Will iron make my hair come back?
April 17, 2008 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Does anemia lead to permanent hair loss?

When I had my annual physical in January, I found out that I had an iron deficiency. I wasn't terribly good about keeping up with my iron supplements(they are harsh on my stomach) until I noticed that my hair was breaking easily and now I've been slowly losing hair. I'm a female in my mid-20's and there's no history in my family of hair loss. If I get my iron levels back on track, will my hair grow back and get healthy again?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, it probably will. Iron deficiency anemia is extremely common in women of your age, and once you get your iron levels back under control, your hair will get its healthy sheen back.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:21 PM on April 17, 2008

Insert plug for Floradix here. Best iron supplement I've ever used, includes vitamin C for help absorbing the iron and doesn't upset your stomach or cause constipation. Also has B-vitamins which help perk you. If you can't handle the metallic taste of the liquid (which isn't so bad when you first open the bottle, but gets worse as they oxydize), order the pills or ask your local store to order them for you.
posted by padraigin at 9:43 PM on April 17, 2008

I've had anemia related hair loss and it grew back just fine. You need to get your iron levels back up first though and even then it might take a while. Also mine wasn't particularly bad hair loss, I don't know what would happen if gets really advanced.

Talk to your doctor again about the supplements, there should be better formulations you can try that aren't so harsh. Even OTC supplements will work as long as they contain ferrous iron rather than ferric (ferrous sulphate, ferrous fumarate or ferrous gluconate are all common) and as long as they contain vitamin C (which greatly aids iron absorption). I'd avoid anything else in there, too many things interact with iron to reduce absorption plus there's no point paying for ingredients you don't need. Also take them with food and not with caffeine or cereal. All of these things will aid absorption so the iron is going into your body rather than passing down your intestine, and that in turn will help reduce constipation and other side effects.
posted by shelleycat at 11:52 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have anemia and I've been recommended a brand of iron supplements available at herbalists here in New Zealand called Thompson's as one that doesn't mess with your stomach or cause constipation. It also fits shelleycat's description. Perhaps you could print that page and take it to a herbal dispensary or pharmacy to find a close match.

I have only recently restarted iron supplements (an OTC brand -- I keep forgetting to buy the Thompson's ones) and have noticed my hair feels thicker. I have fine hair anyway but there is a noticeable difference.
posted by tracicle at 1:33 AM on April 18, 2008

It also fits shelleycat's description.

No it doesn't. The Thompson's supplement contains both magnesium, folic acid and Vitman B12. I said to avoid anything else in there except vitamin C.

Magnesium and iron interact with each other to affect absorption (as do most other minerals with manganese and zinc being top of the list to avoid). In this case it looks like the iron is reducing the magnesium absorption more than the other way around, but given that iron deficiency isn't treated with magnesium it's pointless having it in there (and if the OP is magnesium deficient then this would not be a good supplement to treat it).

Folic acid and B12 don't seem to interact with the iron at all, but unless the person taking it has a deficiency in one of those things they won't do anything. B12 and folic acid deficiencies can be complex and can have fairly horrible effects so if there is a suspicion that one of them is present then a doctor and some proper tests should be involved.

The best thing for someone who gets an upset stomach from iron tablets is time release tablets that will let it out more slowly in the intestine rather than in the stomach, and the best thing for anyone with iron deficiency in general is tablets containing bioavailable ferrous or heme iron, vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid) and nothing else.
posted by shelleycat at 5:32 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

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