Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Anemia and Hair Loss

We all lose hair - men and women. We lose our hair due to different reasons. It can be caused by genetic factors, certain illnesses or medications like chemotherapy. But most researches believe that the largest percentage of people experiencing hair loss is due to genetics, and one can do very little to solve this problem. Recent findings, however, suggest that in addition to DNA, diet too has something to do with this problem. If the iron level in one’s body is low, he or she can be more likely to be prone to some types of hair loss. It is yet to be determined whether iron supplements help growth of hair.
Iron deficiency is closely linked to anemia, a condition in which the blood is unable to carry oxygen because of low levels of hemoglobin. And even as iron deficiency anemia commonly causes excessive hair loss, it can also occur without showing any symptoms. It is, however, not yet clear whether anemia causes loss of hair or just worsens an already existing problem.

Iron-rich diet

It is often seen that many doctors will check hemoglobin levels to test for anemia, but only a few will go to check for iron deficiency without anemia. So it is better to have iron deficient patients screened for ferritin, a direct measure of the amount of iron in the body. Such hair loss patients include pre-menopausal women, women who just gave birth and patients who recently had surgery, all of whom may have low iron levels as a result of blood loss. Vegetarians and recent crash dieters should also be tested as they are most likely to be deficient in iron.

Those patients, whose iron levels are low, should eat foods and maintain a diet that contains high levels of iron, like red meats, spinach and raisins. Iron supplements can also help these patients. One should, however, consult a doctor before using these pills. A doctor’s advice is essential because too much iron on the other hand can be very dangerous, affecting one’s heart and pancreas, among other organs. In a number of cases, the extra dose of iron helps the body re-grow the hair. But iron alone cannot work miracles in all cases of hair loss; it can, however, be an important part of a more comprehensive treatment for hair loss.