Anemia, or Anaemia, generally refers to a significant decrease in the red blood cell count; however, there are several types of anemia, each with its own different causes and symptoms. A person is also considered to be anemic if blood cells don’t function properly due to a lack of vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron, potassium, calcium), even if his or her red blood cell count is normal.
The structure of the hair follicle
The hair follicle is made up of the hair shaft, and the inner and outer root sheaths. From a chemical point of view, it is mainly composed of structural protein (keratin, a fibrous protein) – which counts up for more than 60% of the organic substance in the follicle. Water, vitamins and minerals are also essential to hair growth and texture.
Does anemia cause hair loss?
While anemia itself can’t trigger substantial hair loss (up to the point where you’d become bald) under ideal circumstances, it can definitely make things worse for you if you’re prone to hair-related conditions such as male pattern baldness (caused by DHT). Your hair roots (the “living” part of your hair) need proper nutrients and minerals to survive, including potassium, iron, magnesium and so on. For example, iron and oxygen are carried in the bloodstream by a protein called hemoglobin, which is directly related to your red blood cell count. If this count is low (i.e. you’re anemic), less oxygen and iron are transported to the hair follicle, causing it to become malnourished and eventually die. Of course, this affects the rest of your organs and system as well.
The same happens in case of iron-deficiency and calcium-deficiency anemia. Low calcium/iron levels are often associated with poor diet, which probably means you’re not getting enough protein and vitamins to nourish the hair follicle, apart from calcium and magnesium. This results in dry, brittle hair and is most noticeable while grooming after a bath or shower. Cut down on sugars and fats in favor of fruits, veggies, seafood and lean meat. Raw foods have the highest vitamin content (vitamins modify their chemical structure irreversibly at high temperatures), but you should also enjoy preparing your own healthy meals.
Increased hair shedding is normal during the menstrual cycle – mineral levels are practically depleted – but should otherwise be a sign of concern, especially if noticed on a regular basis.
What else can lead to iron/calcium deficiency?
Fizzy drinks are very high in sugar, which spike insulin levels, “expelling” calcium from bones. The potassium in soda and Coke is involved in this process as well. This not only affects your hair, but also your nervous and musculoskeletal systems.
Take a look at the article 10 Vegetable Highest in Iron for some ideas on how to increase iron in your diet.
What can you do to prevent it?
If your diet is high in sugar, a diet/lifestyle change is the first and most important thing you can do to prevent hair loss caused by anemia. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, hair loss treatments are more effective when anemia (and mineral deficiency in general) is being properly dealt with. Eating plenty of nutritious foods and leading an active lifestyle is the first step towards solving the problem – calcium and magnesium supplements are also recommended, but you should always speak to your doctor before taking them, as dosage usually varies according to each person’s blood test results.
You might find drinking an organic green drink daily helps increase your intake of vitamins and minerals — check out the world’s best organic powdered green drinks for some great examples.