The Independent Pharmacy

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

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 9 Oct 2023

Experiencing hair loss can be distressing, and you might be wondering if vitamin D deficiency could be a contributing factor. Vitamin D is crucial for many aspects of human health, including the health and growth of your hair. If your body isn’t getting enough vitamin D, it might negatively affect your hair and cause you to see more strands falling out.

So, it’s important that you look out for potential symptoms and try to include vitamin D in your everyday life. Whether you go for a walk when the sun is shining or add a fatty fish to your diet, you could improve your overall well-being.

If you’re not sure whether vitamin D deficiency is the culprit behind your hair loss, make sure that you consult your GP, who can help you get to the root of the problem.

But if you do have vitamin D deficiency or suspect you could be affected, it’s worth learning about its connection to hair loss.

What Role Does Vitamin D Play in Hair Growth?

While vitamin D plays an important role, healthy hair growth is a complex process involving many factors. These include genetics, underlying medical conditions, hormones, nutrients, and overall health.

However, research shows vitamin D does influence hair follicle cycling. Research has found that vitamin D interacts directly with hair follicles. When we have enough vitamin D, it helps hair follicles grow and function properly. This signals the anagen (growth) phase, where thick hair is produced.

In essence, maintaining sufficient vitamin D is crucial for healthy hair growth. It's an essential nutrient that keeps your hair in top shape.

Optimising vitamin D levels may support overall hair health, but many factors are at play. Sufficiency is one piece of the hair growth puzzle. Discuss your concerns with a dermatologist to explore all contributing factors.

Vitabiotics Ultra Vitamin D 2000IU Tablets
Vitabiotics Ultra Vitamin D 2000IU Tablets
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Symptoms of Low Vitamin D

There are several physical indicators of vitamin D deficiency to watch out for. Common symptoms include:

  • Thinning hair or increased hair loss
  • Fatigue and low energy levels
  • Muscle weakness, spasms or bone pain
  • Frequent infections or illness
  • Slow wound healing
  • Bone loss or fractures
  • Depression, mood swings or sadness
  • Impaired memory or concentration

The variety of symptoms reflects vitamin D's diverse roles in processes like immune regulation, brain function, and hormone production. At The Independent Pharmacy, we understand how concerning these symptoms can be. Recognising them early can be a crucial step in seeking the help and care you deserve. The sooner you identify a deficiency, the quicker you can act to correct it before further hair loss occurs. Don't ignore the subtle signs. Your hair's health may depend on it.

Are You At Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency?

There are certain factors that can raise your risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. Being aware of these risk factors is important:

  • Limited sun exposure - Spending little time outdoors deprives the skin of UVB rays needed for vitamin D synthesis. Winter months also contribute.
  • Having darker skin - Increased melanin reduces vitamin D production. Those with dark skin require longer sun exposure to maintain levels.
  • Being overweight or obese - Excess fat sequesters vitamin D, so less is available to be activated.
  • Age over 50 - As we age, the skin cannot synthesise vitamin D as efficiently. Kidney and liver conversion also decline.
  • Gastrointestinal conditions (conditions affecting your gut health) - Diseases like celiac, IBD, and gastric bypass impair vitamin D absorption.
  • Kidney and liver disease - These conditions disrupt the activation process of vitamin D.
  • Autoimmune disorders - Diseases like lupus, arthritis and thyroiditis are associated with low vitamin D levels.

If you identify with any of these risk factors, please know you're not alone. It might be beneficial to have your vitamin D levels checked and consider supplementation but always consult with a healthcare professional.

What Is the Link Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Hair Loss?

To understand how vitamin D influences hair growth, let's take a closer look at the hair follicles - those tiny yet mighty structures under your scalp.

Hair follicles go through cycles of growth (anagen phase), a short transition stage (catagen phase) and rest (telogen phase). The anagen phase determines thickness, as that's when active hair growth occurs. Vitamin D plays an integral role in regulating this cycle.

When deficiency disrupts vitamin D in your scalp, the anagen (growth) phase shortens. This prematurely pushes more resting follicles into the telogen (rest) phase. Excessive shedding occurs, resulting in thinner hair.

Research clearly demonstrates this link. Hair loss patients frequently have lower vitamin D concentrations. In studies, boosting vitamin D levels promoted hair thickness and growth. Optimising your vitamin D intake is key for maintaining healthy hair follicle cycling.

Accurate Diagnosis of Vitamin D Deficiency

If you're experiencing potential symptoms, getting an accurate diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency is crucial. This typically involves having your blood levels checked by a doctor.

The most common test for checking vitamin D levels in the body is the 'serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D' test. In this context, 'serum' refers to the clear liquid part of the blood, and '25-hydroxyvitamin D' is a specific form of vitamin D that the body produces after it processes the vitamin D we get from sources like sunlight, food, and supplements. This test measures both D2 and D3 forms, giving a comprehensive overview of your overall vitamin D status. The optimal range is thought to be 30-60 ng/ml as per endocrinology guidelines.

However, don't try to self-diagnose based on symptoms alone. Only a qualified healthcare professional can accurately interpret your test results, health history and risk factors. Work with your doctor to get your vitamin D levels checked and determine if supplementation is needed.

How Can You Treat Vitamin D Deficiency?

If a vitamin D deficiency is confirmed, the good news is there are effective remedies. Treatment typically involves obtaining more vitamin D through sun exposure, foods or supplements.

Some natural food sources include fatty fish like salmon, egg yolks, fortified milk and orange juice. However, it can be challenging to get enough vitamin D through diet alone. Sunlight allows the body to produce its own when skin is exposed. But amounts vary greatly depending on location, time of day and skin pigment.

