About Low Serum Ferritin Hair Loss

By Shelley Moore

  • Overview

    Women under age 50 may look to low iron levels as the reason for rapid hair loss, although clinical studies have contradictory findings whether low iron actually is a cause of this problem. Some physicians do advise iron supplementation if a person has significant hair loss and iron level is low. Raising the iron level is healthy in any case and worth a try to regain hair growth. Low iron can be caused by a low level of ferritin, a protein that stores iron.
  • The Condition

    The most common type of hair loss in women is called telogen effluvium, or diffuse hair loss, with an obvious decrease in hair thickness occurring over several weeks or months. The condition may follow emotional stress such as the death of a loved one or after physical stress such as rapid weight loss, severe or chronic illness, a nutritional deficiency or surgery. The hair usually grows back after several months. If the condition continues for more than six months, or reoccurs, it is called chronic telogen effluvium. This type of hair loss is rare in men.
  • Identification

    Women who are most likely to have this condition include those who are pregnant or have recently given birth, long-distance joggers and women with anemia. Anemia is commonly caused by iron deficiency.

  • Low Serum Ferritin

    The amount of ferritin in a person's blood, technically called the serum ferritin level, is directly proportional to the supply of iron in the body. Since blood iron varies with diet, measuring ferritin provides a more accurate representation of stored iron than measuring hemoglobin, which indicates how much iron is in the blood. A person can have high hemoglobin but low serum ferritin. A blood test is available to check for low serum ferritin.
  • Theory

    The theory behind low iron causing hair loss is that the body draws iron from storage whenever blood iron becomes too low. This includes hair cells, which require high levels of nutrients for growth.
  • Solution

    If hair loss is caused by iron deficiency, this can usually be easily reversed by adding more iron-rich food to one's diet. This includes red meat, clams and oysters, prunes and raisins, broccoli, spinach, kidney beans and chickpeas. Iron supplement pills also can be added. Foods with plenty of vitamin C help the body absorb iron. These include citrus fruits, tomatoes, green and red peppers, cabbage, broccoli and spinach. A more high-powered option is a combined therapy of vitamin B-12, vitamin C, the amino acid L-Lysine and ferrous glycine sulfate, a source of iron. With any of these treatments, it will take two to three months for the hair loss to stop and several months for new hair to be visible.
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