Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which the hair is lost from the scalp and other areas of the body. According to the National Alopecia Areata Areata Foundation, over 4.7 million Americans are affected by this condition, which occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. Treatment for alopecia areata may include steroids, hair restoration creams and other forms of immunotherapy. In general, this condition is cyclical and the follicles are not destroyed by the immune system, allowing hair to regrow. Vitamins may also play a role in the treatment of alopecia areata. Check with your doctor before using any nutritional supplement.
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Biotin, also known as vitamin H, is a B-complex vitamin that your body uses to produce energy from food. Biotin is also used to manufacturer hair, skin and nails, and the University of Maryland Medical Center explains that this vitamin, combined with the mineral zinc, has been used to treat alopecia. Biotin is not stored by your body, and you need to consume foods like brewer's yeast, eggs, nuts or sardines or take a dietary supplement in order to fulfill your daily requirement. Adults, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, require 30 mcg of biotin daily.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is found in every cell in your body. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that zinc is often combined with biotin for the treatment of alopecia. Additionally, zinc acts as an antioxidant, which can protect your body from damage by free radicals -- byproducts of metabolism that can cause cellular damage. This is particularly important for individuals who have compromised immune functioning such as that seen in alopecia. Dietary sources of zinc include oysters, legumes, whole grains and cooked green vegetables. You are able to absorb approximately 20 to 40 percent of the zinc in your foods, and the absorption is enhanced by eating protein with a zinc-rich food.
Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, is used to treat digestive problems, nerve inflammation and immune system impairment in conditions such as AIDS, according to MedlinePlus. Although considered rare, at least one case study has linked a thiamine deficiency to alopecia. A 1998 study published in the "Journal of Advancement in Medicine" found a young patient with symptoms that were improved by administration of supplemental thiamine. Many years later, she returned for treatment again, due to significant thinning and loss of hair. Physicians appeared to believe the hair loss to be attributed to a thiamine deficiency, however, the patient passed away before thiamine could be administered.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that your body can't store or manufacture without an outside source from food. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University explains that vitamin C plays a crucial role in the integrity of your immune system. Treatment for alopecia often involves medications like steroids, which can impair your immune system response. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C such as fruits and vegetables, or taking a daily vitamin C supplement, may help prevent this decline and decrease your vulnerability to bacteria and viruses.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- National Alopecia Areata Foundation: Treatment for Alopecia Areata
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Alopecia
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin H (Biotin)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Zinc
- MedlinePlus: Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- "Journal of Advancement in Medicine"; Thiamin Deficiency and Alopecia; Derrick Lonsdale, M.D.; 1998
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Vitamin C