For moderate-severe deficiencies, an oral vitamin D supplement is often recommended. Your doctor can advise on the appropriate daily dosage based on your individual health needs. The goal is to raise blood levels within the optimal range, which requires monitoring.

With prompt treatment guided by a healthcare professional, vitamin D levels can be restored. Once sufficiency is achieved, maintaining it through sensible sun exposure and a balanced diet should sustain healthy hair.

How Can You Avoid Recurring Deficiencies?

Once your vitamin D levels normalise, ongoing maintenance is crucial to prevent recurring deficiencies that can lead to further hair thinning and loss. This involves:

  • Periodic retesting - Recheck your vitamin D level with your doctor 1-2 times per year, especially after winter months. This allows you to catch any drops in levels before they become severely low.
  • Sensible sun exposure - Spending 10-15 minutes outdoors with arms and legs exposed supports natural vitamin D production. Take care not to overexpose skin to protect against skin cancer.
  • Consuming D-rich foods - Include vitamin D sources like fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified milks and cereals in your routine diet. Eating oily fish 2-3 times a week may help maintain levels.
  • Supplementation - Your doctor may recommend continuing a daily Vitamin D supplement as a preventive measure, especially during winter.
  • Stress management - High stress can negatively impact vitamin D metabolism. Develop healthy coping mechanisms like meditation, yoga or talk therapy.
  • Routine health checkups - Maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy body weight also supports vitamin D sufficiency.

Commitment to these lifestyle factors is key. With diligence, your vitamin D tank can stay filled, nurturing strong, healthy hair growth.

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a special type of nutrient known as a 'prohormone.' It primarily exists in two forms: D2, also called ergocalciferol, and D3, known as cholecalciferol.

The D3 form is synthesised in human skin when exposed to sunlight. It's also found naturally in animal-based foods like fatty fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks, fortified dairy products and beef liver.

Vitamin D2 occurs in some plant foods like mushrooms. It's also added to supplements or fortified foods such as cereal, juice and milk.

After we get vitamin D from food or sunlight, our liver and kidneys change it into a form our body can use. This activated form plays a vital role in regulating calcium for bone health. It also supports immune function, cell growth, hormone balance and more.

Not getting enough vitamin D, especially in winter or if we use too much sunscreen, can lead to health problems like weak bones, heart disease, memory issues, and even cancer.

How To Make Your Hair Grow Back?

If you're experiencing hair loss or thinning, there are some steps you can take to support regrowth:

  • Correct vitamin deficiencies - Replenish low levels of vitamins like D, B12, zinc and iron through diet, sun exposure or doctor-prescribed supplements. This nurtures healthy follicles.
  • Reduce stress - Chronic stress can affect hormone and nutrient levels tied to hair growth. Practice self-care through yoga, meditation or therapy.
  • Eat a balanced diet - Make sure to obtain sufficient protein, omega-3s, antioxidants, and minerals like iron, which aid hair health.
  • Treat scalp disorders - Issues like dandruff, folliculitis or fungal infections can impair follicle health. Use medicated shampoos or scalp treatments.
  • Stimulate blood flow - Scalp massages help improve circulation in the scalp to nourish follicles.
  • Try topical treatments - Minoxidil solution or hair growth serums containing peptides and biotin can stimulate regrowth when applied to the scalp consistently. Consult your dermatologist.
  • Consider PRP injections - They use a special part of your blood to help wake up sleeping hair roots.
  • Hair transplant - This surgical hair restoration technique redistributes follicles from thicker areas to patches of thinning or loss.

We understand how challenging hair loss can be. Remember to be gentle with yourself and give it time, as hair regrowth is a gradual process. Maintain healthy lifestyle habits to sustain a thriving head of hair.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are often common questions surrounding vitamin D's relationship to hair health. Let's explore some of the top FAQs:

What are the main symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

Some of the key symptoms signalling low vitamin D levels include hair loss or thinning, fatigue, bone/muscle weakness, frequent sickness, depression and impaired wound healing. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's completely valid to feel concerned. Listening to your body and seeking guidance can be a positive step forward.

Can taking vitamin D supplements help with hair growth?

Research shows correcting a vitamin D deficiency can help promote thicker, healthier hair growth. However, supplements are just one piece of the puzzle. Overall nutrition, underlying conditions and genetics also play key roles. Discuss options with your doctor.

How much vitamin D should I take daily for hair loss?

There is no established RDA for hair loss specifically. Your doctor will advise on the dosage needed to restore your vitamin D levels to the optimal range. This is typically 50–75 ng/ml for adults. The goal is correcting the deficiency rather than mega-dosing vitamin D. It's important to note that vitamin D dosage should always be determined by a healthcare professional based on individual needs and not just for hair loss.

Can low vitamin D cause permanent hair loss?

If a deficiency is allowed to become severe and prolonged, it can disrupt the hair growth cycles long-term. But catching and correcting it early on can help minimise permanent thinning and loss. Be vigilant with routine blood testing.

Conclusion

Vitamin D is undeniably pivotal for our overall well-being, with a special emphasis on the health of our hair. As we've explored, a deficiency can disrupt natural hair growth processes, leading to thinning and increased shedding. But the good news is that with awareness and proactive measures, it's possible to restore and maintain optimal vitamin D levels. By ensuring you get adequate sun exposure, consume vitamin D-rich foods, and consult with healthcare professionals when needed, you're taking significant steps towards nurturing and preserving the health of your hair. We recognise the journey to healthy hair can be multifaceted. While vitamin D is essential, embracing a holistic approach to your well-being can support not just your hair but your overall health and peace of mind.

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