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Too Much Iron Leads to Hair Loss

We’ve recently been told that the humble glass of red wine with all its previous health benefits can now cause cancer but let’s be honest, alcohol is a toxin and deep down we probably knew it all along. Equally, it’s no secret that too much iron can cause hair loss, it’s just that we hear so much about iron deficiencies that the risk of iron overload takes a back seat. But now that it’s out in the open, we’re in a bit of a sticky spot – not enough iron will lead to anaemia which can cause hair loss but if we overload on iron we could still lose our hair. So where’s the happy medium?

red-meatIron is one the major power foods for healthy hair growth and is essential for a strong immune system and mental function. The current recommended intake according to European standards is 14mg a day but some foods are more easily absorbed than others. Red meat is the most potent source of iron but lentils, beans, dried fruit, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fortified breakfast cereals also contain iron, although they aren’t as easily absorbed.

Too much iron in the body accumulates in tissues and organs and affects their normal function. The most susceptible organs are the liver, heart and endocrine glands and symptoms include chronic fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain, irregular heartbeat, loss of period, lowered libido, skin colour changes and hair loss.

There are two types of iron overload, the hereditary kind known as haemochromatosis, and the acquired form. People who eat excessive amounts of red meat, take iron supplements or injections when they don’t need them and have too many blood transfusions risk acquiring iron overload disorder. Taking vitamin C with foods can also increase iron absorption.

If your hair is considerably thinner than it once was and you’re noticing some of these other symptoms, you should consult your doctor immediately. If your thinning hair is bothering you, there are hair loss treatments that can help minimise the damage the condition is causing and help to re-grow any lost hair but it’s important to treat the condition and not just the symptoms it’s causing.

Research shows that iron levels tend to rise with age and once you absorb too much iron it stays with you for life. One milligram of iron is lost daily through hair, fingernails, dead skin cells but humans have no easy means to excrete excess iron other than by giving blood or with medical treatment. Even for women, the average daily loss during menstruation is one and a half milligrams.

So many women are misdiagnosed as being iron deficient (where hair loss is another common symptom) and are prescribed with iron supplements when it is not really necessary. There are many different kinds of anaemia and haemoglobin may be low for reasons other than iron deficiency.

Tests for elevated haemoglobin levels however are generally more reliable so if you’ve been diagnosed with an iron overload disorder, there are some tips you can follow whilst undertaking medical treatment. Avoid excessive amounts of vitamin C which can help absorb iron and drink tea as the tannin can help inhibit iron absorption. During the recommended treatment you could benefit from taking a B complex of vitamins, including B6, folic acid or folate and B12, all of which are also beneficial for hair growth.

In cases where people are genetically susceptible to hair loss, iron diseases can trigger an early onset and proven hair loss treatments will be needed to control the condition. In others however, hair loss products can help spur hair growth but most of the time bodily damage caused by iron diseases are reversible.


The Belgravia CentreThe Belgravia Centre

The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.


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11 Comments

11th April, 2012 at 5:33 am

lisa

it was very informative and i needed such an article so much thanks for publishing

2nd September, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Nalij

Thanx for this article! I think i'm going to start giving blood as often as possible! Maybe excess iron is the reason men grown facial hair and women don't. Women lose blood on a monthly basis therefore their iron levels are less than a man's....also this would explain why boys don't grow facial hair...maybe it takes a certain accumulation of iron in the body to trigger facial hair growth!

10th March, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Milena

WOW, here I am complaining about fatigue, join pain, hair loss, 2 days light periods, memory loss, and more....All of my doctors was telling me : " You are going through menopause, your thyroid is good, you just tiered...." all excuses. 3 years later my S&S got worse, I was sleeping 24 hours for a day or more and could do it for ever. Finally I went to endocrinologist,he ordered blood work, boy my Iron level was so high. I stopped taking multivitamins, eating oranges ( I love oranges) and little by little I feel better......Everyone talks about low Iron, no one talks about high Iron levels.....After I red this blog, I realized S&S same as low Iron. All this time every doctor thought I was anemic or have Thyroid problems and no one even thought of drawing Iron among the CBC, it will save a lot of hair loss, decreasing memory, and more..... P.S. I am foreigner sorry for sentences.

