Loss Due to Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency in women has been shown in several clinical
studies to be a frequent cause of hair loss in non-menopausal
women, 35 to 50.
"In women the major cause of hair loss before
the age of 50 is nutritional, with 30% affected. Increased
and persistent hair shedding (chronic telogen effluvium)
and reduced hair volume are the principle changes occurring.
The main cause appears to be depleted iron stores, compromised
by a suboptimal intake of the essential amino acid l-lysine."
Another study of 153 women with telogen effluvium conducted
from 1995 to 1998 showed that iron deficiency and depletion
was the culprit in 72 percent of women. (2)
Hair loss due to iron deficiency affects women and rarely
ever men. Women who are most vulnerable include:
- Pregnant women
- Women who have just given birth
If you have been diagnosed with anemia, one side-effect
of this illness could be hair loss or increased shedding
Understanding Low Iron
The major causes of low iron levels falls under 3 main
- Blood Loss
- Body's lack of iron absorption
- Decreased iron intake
The most common reasons for iron deciency due to blood
loss include: (3)
- Bleeding in the digestive tract, often due to ulcers
and inflammation of the stomach (gastritis).
- Pregnancy. Blood loss during and after birth may cause
a woman to become iron-deficient, which may result in
anemia or hair loss.
- Menstruation. Excessively heavy periods (menorrhagia)
can cause an iron deficiency in women, especially when
combined with other factors, such as inadequate iron intake.
- Severe injuries.
A decreased absorption of iron can be caused by medications
that reduce stomach acids, lack of stomach acids, chronic
diarrhea, and partial removal of the intestines or stomach
(gastrectomy). Some foods, such as black or pekoe teas,
coffee, bran, soybeans, split peas, dried beans can actually
decrease the absorption of iron into the blood stream. Taking
Vitamin C when supplementing your diet with iron can actually
help absorb iron into the blood stream more completely.
Another cause of low iron might include decreased iron
intake or lack of iron in their diet. Good sources of iron
include lean red meat, steamed clams, cream of wheat, dried
fruit, soybeans, tofu and broccoli.
The Role of Ferritin
Ferritin is a protein that stores iron in the body. The
serum ferritin level -- the amount of ferritin in your blood
-- is directly proportional to the amount of iron stored
in your body. Ferritin is a more accurate monitor of long
term body iron status than the blood iron level, which varies
Serum ferritin concentrations provide a good assessment
of an individual's iron status...What level of serum ferritin
to employ in subjects with increased hair shedding is
yet to be definitively established but 70 µg/L,
with a normal erythrocyte sedimentation rate (< 10
mm/h), is recommended. The role of the essential amino
acid, l-lysine in hair loss also appears to be important.
Double-blind data confirmed the findings of an open study
in women with increased hair shedding, where a significant
proportion responded to l-lysine and iron therapy. (1)
To determine if you have iron deficiency, doctors will
most likely conduct a ferritin
The amount of ferritin in the blood indicates how
much iron the body has in reserve. A level of ferritin
above 40µg/l is considered normal. A level of ferritin
between 15µg/l and 40µg/l is described as
iron deficient and a level below 15µg/l is described
as iron depletion.(4)
Solution & Treatment
Hair loss in women and men due to iron deficiency can be
easily resolved in most cases with modification of one's
daily diet to include more food rich in vitamins which can
include red meat, dried fruit, broccoli, raisins, clams,
oysters, and spinach. Iron supplement pills and the amino
acid l-lysine can also eliminate the problem. The role
of the essential amino acid, -lysine in hair loss also appears
to be important. (1) The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance)
for Iron is 15 mg for women and 18 mg for men.
Anemia and Iron
The body needs iron to make hemoglobin. If not enough iron
is available, hemoglobin production is limited, which in
turns affects the production of red blood cells. A decrease
in the normal amount of hemoglobin and red blood cells circulating
in the bloodstream is known as anemia. Because red blood
cells are needed to carry oxygen throughout the body, anemia
results in less oxygen reaching the cells and tissues, affecting
their function.(5) It is important to note that not all
cases of iron deficiency result in anemia.
(1) D.H.Rushton, R.Dover, M.J.Norris. (2003) Is
there really no clear association between low serum ferritin
and chronic diffuse telogen hair loss?. British Journal of Dermatology 148:6,
(2) Article, Janet L. Roberts, Oregon Health Sciences University,
(3) Iron deficiency and hair loss, Paul Lehnert, 2004
(4) Iron deficiency causes female hair loss, L'Oreal/ISTNA,
(5) Iron deficiency anemia, kidshealth.org, 2005