Hair loss can be devastating for many people. Your hair is often one of the first things people notice about you, and if it's falling out and noticeably thinning, you might understandably feel self-conscious and even unattractive. Fortunately, some causes of hair loss are relatively easy to address. For example, MayoClinic.com states that nutritional deficiencies can cause hair loss. Two key nutrients for healthy hair are vitamin B6 and zinc.
Normal, healthy hair goes through a natural growth and loss cycle. As this cycle occurs, most people lose about 100 to 200 hairs a day, says Columbia University Health Services. If you are losing significantly more strands than this -- which is often apparent by hair coming out in the shower or being left in your hairbrush -- the health of your hair may be suffering. While there are several possible causes of hair loss, experts at the University of Hawaii at Manoa state that hair is strongly influenced by nutrition. Thus, you can experience excessive shedding if you have certain nutrient deficiencies.
B Vitamins and Hair
The B vitamins -- commonly called B-complex vitamins -- are integral to healthy, strong hair. Because the body cannot store or manufacture B vitamins, they all must be obtained via diet or supplements, including B6. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that vitamin B6 is found in chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, shrimp, milk and cheese, among other foods. Plant-based dietary sources of B6 include lentils, spinach, brown rice, sunflower seeds, wheat flour and carrots. Vitamin B6 is also available in multivitamins and in separate B vitamin supplements.
Zinc and Hair
Zinc is another nutrient that helps maintain healthy hair, according to Columbia University Health Services. If your diet is deficient in zinc, you may lose excessive hair and notice that the hair you keep is duller and more difficult to control. Like vitamin B6, zinc can be obtained in many animal foods, such as meat, poultry, cheese and seafood. Vegetarian sources of protein include whole grains, legumes, sunflower seeds and pumpkin.
If you suffer from excessive hair loss, consult your physician for evaluation and advice. Certain health conditions other than B6 and zinc deficiencies -- such as thyroid disorder, extreme weight loss and hormone imbalances -- can contribute to hair loss. Your physician may want to rule out these other potential causes before discussing nutrient supplementation or a better diet as a way to combat hair loss. Before trying any vitamin or mineral supplement for hair loss, obtain your doctor's approval.
Is This an Emergency?
- Columbia University Health Services; Vegetarian -- Hair Loss?; December 2008
- University of Hawaii at Manoa Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences; Hair Loss in Women Has Contributing Factors; Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., et al.; 2010
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine); Steven D. Ehrlich, N.M.D.; June 2009