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Anaemia is commonly caused by a lack of iron, which is one of the most important minerals for your hair. Iron also optimizes energy levels, nourishes your skin and keeps your heart healthy - an all-round essential for your general fitness and well-being.
Iron Deficiency Anaemia
Iron deficiency anaemia is caused by low numbers of red blood cells (haemoglobin). It usually occurs if your diet lacks iron-rich foods, or you aren’t absorbing it correctly. However, loss of blood, illness and pregnancy can also be causes of anaemia. A large proportion of women who come into our trichological clinics for hair loss treatment have some degree of anaemia.
If you’re losing your hair, or notice it isn’t growing at the rate or to the length it used to, we suggest you have your doctor test your iron levels, as both of these can be symptoms of anaemia. Iron levels should be analysed by checking the following blood levels: Serum Iron; TIBC (Total Iron Binding Capacity); Transferrin Saturation and Ferritin. If you discover you’re anaemic, try not to worry - your GP can prescribe you a supplement.
It’s important to follow the dosage, as high iron levels can also be dangerous and taking more than prescribed will not lead to a faster result. You may also want to ask your doctor to suggest changes to your diet. The most beneficial treatment for anaemia is when you receive iron both through good nutrition and the correct supplement.
Ferritin is a stored iron that helps to produce hair cell protein. It’s found in every cell in your body and is essential for healthy hair.
Why is ferritin important?
Ferritin is stored iron, so first and foremost good levels are important in the prevention of anaemia. Correct ferritin levels also maximize your hair’s ‘anagen’ or ‘growing’ phase and encourage your hairs to grow to their full length. When you aren’t getting enough iron through your diet, your body takes ferritin stored in non-essential tissue, like your hair bulb, and gives it to essential tissue, such as your heart.
Because your hair bulb is where all your hair cells are produced, this leeching of ferritin can cause your hair to shed before it reaches its maximum length. This can even occur if your haemoglobin level is normal. Ferritin can also be too high, and cause a condition known as haemocromatosis, where your body produces excess iron which can affect your liver and heart.
Testing Ferritin Levels
Ferritin levels are not always tested, even when your iron levels are tested. If you notice excessive hair loss, ask your GP or trichologist to check them. However, it’s important to note that optimum ferritin levels for your hair are higher than those considered acceptable for your body. Again, this is down to your hair being a non-essential tissue.
This means that your GP may not notice a ferritin reading that can cause hair loss. The average reference ranges for ferritin are 14-170 micrograms per litre, but our research shows that ferritin should be at least 80 ug/L (micrograms per litre) in women for hair follicles to function at their best. If your ferritin is low or under 80 ug/L, your doctor or trichologist can prescribe a supplement.
At Philip Kingsley Clinic we often recommend taking Ferrograd C, as it’s released slowly and doesn’t cause as many side effects as other iron supplements. However, it can take as long as 6 months to increase ferritin levels, but don’t despair or become impatient. As your levels improve, your hair will benefit immensely.
Foods Rich in Iron
- Red meat
- Raw peaches
- Prune juice
- Raw or dried apricots
- Broccoli tops
- Potato skins
- Treacle (molasses)