I’m Low in Iron — Can This Cause Me to Lose My Hair?

The Short Answer from dermatology experts

I'm Low in Iron — Can This Cause Me to Lose My Hair?

Q: Can Iron Deficiency Cause Hair Loss?

A. Iron is really important for hair growth and hair health. When we see patients who are experiencing hair loss, we often perform labs to screen for iron deficiency. It’s not uncommon for us to find iron to be low in women.

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Iron is especially for women of child-bearing age who have monthly periods and who may or may not get a lot of iron in their diet.

Besides menstruation, there are other factors that can cause women to be low in iron. Heavy exercise, such as running or high impact aerobic exercise, can cause small tears in your joints or the lining of your stomach — and this can lead to some anemia or loss of iron. Additionally, chronic illnesses can cause your body to hold on to iron.

Many women avoid red meat, which is our best source of iron. If you are a meat eater, the best way to address this problem is to get two 4-ounce portions of red meat per week. This small amount should be enough to maintain healthy levels of iron.

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If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you can eat beans, spinach, and other dark leafy green vegetables as sources of iron; however, plant-derived iron is not absorbed as completely.

You can also take an iron supplement. Iron supplements commonly cause constipation, so slow-release supplements are preferred. Taking iron with vitamin C, as is found in citrus fruits or some combination supplements, increases the stomach’s absorption of iron.

— Dermatologists Melissa Piliang, MD, and Alok Vij, MD

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