14th April, 2016 at 8:16 pm

charlene dyson

I take 2 iron tablets a day. Is that too much. My hair has become so tangled i cant comb it. Is that due to the iron tablets. 325 mg a day

15th April, 2016 at 10:25 am

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Charlene, According to the NHS, the recommended daily intake for iron should be 14.8mg. As such, you are significantly exceeding this amount through supplement use, plus any extra iron you get from your diet will count on top of this, which is highly inadvisable. We would recommend you speak to your GP about your personal iron needs as this may vary depending on any health conditions you have.

However, whilst excessive iron consumption can cause hair loss, it is unlikely to cause your hair to tangle. Brittle hair can knot more easily so the condition of your hair may be an indicator that all is not well. Cosmetic hair serums and anti-tangle products, intensive conditioners and a good brushing with a gentle brush such as a Tangle Teazer, or comb, should help to remove the knots but you may want to check your dietary issues with your doctor just in case this is a warning of an underlying health problem given your iron intake.

17th April, 2016 at 12:40 am

paige

I haven't eaten red meat for 30 years. I eat poultry very occasionally, but most of the time I prefer soya and vegetarian foods. My periods were always very heavy, and lasted 7 days. For a few years I have felt fatigued, low libido, been losing a lot of hair, etc. My Dr sent me for tests for my thyroid, which came back as normal. I have just had another blood test and my ferritin level was 20, but my transferrin was high. Is low iron the problem? I take multi vitamins containing iron, but possibly not enough?

18th April, 2016 at 9:54 am

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Paige, we recommend you speak to your doctor about this as hair loss that is accompanied by a range of other symptoms, such as those that you describe, can indicate an underlying health issue and this is best dealt with by your GP.

Once they have established the cause of your symptoms and how best to treat them, if this is the reason for your hair loss it should grow back naturally within six months. Treatment is also available which can help to accelerate this process. You can find out more by reading about Telogen Effluvium - the temporary hair loss condition which leads to all-over thinning and can be caused due to illness or can signal an underlying health problem - and Treatment for Telogen Effluvium which explains how Belgravia deals with this type of shedding. You can also see various regrowth results from clients who have been treated for this condition in our Success Stories gallery.

21st June, 2016 at 7:45 am

AnotherGuy

I used to bleed a lot from fissures. After almost a year of bleeding my hair started to shed heavily and suddenly. I used to have good thick hair and great texture. It was all lost in like 1-2 months. I fixed my bleeding problem. I was low on Iron and thus I started taking iron tabs. After a while my hair got better and better. I continued Iron tabs and then suddenly shedding was back again! I checked my Iron levels and I am high on Iron. Now I am getting back to normal. Donated blood. Hope my hair gets better yet again.

4th November, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Brad Phelps

I have been diagnosed with the high iron hemochromatosis . I want to take a hair lose supplements to help get fuller hair. The product I ordered is call propidol hair lose supplement. Is this ok or does it add to my iron levels. PS on the bottle there is a warning stating to much iron can be fatal to young infants. Is this a warning that this product has a high amount of iron in it?

8th November, 2016 at 10:51 am

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Brad, you would need to speak to your doctor about whether or not these supplements are suitable for you. This is a medical issue rather than a hair loss one so we can't advise you on this, especially as you are not a client so we don't have medical information for you. It is important you do not take any supplements with iron in until you have checked with your doctor.

1st December, 2016 at 12:27 am

Missy J

I have had gray hair starting as early as 19yrs old. I am now 38 and I have colored my every 3 months- since I was probably 28-30. I was a very avid runner, ran 5k's and in September started to feel very tired, my pace and mileage when running was getting slower and not as long. I had my serum ferreting checked. Finding out I had hereditary hemochromatosis- over load in iron.. having to do phlebotomies every week. I am going on my 8th week, and my levels are down from 800-460. My doctor has set a goal for me to be at 20.. however, since my iron is lower my hair doesn't seem to get gray like it did.. wasn't sure if anyone else was experiencing anything similar, or knew if excessive iron causes gray hair?

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