Certain nutrients that are necessary for healthy hair growth can actually cause hair loss if taken in excess–proving that sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad. Sometimes the exact supplements we are taking to prevent hair loss will have the opposite effect if we are not careful.
Selenium is an essential trace mineral that acts as an antioxidant. Deficiency in this important nutrient can contribute to autoimmune disorders, thyroid imbalances, lower immune function and other medical conditions. Supplementation is often recommended for a wide variety of health conditions.
Selenium helps to keep the skin and hair healthy, supple and elastic. Selenium is also well known as an effective anti-dandruff agent.
There is a fine line between what is too much or too little. High blood levels can cause toxicity known as selenosis. One of the main symptoms of selenosis is hair loss. With this condition the shedding can become extensive, if intake is not reduced. Persons with the selenosis also report lackluster locks that lose their wave, curl or bounce. Eyebrow, eyelash and body hair may also fall out due to this condition. Other symptoms include white spots on nails and deterioration of fingernails, unexplained fatigue and gastrointestinal difficulties.
The RDA for adults is 55 mcg. The tolerable upper level is 400 mcg. Deficiency is rare in the United States, as a main source of selenium comes from plant food grown in selenium rich soil. Other sources include Brazil nuts, shellfish, sardines and other fish, sunflower seeds, chicken, beef, eggs and many other foods. Supplementation is not usually necessary unless deficiency or mal-absorption exists.
This information applies to the retinol form of vitamin A, often referred to as preformed vitamin A. This is the kind that is found in animal sources including liver, egg yolks, whole milk, cod liver oil, butter and cheese. Not to be confused with beta carotene, also known as pro-vitamin A that is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, collard greens and other fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin A is well known for its beneficial effects on vision and eye health, and immune system. It also has many other important functions such as maintaining healthy skin and hair. It works to combat dryness, lubricating the skin and scalp to produce smooth skin and glossy, shiny locks, and is used to treat many skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, wrinkles and sunburn.
Too much vitamin A can cause toxicity known as “hypervitaminosis A.” Hair loss and itchy skin are among the common symptoms of this condition. Toxicity is most often due the use of supplements or prescriptions of synthetic vitamin A, rather than from food sources. Oral retinol medication used for acne or other skin conditions have been known to cause hair loss and dry, brittle locks that are prone to breakage.
Copper is necessary for iron metabolism, red blood formation and many other functions. Its role in skin and hair include pigmentation, follicle stimulation, collagen formation and elastin. Although copper is necessary in small amounts, an excess can have detrimental effects such as mental illness, nervous system disorders, Candida overgrowth, chronic infections, anxiety, depression, acne and hair loss. Copper excess is more common than deficiency. Copper is present in many common foods. Although it is included in many nutritional supplements, it is easy to get enough (or more than enough) through diet alone.
Copper and zinc must be intricately balanced. Excessive copper depletes zinc. A person can inadvertently cause a zinc deficiency by supplementing with copper and eating an abundance of high copper foods. Zinc is very important for proper hair growth which is one of the reasons excess copper can cause unhealthy hair and hair loss.
Vegetarians are at risk for high copper/low zinc intake. Women using birth control or copper IUDs are also at risk–as well as person using copper cookware or drinking water high in copper content.
Iodine deficiency can have serious effects. One of the most important roles of iodine is to assist the thyroid gland in producing proper amounts of thyroid hormones. Too much iodine can have the reverse effect. It can actually hinder the thyroid’s ability to keep hormones in proper balance. Iodine excess can trigger or worsen Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a common form of hypothyroidism also known as autoimmune hypothyroidism. It can also contribute to the development of hyperthyroidism. Hair loss is a common symptom of these conditions. Iodine excess can cause hair loss, dry skin and rash. Supplementation should only be used when there is a deficiency–and in the precise amount needed to maintain a safe optimal level in the body.
Nutritional therapy through diet and supplementation can enhance the condition of ones hair and overall health. In order to have a positive effect, nutrients must be well balanced in proper amounts. Unfortunately many people tend to supplement haphazardly. This can cause more harm than good. Nutritional therapy works best if person knows their current levels of individual nutrients and monitors them accordingly to avoid deficiencies or excesses in any particular nutrient.