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Hair loss? It may be Anaemia (Iron Deficiency)

Are you feeling under pressure, tired and exhausted and on top of that experiencing hair loss? Don’t be too quick to assume your hair loss is down to stress or genetics alone because it may be more than that. Hair loss often signals a variety of medical problems and could be the result of a low amount of iron (red blood cells) in your system. This condition is called anaemia.

The body needs certain nutrients to produce more red blood cells and if there is a lack of one or more of these nutrients, anaemia will develop. There are three types of anaemia concerned with hair loss. The most common form of anaemia is iron deficiency anaemia.

Also Read: How Hair Loss Reveals Inner Health?

Women are particularly susceptible to iron deficiency due to the regular loss of iron rich blood during menstruation. Iron deficiency is believed to be a relatively common precursor to female hair loss, in fact, 72 percent of women with diffuse hair loss have an iron deficiency.


Understanding Iron Anaemia


Iron is an essential mineral. It is needed for many important functions, but primarily to make red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. If your levels are too low and your body is not getting enough oxygen, then you will feel tired and your immune system will be weakened.

Like we say - too much of anything is bad - too much of iron is also not good for the body. Excessive levels of iron in your system can be toxic, and can even lead to death. So, if you think you are iron deficient, the doctor might prove you wrong!  Hence, the first step should be to visit a good doctor and know your iron level.


Causes of iron deficiency


The reasons for anaemia may be summarised as follows:

  • Losing blood by way of monthly periods (in women)
  • Eating food that may not be rich in dietary iron
  • Going on ‘crash diets’ to attain, or remain in shape
  • In India, early menarche (onset of periods) is one common reason for anaemia in young girls
  • Poor absorption of iron in diet even if diet is nutritious.


Symptoms of iron deficiency


Most common symptoms are:

  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Reduced cognitive skills
  • Restless legs
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Increased risk of infections
  • Irritability
  • Brittle nails


Symptoms of anaemia-related hair loss


If you happen to see one or more of the following, you may most likely have anaemia-related hair loss:

  • There may be a lot of shedding of hair
  • In some cases, hair loss may be subtle where hair has thinned out over a period of months/years
  • Hair may be dry or brittle
  • Heavy periods.


Diagnosing anaemia-related hair loss


This can be easily done by way of following tests:

  • Complete blood count
  • Serum ferritin levels
  • Stool test (to check for loss of blood via stools).


What can be done to treat hair loss if you are diagnosed with anaemia?


Knowing how to manage problems like anaemia and hair loss will help you avoid being depressed and anxious about those strands of hair you see in your brush or the sink but sometime you need further help.

Replenishing the iron store in the body with the help of iron supplements could be one possible solution. But, for many, it can be a time consuming, frustrating and uncomfortable process. It can take a while to raise your iron levels in the blood.

Now, you may ask if this is solution – Why can’t a person buy iron supplements directly from a pharmacy and consume? This can be VERY dangerous – as we have said before also, too much of iron is not good for health.

The body can't easily excrete excess iron, so if you take too much, it builds up. This can have many negative effects on the body, including an increased risk of liver and heart disease. Iron overload can also cause hair loss.

Hence, if you feel that the texture of your hair has changed or you’re noticing excessive hair loss - you can consult a trichologist. Your trichologist will advise you on which supplement to take and the dosage.

Another reason you should not try to 'self-diagnose' if you suspect excessive hair loss in last few months is that your hair loss may be caused by another reason. There are different types and causes of hair loss, which can only be diagnosed by a trichologist.


Getting more iron in your diet


Once you start the treatment, paying attention to your diet is important. Here, we provide you a list of foods rich in iron and can help deal with hair loss condition:

  • lean beef
  • liver
  • lentils
  • beans
  • spinach
  • tofu
  • blackstrap molasses (black treacle)
  • oysters
  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • prunes
  • raisins
  • apricots (fresh or dried)
  • dark chocolate

Once your iron levels get back to normal, it can take up to a year to fully re-grow your locks.

Yes, it's frustrating having to wait that long. But you should notice that the shedding stops far sooner, giving you some encouragement and a good sign that things are heading in the right direction!

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