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Iron Supplements & the Hair

By Lynne Sheldon

Your hair needs many vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and grow properly, and iron is one of these. If you become deficient in iron, you can develop anemia and experience hair loss. Your physician may recommend that you take iron supplements if you have or are at risk for a deficiency. However, these can cause side effects, particularly when taken in large doses, so discuss supplements with a doctor prior to ingesting them.

Iron Deficiency and Hair

The University of Maryland Medical Center states that, according to the World Health Organization, up to 30 percent of the planet’s population may have iron deficiency anemia. This nutritional disorder can come with many symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches and dizziness, and it can also result in hair loss. Iron gives oxygen to every cell in your body, including those in your scalp and hair follicles, and without enough oxygen, your hair will not function as it should.

Types and Side Effects of Supplements

Taking iron supplements can help treat and prevent anemia and its accompanying hair loss. However, if you are not deficient in iron, it is unlikely that ingesting more will improve your hair health. There are many types of iron supplements, and the most common is ferrous sulfate. Other types include ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate, ferric ammonium citrate and ferrous glycine. Iron supplements can cause digestive upset in the form of nausea, diarrhea, constipation and indigestion. However, they can also cause more serious side effects like chest pain, dizziness, a rapid heart rate, flushing, a skin rash or difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

RDA and Overdose

You need to meet the recommended dietary allowance or RDA of iron to both ensure the health of your hair and avoid becoming anemic. For adult men, the RDA is 8 mg, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. For women, the RDA is 18 mg until you turn 51, and then it becomes 8 mg, also according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Iron poisoning is unlikely unless you have a genetic disorder that causes your body to store excess iron. However, if you take too many supplements, you can develop a toxicity and its accompanying symptoms, which include fatigue, dizziness, unintentional weight loss and a grayish tone to your skin. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that the tolerable upper limit of iron is 45 mg per day.

Additional Considerations

Always discuss the proper dosing of iron with a doctor before you begin taking supplements. Also, ask about how and when to take the supplements, and let him know about any other medications you take or conditions or diseases that you may have. If you are experiencing hair loss or have noticed changes in the appearance, thickness or texture of your hair, see your doctor.

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