Folic acid is essential for many bodily processes. A deficiency of this vitamin may not only slow your hair's growth, but it can also cause your strands to turn gray. While gray hair that occurs with age or genetics cannot be reversed, hair that is gray because of this vitamin deficiency typically returns to its normal color once you increase your folic acid levels. Talk to your doctor about your hair and vitamin concerns.
Symptoms of Folic Acid Deficiency
Having a mild deficiency of folic acid or vitamin B-9 is not uncommon, especially if you are on certain medications or have a condition like alcoholism, irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease. In addition to gray hair, a folic acid deficiency can also cause a poor appetite, gingivitis, inflammation of the tongue, shortness of breath, diarrhea, irritability and mental sluggishness. It can also lead to certain types of anemia, as well as mouth and peptic ulcers.
Importance of Folic Acid
Folic acid works with the other eight members of the B-vitamin complex to convert the nutrients you consume into usable energy for your body. It also aids in the production of your genetic material, DNA and RNA, which helps with the division and growth of cells, including the ones found in your hair follicles. This in turn leads to regular hair growth, as well as maintains the overall health of your strands.
Sources and RDA
The RDA of folic acid for adults is 400 mcg, and the best way to get this vitamin is through a healthy diet. Good sources of B-9 include dark leafy green vegetables, asparagus, turnips, beets, brewer's yeast, root vegetables, whole grains, wheat germ, salmon and avocados, as well as fortified grains and cereals. You can also take folic acid in the form of a supplement, either on its own or in a multivitamin. However, because a B-12 deficiency can be masked by too much B-9, it is best to take all of the B-complex vitamins together to avoid this.
Other Causes of Gray Hair
If your gray hair is not the result of a folic acid deficiency, it could be caused by other factors, such as smoking, certain illnesses and drug treatments. However, most gray hair is the result of age and heredity, and in this case, no nutritional or vitamin supplements will decrease or stop the graying. But if your hair has become suddenly or inexplicably gray, or if you experience other symptoms along with it, seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause of your graying strands.
- MedlinePlus; Folic Acid in Diet; November 2009
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid); May 2009
- InteliHealth.com; The Science Of Gray Hair; February 2011
- MedlinePlus; Aging Changes in Hair and Nails; December 2010
- Huntington College of Health Sciences; Have a "Good Hair Day;" Gene Bruno, MS, MHS