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Low Vitamin D Is Linked to Hair Loss and Thinning — Here Easy Ways To Fix It

Plus, find out what kind of food can help boost levels and thicken hair

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Yep, the superstar nutrient, vitamin D, proven to shore up bone strength, reinforce the immune system and slash depression risk may also play a big part in hair health. A study in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology found a direct correlation between low blood levels of vitamin D — defined in this study and elsewhere as 12 ng/ml or under — and abnormal hair loss and thinning in women under 45. And because low vitamin D levels are also common for women as they get older, those over 45 can be impacted as well. The researchers didn’t pinpoint why, but physician nutrition specialist Melina Jampolis, MD, says the vitamin’s second identity, as a hormone, may be a factor. 

Unfortunately, vitamin D levels can slip all too easily. Risk factors for deficiency include advancing age, lack of sun exposure (let’s just call it winter) and high body-mass index. “I see D deficiency in almost all my overweight patients,” says Dr. Jampolis. “We’re finding that the nutrient gets sequestered in fat ­tissue, so it’s not available to the body for use.” Beyond the signs of vitamin D causing hair loss, other common red flags of low vitamin D may include muscle weakness, joint pain and blue moods.

mature woman pulling hair loss out of brush
aquaArts studio/Getty

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

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

  • Are 25 pounds or more overweight
  • Experience persistent muscle weakness and aches
  • Have little exposure to the sun during the day

Vitamin D and hair loss: These easy strategies can boost vitamin D levels 

If you’re curious about where your vitamin D stores stand, go ahead and have your level tested — many physicians now include the screening with standard blood work at physicals. But in light of the fact that up to 81% of Americans suffer from suboptimal levels of the nutrient, Dr. Jampolis says there’s no harm in being proactive and upping your intake on your own — 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day will get most people back on track. Here’s how:

Related: What Is Vitamin D3? And How Is It Different From Plain Ol’ Vitamin D? These and More Questions Answered Here

Load up on fish

Vitamin D is in only a handful of foods — and eating certain seafood varieties is one of the best ways to add the nutrient into your diet. The vitamin can be found in cod liver oil (1,360 IU per tablespoon), swordfish (566 IU per 3-oz. serving, about the size of a checkbook) and sockeye salmon (447 IU per 3-oz. serving). Below, a delicious recipe that will help boost levels of the mineral and encourage hair growth.

Smoked salmon pinwheels

Smoked salmon pinwheels
Bauer Media Syndications

Ingredients:

  • 12 cup whipped cream cheese (about 4 oz.)
  • 2 Tbs. cream-style horseradish
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
  • 5 large slices bread (from 24-oz. pkg.), crusts trimmed 
  • 10 slices smoked sockeye salmon (about 8 oz.) 
  • Dill sprigs (optional)

Steps:

  1. Combine cream cheese, horseradish and dill. Arrange bread slices on work surface. Using rolling pin, slightly flatten bread, then dividing evenly, spread cream cheese mixture all over one side of each slice of bread. 
  2. Dividing evenly, top bread with smoked salmon, leaving about 12” ­border from end farthest from you. Starting with end nearest you, roll up each slice jelly-roll style; place, seam side down, on surface. Cut each roll crosswise into four slices. If desired, ­garnish with dill sprigs. 

Other vitamin D-filled foods

Not a seafood lover? There are plenty of other foods rich in vitamin D, including mushrooms and egg yolks. Just like humans, mushrooms create their own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. And wild mushroom varieties like morel tend to have more vitamin D (1 cup contains 136 IU). 

For eggs, it’s recommended to opt for ones from pasture-raised or free-range chickens. These chickens tend to have about four times higher levels of the vitamin in their eggs because they spend more time in sunlight. Also smart: choosing cow’s milk that’s been fortified with vitamin D (1 cup contains 115 IU). 

Add a supplement

Doctors reccomend taking 1,000 to 2,000 IU of a D-3 supplement (we like Natrol Vitamin D-3 2,000 IU) daily to achieve an adequate blood level of the vitamin. This form is easily absorbed by the body and boosts its stores without having to make adjustments to your diet.

Head outside

mature woman outside in sun
mapodile/Getty

There’s a reason vitamin D is called “the sunshine vitamin,” as time spent in the sun is one of the best ways to get the nutrient. Our skin has a type of cholesterol that serves as a precursor to vitamin D. So when it’s exposed to UV-B radiation from the sun it becomes vitamin D. To reap the rewards, it’s recommended to spend 30 minutes in the sun two to three days a week. 

Related: How Your Thyroid Can Impact Hair Loss, Plus 6 Easy Doctor-Backed Ways to Cure It

Sneaky vitamin D zapper: SPF

Surprisingly, slathering on too much sunscreen can raise the risk of vitamin D deficiency, warn scientists in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. In their review of studies, using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher reduced the body’s production of vitamin D-3 by 99%. To ensure you’re getting enough of the vitamin, which is critical for bone health, calcium absorption, immunity, muscle function, hair growth and more, the authors suggest enjoying the midday sun without sunscreen for up to 30 minutes two times a week.

Even more reasons to boost vitamin D

Upping levels of the vitamin does more than just thicken hair! Read on to find out what else it can do for you.

Vitamin D wards off cold and flu

The BMJ reports that adults who supplemented with vitamin D were 42% less likely to contract respiratory infections. According to the study authors, vitamin D increases the production of antimicrobial proteins in the lungs, which act like natural antibiotics to ward off infection. Reap the illness-fighting rewards by supplementing with 1,000 IU of vitamin D-3 daily.

Vitamin D keeps gums healthy

Scientists for the journal Clinical Oral Investigations analyzed blood samples of 58 patients and found the risk of gum disease was 112 times higher in those who were deficient in vitamin D. The vitamin helps immune cells release antibacterial compounds that protect gum health. Experts advise supplementing with 2,000 IU of D-3 a day. 

Vitamin D prevents type 2 diabetes

Brazilian researchers reporting in the North American Menopause Society’s journal, Menopause, found that women who supplemented with vitamin D daily actually had lower glucose levels than those who didn’t. The reason? Investigators suspect the nutrient raises insulin sensitivity and improves the function of beta cells in the pancreas, which help control insulin protection. To get the benefit, supplement with 600 to 800 IU of D-3 daily. 


Learn more about hair loss and how to reverse it:

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

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

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

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