt for hair growth actives that boost the hair cells and improve hair growth and would help to control hair loss and regrow lost hair.
Q4 - How Long Does It Take To Reverse Hair Loss Due To Iron Deficiency?
Ans - If you consistently follow the right diet, supplements and regularly apply hair serums to enhance follicle health, it will take anywhere between 3-6 months to get things back to normal.