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  5. Vitamin D Deficiency Reflecting Hair Loss?

Are you experiencing excessive hair loss during the lockdown? It is probably because your body lacks the 'sunshine' vitamin. You might be staying indoors for a long time without getting adequate sun exposure.

Your body absorbs vitamin D from sunlight. However, when exposure to UVB rays is limited, Ayurveda recommends compensating it with a diversified diet to maintain bone and muscle strength, which in turn reflects your hair growth.

Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, says, “Ayurveda describes 13 types of Agni-digestive fires in the body that metabolize the consumed food and assimilate them in our body tissues. Asthi Dhatu Agni is next in line with Meda Dhatu Agni. Simply put, healthy fats nourish the bones. Asthi Dhatu (bone tissue) supports healthy hair. Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, easily synthesized by the body when exposed to sunlight, is surprisingly deficient in many. The reason Ayurveda attributes to this deficiency is impaired fat metabolism in the body. Unhealthy fats mainly consumed in the form of refined oils, palm oil, deep-fried foods, and Mono, di, triglycerides of fatty acids (E 471- E 476) are abundantly used in marketed food items. This, coupled with lack of exercise, induces impaired fat metabolism, and resultant Vitamin D deficiency.”

Let us understand the importance of vitamin D for healthy hair and how your body processes it.

Signs And Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency

Lack of vitamin D has been associated with non-scarring alopecia that shows the following signs:

  • Hair thinning at temples
  • Receding frontal hairline
  • Low hair density on the crown part of your head
  • Weaker hair shafts
  • Premature greying

A deficiency of vitamin D increases the severity of hair loss that results in the following symptoms. [1]

1. Telogen Effluvium

Increase in hair shedding characterized by hair thinning.

2. Female Pattern Hair Loss

Increase in diffuse hair loss that begins at the crown of your head.

3. Alopecia Areata

Hair falls out in small patches around the size of a coin.

Other symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:

1. Getting sick or infected often

2. Impaired wound healing

3. Bone and muscle pain

4. Weight gain

5. Fatigue and tiredness

6. Anxiety and depression

Does Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Hair Loss?

Vitamin D plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of hair loss and correlates with diffuse hair loss. Women with prolonged hair loss have a low concentration of D2 vitamin in their blood serum. Vitamin D deficiency is not considered as a factor for male pattern hair loss. [2]

Let us understand the role of vitamin D in hair growth:

  • Vitamin D promotes hair follicle differentiation and regulation.
  • Vitamin D is associated with natural follicle formation and increases the production of specific Keratins.
  • Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) is critical for maintaining the hair life cycle.
  • The optimum concentration of vitamin D3 is essential to delay aging and hair loss.
  • Your hair gene and VDR gene are involved in the same genetic pathway that regulates postnatal hair cycling.

Two significant causes of hair loss caused by vitamin D deficiency are:

1. Defective stem cell renewal and loss of hair follicle cycle.

2. A decrease in vitamin D's serum levels leads to chronic Telogen Effluvium and female pattern hair loss (FPHL).

How Does Vitamin D Affect Your Hair Life Cycle?

A hair strand goes through three stages:

1. Anagen

It is the active growth phase. VDR divides the neighboring cells to produce new hair fibers.

2. Catagen

It is a short transitional phase. Vitamin D assists in regenerating hair follicles.

3. Telogen

It is a resting stage. Vitamin D helps in preserving the hair strands.

Vitamin D deficiency can trigger diffuse hair loss by hampering any one of the hair life cycle phases.

vitamin d metabolism

How Does Your Body Make Vitamin D?

Ayurveda determines Prakriti - the body constitution of a person, dividing the five universal energies (Panchmahabhutas) into three Doshas.

Vata Dosha (Qualities reflecting the elements of space and air)

Pitta Dosha (Qualities reflecting the elements of fire and water)

Kapha Dosha (Qualities reflecting the elements of earth and water)

One of the five subtypes of Pitta is Bhrajakagni, which supports the skin's Loma Randhra (vibrational filter) to absorb the Sun's UVB light.

Ayurveda explains the concept of Agni in the human body. The Datvagni is the energy present in the seven-element tissues of the body (Dhatus). The Mamsagni present in Mamsa Dhatu supports UVB light to convert the 7-dehydrocholesterol to vitamin D3.

The Raktagni present in Rakta Dhatu transfers vitamin D3 from skin synthesis and D2, D3 from the consumed food to the liver and kidneys where it is hydroxylated with the help of Panchbhutagni.

Panchbhutagni is the five Agnis present in the five elements of nature. Every cell in your body is composed of the Panchbhutas and their respective Agis. Panchbutagni supports your liver and kidneys to produce an active form of vitamin D, also called calcitriol hormone. [3]

Did You Know?

  • The sun's UVB light rays cannot penetrate through glass. It is not possible to absorb vitamin D by sitting behind a glass window.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

The amount of vitamin D requirement for your body varies with age.

