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Is Zinc Deficiency Causing My Hair Loss? Doctors Weigh in and Share How to Reverse It

Also learn what kind of water can also contribute to low zinc levels

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If you’re wondering whether or not a zinc deficiency is causing your hair loss, you’re in the right place. This mineral matters a lot to your hair: Zinc is abundant in hair follicles, where it’s thought to promote healthy cell division to help ensure normal hair growth. And though serious zinc deficiencies are rare in the United States, a 2006 study conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston found that even subtle shortfalls can set off clinical symptoms like hair loss, low appetite and impaired viral immunity. 

Risk factors include poor diet as well as common inflammatory gut conditions, such as IBS, Crohn’s disease and bacterial overgrowth that can interfere with the body’s absorption of zinc, explains physician nutrition specialist Melina Jampolis, MD, author of The Calendar Diet. If you suspect that a GI disorder is sabotaging your zinc status, consult your primary-care doctor for help in diagnosing and treating the condition. Once zinc hits optimal levels, hair growth generally returns to normal within three months.

Related: Understanding the Hair Growth Cycle Can Help Pinpoint Why Your Hair Is Thinning

Zinc and its connection to hair loss

Mature woman looking at thinning hair
Ekaterina Demidova/Getty

You’re likely dealing with low zinc if you’re losing hair and you…

  • Tend to catch colds very easily
  • Experience frequent GI distress
  • Have a weaker-than-usual appetite

Related: Treating Scalp Inflammation Can Reverse Hair Loss — Experts Share the Easy + Soothing Remedies

These easy diet adjustments can help with hair loss due to a zinc deficiency

Don’t bother trying to get tested for low zinc levels — most incoming zinc gets shuttled straight into cells, so standard blood screenings can’t tell you much, explains Dr. Jampolis. Her advice? Just dig in. Zinc is easy to get through diet, and you don’t need megadoses of the mineral to promote healthy hair — 8 mg. per day will generally do the trick. But Dr. Jampolis adds that if your diet tends to be low in animal products, you might want to aim for a bit more. The reason: The body absorbs zinc about half as well from plant sources as it does from meat, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Plus, compounds called phytates in some legumes and whole grains can further inhibit the absorption of zinc. 

A few of the top zinc-filled foods include fortified breakfast cereal (one 34-cup serving of Kellogg’s All-Bran Complete Wheat Flakes, for example, delivers 15 mg.); ground beef (5.3 mg. per 3-oz. serving, which is about the size of a deck of cards); low-fat yogurt (1.7 mg. per 8-oz. serving); cashews (1.6 mg. per 1-oz. serving; about the size of two Ping-Pong balls); and chickpeas (1.3 mg. per 12 cup, about the size of one rounded handful). 

Related: 14 Delicious Foods High in Zinc to Help You Stay Healthy All Winter Long

Read on for two simple recipes that will help boost your levels of the mineral and promote healthy hair growth.

Spiced chickpea stew

Chickpea stew
Bauer Media

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 lb. eggplant, trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 14 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 (15.5 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained
  • 1 chili pepper, seeded, diced

Steps:

  1. In a pot, heat oil over medium heat; add your onion, carrots, cumin and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until softened, 7–8 min.
  2. Add crushed tomatoes, 1 cup water, eggplant and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low. 
  3. Cover; cook until vegetables are tender, about 30 min., adding tomatoes, chickpeas and pepper during last 15 minutes of cooking time. If desired, garnish with cilantro.

Glazed meatloaf

Glazed meatloaf
Bauer Media

Ingredients:

  • 112 lbs. ground beef 
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1⁄2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 23 cup chili sauce
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 14 tsp. cayenne pepper

Steps:

  1. Cut a 10″ square piece of parchment paper. In a bowl, gently mix beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, 13 cup chili sauce, onion, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper; place on parchment paper, shape into 9″x4″ loaf. 
  2. Heat air fryer to bake at 300°F. Transfer meatloaf with parchment paper to basket; insert into air fryer. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into center registers 160°F, 55 min., brushing with remaining chili sauce during last 10 min. Let stand 15 min. before slicing. 

Spring water could help reverse a zinc deficiency

Choosing spring water over purified water could help prevent a dangerous zinc deficiency. According to Lawrence D. Wilson, MD, author of Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis, the reverse osmosis–filtering process (which is used for bottled waters that are labeled “purified”) doesn’t just remove harmful pollutants from the water, it removes zinc — an essential nutrient for the body. Worse yet, reverse osmosis-filtered water actually “attaches” to the zinc that’s already in the body and flushes it out. Luckily, getting your eight glasses a day from mineralized water (like bottled spring or tap water) can help ward off problems.

Even more reasons to boost zinc levels

mature black woman smiling
andresr/Getty

Here, four ways upping your stores of the mineral can benefit you.

1. It increases energy levels

Zinc shortfalls could be triggering tiredness for 66% of women, say USDA researchers. The mineral helps by creating dozens of chemical reactions within the body to produce energy. Get the benefits by taking 30 mg. of zinc daily at bedtime to maximize absorption.

2. It naturally speeds cold and flu recovery

The antiviral mineral halves the risk of illness by destroying the germs in the tissues lining the nose and throat, their most common point of entry. Plus, Spanish research suggests correcting zinc shortfalls cuts recovery time (for colds and influenza) by as much as 68%. Up your intake to 75 mg. of zinc a day when feeling a cold coming on or if already sick. 

3. It slashes stress

Adding zinc into your daily diet has been shown to nourish and heal overworked adrenal glands, which tamps down their production of the stress hormone cortisol, so you’ll feel less worried or anxious. To reap the rewards, take 30 mg. of zinc a day. 

4. It wards off body odor

Surprisingly, the mineral can reduce body odor that your deodorant can’t hide. British researchers found that taking 30 mg. of zinc daily stalls the growth of body odor–inducing skin bacteria, so you’ll stay confident and odor-free all day.  


See more hair loss tips and expert advice:

Does Dandruff Cause Hair Loss? Dermatologists Weigh In + Share 4 Tricks To Stop Flaking

6 Best Hair Oils That Treat Thinning Hair, Restore Shine, Fight Frizz + More

Itchy Scalp and Hair Loss? Dermatologists Reveal the Surprising Cause + How to Speed Regrowth

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