The Independent Pharmacy

Hair Loss And Vitamin B12 - How To Spot And Treat A Deficiency

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 9 Oct 2023

A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to excessive hair loss. Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in hair growth. When the body lacks this essential nutrient, it can disrupt normal follicle function and cause excessive shedding. The good news is that recognising the symptoms of B12 deficiency early and treating it properly can help get your hair back on track.

We'll explore the connection between low vitamin B12 levels and hair loss. You’ll learn why B12 matters for healthy hair growth, how to spot telltale deficiency signs, and what you can do to correct a shortfall. With a few simple diet and lifestyle tweaks, you can help stop unnecessary shedding and nurture lush locks.

Now, let’s start by understanding exactly what vitamin B12 is and why our bodies need it.

What Is Vitamin B12 and Why Is It Important?

B12 is an essential vitamin that keeps the body functioning properly. It’s crucial for making red blood cells, maintaining healthy nerve cells, and synthesising DNA. Vitamin B12 also enables cell division and growth - critical processes for proper hair follicle function.

Our bodies don’t produce B12 on their own, so we need to ingest it from animal foods or supplements. Good sources include fish, meat, eggs, and dairy. The recommended daily intake is around 2.4 mcg. Vitamin B12 is also available in fortified grains and as oral supplements.

When it comes to hair health, vitamin B12 is particularly important. It helps hair follicles divide and grow normally as hair cells rapidly regenerate. B12 deficiency can disrupt cell proliferation. The nutrient also aids metabolism and circulatory processes that supply follicles with the blood flow needed for optimal growth.

In summary, vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that helps create new red blood cells, maintain nerves, produce DNA, and enable cell division. Hair follicles rely on these processes to sustain healthy hair growth.

Vitabiotics Ultra Vitamin B-Complex Tablets
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The Link Between Hair Loss and Vitamin B12

When vitamin B12 levels are low, it can seriously impact hair growth and lead to excessive shedding. Here are some of the key ways B12 deficiency disrupts normal hair health:

  • Slowed cell division - B12 helps produce DNA and enables cell replication needed for hair to grow from follicles. Without enough B12, cell proliferation slows, reducing hair production.
  • Disrupted blood flow - B12 aids red blood cell formation that carries oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and follicles. Deficiency can reduce blood supply to hair roots.

Decreased hair follicle health - Vitamin B12 contributes to metabolising nutrients hair follicles need to stay healthy and productive. Lack of B12 can impair follicle function.

Increased folate levels - B12 and folate balance each other in the body. Low B12 allows folate levels to rise, which has been linked to hair loss.

Research indicates that correcting a vitamin B12 deficiency can help treat hair loss and stimulate growth. However, the condition may become irreversible if prolonged deficiency causes permanent follicle damage.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms

Hair loss can be one of the first noticeable common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. But there are also some other signs unrelated to hair that may indicate a B12 shortfall:

  • Fatigue, weakness and lack of energy
  • Lightheadedness
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Cognitive changes like memory loss
  • Depression

Along with hair shedding, some other specific hair-related symptoms can signal low vitamin B12 levels:

  • Thinning hair on the scalp or other body parts
  • Dry, brittle hair prone to breaking
  • Unusual hair texture - straight hair becoming curly or vice versa
  • Faster graying of hair
  • Changes to the hairline, like a widening part

However, many factors beyond nutrient deficiency can also cause hair loss and premature graying. We strongly encourage you to seek a comprehensive medical evaluation for an accurate diagnosis of B12 deficiency. Your health is important, and you deserve the best care. Blood tests help reveal levels and rule out other conditions.

Diagnosing Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Since hair loss and graying can result from many conditions, it's important to get the right medical tests and professional diagnosis. Here are some tips for assessing vitamin B12 deficiency:

  • Blood work - This is the most definitive way to check vitamin B12 levels. A serum B12 test under 200 pg/mL indicates a deficiency. Normal ranges are 500-900 pg/mL.
  • Complete blood count - A CBC blood test checks levels of red blood cells, which B12 helps generate. Low red blood cell counts may indicate deficiency.
  • Additional testing - Doctors may recommend other blood panels, like a complete metabolic panel or thyroid tests. This helps rule out thyroid disorders, anaemia, or other causes of hair loss.
  • Medical history - Your doctor will ask about risk factors like digestive disorders, vegetarian/vegan diets, medications, and family history. These can inform B12 deficiency likelihood.
  • Response to treatment - If vitamin B12 supplements and dietary changes seem to resolve hair loss symptoms, it supports the diagnosis. However, deficiency requires treatment regardless of hair growth response.

Diagnosing vitamin B12 deficiency requires professional medical assessment, not just self-evaluation of symptoms. Working closely with a healthcare provider for accurate testing and diagnosis isn't just a step—it's a partnership in your journey toward better health.