  • Birth to 12 months 10 mcg or 400 IU
  • Children 1–13 years 15 mcg or 600 IU
  • Teens 14–18 years 15 mcg or 600 IU
  • Adults 19–70 years 15 mcg or 600 IU
  • Adults 71 years and older 20 mcg or 800 IU
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women 15 mcg or 600 IU

How To Treat Vitamin D Deficiency Hair Loss?

There are three ways to treat vitamin D deficiency hair loss. Choosing a suitable way depends upon the severity of your hair loss. It is always better to get your dose of vitamin D from all possible resources as it plays an exceptional role in stimulating cell growth and creating new hair follicles. [4]

1. Diet

Receiving vitamin D through natural dietary sources and vitamin D fortified food is necessary for women with excess body mass. Leptin produced by the fat tissue lowers vitamin D, which is why weight gain is a factor for hair loss.

Bad Cholesterol affects the balance of Agni in your body, which weakens the cellular reactions and hydroxylations of vitamin D. Avoid the consumption of saturated fats like:

1. deep-fried food

2. processed food

3. baked food

4. fast foods

Sunlight converts good cholesterol in your body into vitamin D. Consume foods containing unsaturated fats to enhance vitamin D production. These include:

  • Olive, Peanut, Soybean, and Canola oils
  • Almond and Cashew nuts
  • Pumpkin and Sesame seeds

Very few foods in nature include vitamin D

1. The best dietary sources of vitamin D3 are - flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel), whale and tuna fish liver oils, and cod liver oil.

2. A small amount of D3 is available in meat like beef liver, poultry, full-fat diary-like cheese, and egg yolks.

3. The best dietary sources of D2 are mushrooms, soy milk, soy yogurt, almond milk, orange juice, and ready-to-eat cereals.

4. Wheat germ, rapeseed, linseed, and avocado plant oils also contain vitamin D2. [5] [6]

foods rich in natural vitamin d

2. Vitamin D Supplements

Despite abundant sunshine, vitamin D deficiency prevails in as high as 70% to 100% of seemingly healthy individuals due to several socio-economic and cultural constraints. That is why people tend to use vitamin D supplements, but it is not always recommended.

Supplementation is a secondary measure. Supplements include a limited amount of vitamin D when compared to the recommended daily allowance. Therefore you need to intake vitamin D from your food as well.

Take the supplements immediately after your meal since vitamin D is fat-soluble. Your body can absorb it properly with fatty food.

Word Of Caution

Remember not to take vitamin D supplements in excess. It's essential to check your vitamin D levels before having supplements.

3. Sun Exposure

Sunlight cannot be replaced with other sources of vitamin D. UVB rays provide us with plentiful 'sunshine' vitamin. Sun exposure is the easiest way to nourish your body with vitamin D.

Hair follicles produce 'melanin' when your scalp absorbs sunlight. Melanin content in your hair follicles prevents premature greying. However, excessive sun exposure may break the proteins that build your hair strands.

The time you need to spend in sunlight depends on factors like skin color, skin type, and geographical location.

  • It is enough for people with lighter skin color to get 15 to 30 minutes of daily sun exposure.
  • People with darker skin must get 1-2 hours of sun exposure.
  • Sunrise and sunset are the best times of the day to get your dose of vitamin D.
  • Avoid harsh sunlight during midday, especially in the summers. However, it also largely depends on the climatic conditions in your geographical location.

Vedix Tip

Don't expect your skin to absorb UVB light if you apply sunscreen, even the one with SPF 8.

Preventive Tips

Here are some of the best ways to prevent vitamin D deficiency:

  • Enjoy the sunlight for 30 minutes every day.
  • Eat foods containing good cholesterol and vitamin D.
  • Do Surya Namaskar to decrease harmful cholesterol levels.

Ayurvedic preventive measures for vitamin D deficiency include

  • Body massage with sesame seed oil to strengthen the muscles
  • Body massage with oils distilled from herbs like Ashwagandha and Bala clean toxins from 'Loma Randhra' to better absorb sunlight

While you go through vitamin deficiency and recover from it, you can follow a few tips to prevent excessive hair loss:

1. Massage your scalp with essential oils to improve blood circulation to your scalp and strengthen your hair follicles.

2. Don't use shampoos high in chemicals like parabens and sulfates. Instead, use an herbal shampoo that has a gentle and soothing impact on your hair.

3. Don't brush wet hair to remove tangles. Your hair strands can easily break from the roots due to vitamin deficiency.

4. Don't tie a tight ponytail as it pulls the hair strands creating pressure on the follicles at your temples.

5. Don't leave your hair loose, especially if it is long and thick. It's better to wear a loose braid at least before going to bed.

The Last Word

Vitamin D stimulates the hair follicles, influences cell proliferation, and modulates the hair life cycle. A lack of vitamin D during any one of the hair growth cycle phases can result in hair loss.

If you cannot spend enough time to absorb sunlight, Ayurveda advises getting vitamin D from alternate ways like a balanced diet, yoga, and body massages.

You should consult with your doctor for a prescribed dose of supplements to recover from severe vitamin D deficiency because it is limited in sources other than sunlight.

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