The are near infinite explanations and theories surrounding hair loss and treatment. While there are several causes of hair loss, many people have overlooked the simplest explanations for hair loss: nutrition. Few people actually stop to consider that their hair loss could actually be a matter of diet and lifestyle. Believe it or not, current research in hair loss and regrowth can actually result from a simple deficiency of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential to everything from hormone production and regulation to immune system support and effectiveness, including hair growth. To better understand how a deficiency in Vitamin D can cause hair loss, we have to understand what vitamin D actually is.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that our body converts to a hormone known as calcitriol via our endocrine system. One of the primary sources of vitamin D for humans is actually provided by a steroid in our skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol. This steroid reacts with the UV light of the sun, breaking it down into vitamin D3, which is the precursor form of calcitriol. Once our kidneys convert the vitamin D3 produced by our dermal exposure to UV rays, it is distributed throughout the body’s cells for optimal function. When we don’t get enough vitamin D due to exposure to sunlight or from dietary sources of vitamin D, our immune system, hormone production and regulation, bone density, and even hair growth are directly affected.
In fact, research shows that women ages 18 to 45 who suffer from hair loss with sudden onset actually tend to have low vitamin D2 levels. Both men and women suffering from hypothyroidism (a glandular condition that often causes hair loss) also show a significant deficiency in vitamin D as well.
Clearly, the effects of vitamin D deficiency can create a significant negative impact on the body and the mind. It is no wonder considering how nearly every cell in our bodies depends on vitamin D for proper function. In fact, many people around the world suffer from a vitamin D deficiency during the colder, shorter days of the winter season when their skin receives less exposure to sunlight. Quite often, the chief symptom of insufficient vitamin D is depression. This condition is generally categorized and diagnosed as seasonal affective disorder.
Does vitamin D deficiency actually cause hair loss? That’s definitely a question that is not easy to answer definitively. However, there are two particular indicators that are precursors to a balding scalp. Both of which can result due to a lack of vitamin D: fibrosis and calcification.
The two scalp conditions that are significantly impacted by low vitamin D are fibrosis and calcification. Each presents in a different system of the body, but the severity and extent of both conditions can be attributed to a vitamin D deficiency. Let’s take a look at what these two conditions are, as well as how they impact hair loss in both men and women.
Fibrosis is the term generally used to refer to a buildup of collagen around connective tissue. It is usually around a large wound in the skin or chronic inflammation of a joint. This excess of collagen results in scarring, which can severely inhibit the regrowth or healing of tissue affected by fibrosis scarring.
When fibrosis occurs around hair follicles in the scalp, it is called perifollicular fibrosis. It traps hair follicles within its scar tissue, cutting off blood flow and reducing your follicles overall oxygen supply. This continues until the hair follicles die off, resulting in pattern baldness. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to fibrosis in two ways: increased expression of a protein called toll-like-receptor 4 (TLR4), and increased expression of a protein called transforming growth factor beta (TGFB).
TLR4 serves as a catalyzing agent for our immune system. It is found in higher concentrations where fibrosis occurs. TLR4 directly contributes to the growth of scar tissue as a natural part of autoimmune response, thus creating further hair loss. The lower vitamin D3 levels in a patient’s body, the higher the amount of TLR4 that was present in their fibrosis. To summarize, low vitamin D means higher TLR4 and the greater the likelihood that a patient with fibrosis on their scalp will develop pattern baldness.
TGFB, on the other hand, is a signaling protein that initiates self-repair in numerous cellular systems in our body. When the body expresses too much TGFB, it increases the severity and extent of fibrosis. Patients who increased their vitamin D levels saw that their TGFB levels dropped dramatically, as did their incidence of fibrosis on their scalp. As with TLR4, the more vitamin D present, the greater the reduction in TGFB expressed in the scalp and skin.
Bottom line, your body needs vitamin D to keep your protein levels balanced and prevent fibrosis, which is a significant contributor to hair loss overall in both men and women.
This is the term used to refer to the buildup of calcium deposits in various systems of the body. These calcium deposits can occur within the fine blood vessels that permeate the scalp, restricting or obstructing vital blood flow to your hair follicles. This reduces hair follicles’ available oxygen and causing them to shrink and eventually die. So what does this have to do with vitamin D deficiency? Believe it or not, quite a bit.
Numerous people with a vitamin D deficiency also see an increase in arterial calcification, reducing or obstructing blood flow to numerous organs and systems of the body. This can cause not only circulatory structure problems, but also heart disease. The higher the level of calcification present, the lower the number of vitamin D receptors. This indicates a connection/relationship between low vitamin D and high calcification.
Low vitamin D also shows a relationship with elevated levels of prostaglandin D2 in the scalp. This hormone causes human hair to stop growing and increases arterial calcification. Furthermore, vitamin D deficiency is also present in person with high levels of the calcification-inducing proteins matrix metalloproteinases and pro-inflammatory cytokines. To summarize, low vitamin D means an increased chance that you will develop significantly higher levels of arterial calcification, which is a direct cause of hair loss.
Depending on the severity hair loss, hair loss due to vitamin D deficiency is quite likely not permanent. As your vitamin D levels increase and your body begins to balance out your various hormone and protein control systems, you are also going to see a restoration in your body’s ability to regrow stronger, healthier follicles. Provided you don’t go overboard with vitamin D intake, you should see noticeable results within 6 months to a year.
The most important factor to control when it comes to vitamin D supplementation is not to overdo it. It is possible to take too much vitamin D and actually throw your body’s hormone and protein management further off balance. This imbalance can actually lead to increased health risks associated with many of the symptoms that accompany vitamin D deficiency.
Furthermore, you really want to make sure that you supplement your daily dosage of vitamin D with the proper cofactors and nutrients that help your body metabolize nutrients effectively. These cofactors include vitamin A, K2, and magnesium. Without these important nutrients, you may find that your vitamin D supplements are not having the desired effect, or are actually causing your condition to worsen as opposed to improve.
That being said, the best vitamin D supplement to take is vitamin D3. It is most easily converted into a usable nutrient by your body. This nutrient will improve your overall hormone and protein distribution balance more quickly than other forms of vitamin D. The recommended daily dosage of D3 is between 2,000 and 5,000 IU’s per day. This dosage helps avoid deleterious effects and helps your body restore balance to your various circulatory and vital organ systems. Don’t forget to add Vitamin A, vitamin K2, and magnesium to your diet or via supplements as well. Taking these vitamins prevents your body from swinging out of balance too far in the wrong direction.
Overall, the best source of vitamin D is sunlight itself. If you are at a latitude above 33 degrees north of 30 degrees south, you may find it difficult to get adequate sunshine during the winter months. Therefore, supplementation via tablet, gel, or increased intake of foods with high vitamin D content is recommended. Otherwise, your prime sunshine time for vitamin D production by your skin is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The greatest benefit occurs during the summertime. If you work a sedentary indoor job most of the year, try to pack lunch and take your breaks outside to take advantage of the sunshine. Even if it is cold, you will gain the greatest immediate benefit from regular sun exposure.
As far as supplementing your diet with vitamin D rich foods, definitely consume more of the following to increase your overall usable vitamin D3 intake:
Consuming even two of these per day will increase your vitamin D levels. Then it starts you on your way to getting the results you are looking for in terms of hair regrowth. Learn more about foods that increase hair growth.