How to Treat Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Treating a vitamin B12 deficiency requires a holistic approach to hair loss treatment, dietary changes, and lifestyle factors. Here are some key ways to overcome a shortfall:

  • B12 injections - These shots delivered by a doctor quickly elevate B12 levels in the body. They're especially important for severe deficiencies.
  • Oral vitamin supplements - Daily B12 pills can maintain adequate vitamin B12 levels for those with mild to moderate deficiencies or as a follow-up to injections.
  • Eat foods rich in B12 - Including animal products like beef, eggs, and dairy products can help restore levels through a healthy diet. Nutritional yeast and tempeh are good vegan sources of vitamin B12.
  • Address causes - Treating underlying medical conditions causing deficiency, like autoimmune disorders or celiac disease, is important.
  • Reduce stress - Chronic stress depletes B12 stores. Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation can help manage anxiety.
  • Check for drug interactions - Some prescriptions, like proton pump inhibitors, can impact B12 absorption and may need to be changed.
  • Consider over-the-counter products - Some shampoos, serums and foams can aid the deficiency recovery process and support hair growth.

Replenishing B12 stores and maintaining adequate levels is crucial for healthy hair. Keep in mind that any medical treatment should be done under the supervision of a healthcare provider. Work with your doctor to create the right treatment plan for you. Then, you'll be able to rest assured that your treatment is safe. We know it's hard, but consistency and patience are your allies. Hair regrowth can be a slow process, but each day brings you closer to restoring your locks

Prevention Tips

Once vitamin B12 levels are restored, maintaining optimal levels is important to keep hair healthy and prevent future deficiency. Here are some tips:

  • Eat B12-rich foods - Include animal products like eggs, dairy, fish and lean meat in your regular diet. For vegans, try nutritional yeast.
  • Take B12 supplements - Those prone to deficiency may benefit from daily vitamin supplementation as prevention.
  • Get screened - Ask your doctor to check vitamin B12 levels during annual physicals to catch potential decline early.
  • Manage health conditions - Properly treating things like autoimmune disorders, celiac disease, and digestive issues can improve B12 absorption.
  • Limit alcohol - Chronic heavy drinking interferes with B12 absorption from food.
  • Reduce stomach acid medications - Frequent antacid use and proton pump inhibitors hamper absorption. Consult your doctor.
  • Check for drug interactions - Some prescription medicines, like metformin, can deplete B12 over time.
  • Limit stress - Practice meditation, yoga, or mindfulness to manage stress levels, which use B12 stores.
  • Exercise regularly - Physical activity improves circulation and nutrient absorption. Aim for 150 minutes per week.

Prioritising prevention makes it easier to sustain a healthy B12 status and avoid hair loss recurrence down the road. Work with your healthcare provider to find the right plan for you.

People Also Ask

There are a few key questions that often come up regarding vitamin B12 deficiency and hair loss. Here are answers to some frequent inquiries:

Will my hair grow back after treating a B12 deficiency?

For many people, proper B12 supplementation and diet changes can help regenerate new hair growth. However, severe or prolonged deficiency may cause permanent follicle damage. The sooner treatment starts, the better the chances for regrowth.

What are some other symptoms of B12 deficiency related to hair and skin?

In addition to increased shedding, thinning, dryness, and changes in texture, some dermatologic signs can signal low B12. These include hyperpigmentation, jaundice, vitiligo, and angular stomatitis (cracked mouth corners).

How much vitamin B12 should I take for hair loss?

Experts recommend getting the standard daily B12 requirement of about 2.4mcg. Those with deficiencies may need up to 1,000 mcg daily until levels normalise, then maintenance doses of 25-100 mcg. Injections provide the quickest way to restore B12 levels. However, the recommended dosage for treating deficiency may vary depending on the severity of the deficiency and your overall health. Therefore, you need to consult a healthcare provider for a personalised treatment plan.

Can low iron cause hair loss even if B12 levels are normal?

Yes, an iron deficiency can contribute to hair shedding and thinning. Make sure to get tested for both low iron and B12. Many supplements combine both nutrients since deficiencies often occur together.

Conclusion

At The Independent Pharmacy, we understand that experiencing hair loss can be deeply distressing and emotionally challenging. But for many sufferers, the problem stems from an underlying vitamin B12 deficiency. This vital nutrient plays essential roles in hair follicle cell division, blood cell formation, and metabolism.

When the body lacks sufficient B12, it can disrupt normal hair growth cycles and cause rampant shedding. The silver lining is that if you catch the signs of B12 deficiency early and address it appropriately, there's a good chance you can nurture your hair back to health. You're not alone, and help is available.

Restoring adequate vitamin B12 levels through supplementation, balanced diet, and a holistic approach allows follicles to regenerate new, healthy hair growth. With proper prevention, it’s possible to maintain lush locks for good.

Working with a doctor to diagnose a potential nutrient deficiency and find the right solution is the first step. A few simple lifestyle adjustments could get your hair back on a healthy track. We understand the emotional toll that hair loss can take, but please don't lose hope. With the right treatment plan, many people experience successful hair regrowth.

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