You deep condition, pre-poo, hot oil, seal and tried every organic/all-natural hair products known to man, but for some reason you are still experiencing excessive hair loss or stunted growth. Well the answer may be a iron deficiency. I recently was talking to a close friend who just had baby and beside the obvious topics like breast-feeding and sleeping patterns, we landed on parenteral vitamins and hair growth. Many of you know the lost of blood during and after birth can lead to anemia or a deficiency in which the blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells are needed to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. There are several types of deficiencies that can happen during pregnancy but iron deficiency has been shown in studies to be correlated in all aspects regarding the condition of our hair. We all know we need sufficient iron levels for optimal health but the connection between iron deficiency and hair growth/loss has been a controversial discussion but past studies show the controversy could be dust in the wind.


Wilma Bergfeld, M.D., (Head of Clinical Research in the Department of Dermatology at the Clinic of Cleveland) and her team reviewed over 40 years of research,  revealing iron deficiency has a much closer correlation to hair growth and loss than what some specialists had previously thought and medical specialists are taking notice.


Now it is normal to have a mild case of iron deficiency while pregnant, but due to menstrual cycles and inadequate diets, all of us are susceptible to those extreme to mild cases. 


Below is everything you need to know about Iron deficiency from Dr Ronald Hoffman, including what foods inhibit iron absorption and the difference between iron deficiency and anemia 


*remember to consult a medical specialist if you feel you have an iron deficiency since self medicating through vitamins can cause high levels of iron which can be severely dangerous to your health.


Iron: Deficiency and Toxicity

by: Hoffman Center Staff

Iron – roles in the body:


Iron is an essential nutrient that is vital to the processes by which cells generate energy. Iron can also be damaging when it accumulates in the body. In fact, iron is a problem nutrient for millions of people. Some people simply don’t eat enough iron containing foods to support their health optimally, while others have so much iron that it threatens their well-being. The principle that too little or too much of a nutrient is harmful seems particularly apropos for iron.


Iron has a knack of switching back and forth between two ionic states. In the reduced state, iron has lost two electrons, and therefore has a net positive charge of two. Iron in the reduced state is known as ferrous iron. In the oxidized state, iron has lost a third electron, has a net positive charge of three, and is known as ferric iron. Because iron can exist in different ionic states, iron can serve as a cofactor to enzymes involved in oxidation-reduction reactions. In every cell, iron works with several of the electron-transport chain proteins that perform the final steps of the energy yielding pathways. These proteins transfer hydrogens and electrons from energy yielding nutrients to oxygen, forming water, and in the process, make ATP for the cells use. If you recall from my previous article on this website, ATP is adenosine triphosphate, the cellular energy currency of the body. A direct precursor to this substance is nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH).


Most of the body’s iron is found in two proteins: hemoglobin in the red blood cells, and myoglobin in the muscle cells. In both, iron helps accept, carry and then release oxygen. Iron in also found in many enzymes that oxidize compounds reactions so widespread in metabolism that they occur in all cells. Enzymes involved in the making of amino acids, hormones, and neurotransmitters require iron.


Iron absorption and metabolism:


The body conserves iron zealously and has devised many special provisions for its handling. Two special proteins in the intestinal mucosal cells help the body absorb iron from food. One protein called mucosal ferritin, receives iron from the GI tract and stores it in the mucosal cell. When the body needs iron, mucosal ferritin releases some iron to another protein, called mucosal transferrin. Mucosal transferrin transfers the iron to a carrier in the blood called blood transferrin, which transports iron into the rest of the body. Intestinal mucosal cells are replaced approximately every three days. When the cells are shed from the intestinal mucosa and excreted in the feces, they carry some iron out with them. The iron holding capacity of these cells provides a buffer against short-term changes in iron need or supply.


Let’s quickly examine iron routes and storage centers in the body to further understand its absorption and metabolism. Iron in food reaches the intestinal cells during digestion where some is stored in intestinal cells in ferritin. Some iron is lost during the shedding of intestinal cells. If the body needs iron, it is packaged into transferrin, a transport protein, and carried in the blood. From here, some iron is delivered to myoglobin of muscle cells, bone marrow incorporates iron into hemoglobin of red blood cells, of which excess is stored in ferritin and hemosiderin. Iron containing hemoglobin in red blood cells carries oxygen. The liver and spleen dismantles red blood cells and packages iron into transferin, and the cycle begins again. Some losses of iron occur via sweat, skin, bleeding, urine, and the shedding intestinal cells.


Heme and nonheme iron:


How much iron is absorbed depends in part on its source. Iron occurs in two forms in foods, heme and nonheme. Heme iron is found only in foods derived from the flesh of animals, such as meats, poultry and fish. Nonheme iron is found in both plant and animal foods. Heme iron is so well absorbed that it contributes significant iron to the body. It is absorbed at a relatively constant rate of about 23%. The rates of absorption of nonheme iron are lower, ranging from 2 to 20%, and are strongly influenced by dietary factors and body iron stores. People with severe iron deficiencies absorb heme and nonheme iron more efficiently and are more sensitive to dietary enhancing factors than people with better iron status.


Absorption enhancing factors: MFP and vitamin c


Meat, fish and poultry contain not only the highly bioavailable heme iron, but also a factor called MFP factor that promotes the absorption of nonheme iron from other foods eaten with them. Vitamin C, which also enhances nonheme iron absorption from foods eaten in the same meal, is the most potent promoter of nonheme iron absorption. Vitamin C captures iron and keeps it in the ferrous form, ready for absorption. Other factors that enhance nonheme iron absorption include citric acid and lactic acid from foods, as well as HCl from the stomach.


Absorption inhibitors:


Some dietary factors bind with nonheme iron, inhibiting absorption. These include the phytates and fibers in whole grain cereals and nuts, the calcium and phosphorus in milk and supplements, the EDTA in food additives, and tannic acid. Tannic acid is present in tea, coffee, nuts and some fruits and vegetables. Recent studies reveal that soy may inhibit iron absorption.


Iron deficiency:


If absorption cannot compensate for losses or low dietary intakes, and body stores are used up, then iron deficiency sets in. Because so much of the body’s iron is in the blood, iron losses are greatest whenever blood is lost. Bleeding from any site incurs iron losses. Active bleeding ulcers, menstruation, and injury result in iron losses.


Women are especially prone to iron deficiency during their reproductive years because of repeated blood losses during menstruation. Pregnancy places iron demands on women as well since iron is needed to support the added blood volume, the growth of the fetus and blood loss during childbirth. Infants and young children receive little iron from their high milk diets, yet extra iron is needed to support their rapid growth. The rapid growth of adolescence, especially for males, and the menstrual losses of teen females demand extra iron that a typical teen diet may not provide.


Iron deficiency and anemia:


Iron deficiency and anemia are not the same. People may be iron deficient without being anemic. The term iron deficiency refers to depleted body iron stores without regard to the degree of depletion or to the presence of anemia. The term anemia refers to the severe depletion of iron stores that results in a low hemoglobin concentration. The red blood cells in a person with iron deficiency anemia are…Click here to learn more about symptoms, the toxicity of too much iron and much more