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The Untold Cause of Hair Loss

By Mihaela Gruita, PharmD, CFMP

If you have been struggling with hair loss, you are not alone.

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 40% of women experience hair loss by the time they turn 50. In fact, in the United States alone, more than 30 million women are struggling with hair loss.

Multiple factors contribute to hair loss, including genetics, hormones, environmental exposure, medications, and nutrition.  If you are eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), you might experience nutrient deficiencies that might be responsible for hair loss.  Vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron, selenium, and zinc deficiencies play an important, but not entirely clear, role in normal hair follicle development and immune cell function. 

We’ll go over the nutrients needed in various hair loss types.  In addition, we will talk about medications that deplete those nutrients, thus leading to hair loss.  So, if you have been eating a wholesome, healthy diet and following all kinds of advice on resolving hair loss without success, I recommend taking a look at your meds.  They might be the culprit.

While supplementation is relatively affordable and easily accessible, it is important to know which vitamins and minerals are helpful in treating which type of hair loss. For example, androgenetic alopecia (AGA) and telogen effluvium (TE) are two common types of hair loss. Studies show that supplementing vitamin D can improve symptoms of these diseases. In addition, low iron levels (more commonly seen in females), should be supplemented along with vitamin C. 

Another type of hair loss is alopecia areata (AA) which is due to the immune system attacking the hair follicle. Studies have shown a relationship between AA and low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D should be supplemented if levels are low. 

Knowing now that vitamin D, vitamin C and iron are very important for hair health and hair loss repair, we can look at what medications may cause depletion of these nutrients.  

Medications that deplete Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Iron

The following medications deplete Vitamin D: 

  • Cholesterol meds: fibrates (fenofibrate (TriCor®), gemfibrozil (Lopid®)) and bile acid sequestrants (cholestyramine (Questran®) and colestipol (Colestid®))
  • Statins: atorvastatin (Lipitor®), lovastatin (Mevacor®), fluvastatin (Lescol®), cerivastatin (Baycol®), pravastatin (Pravachol®), simvastatin (Zocor®), rosuvastatin (Crestor®)
  • Laxatives containing mineral oil (Fleet® mineral enema)

The following meds deplete Vitamin C:

  • Antacids: Maalox®, Tums®
  • Acid blockers (H2 blockers): famotidine (Pepcid®), ranitidine (Zantac®), cimetidine (Tagamet®), nizatidine (Axid®)
  • Proton pump inhibitors: omeprazole (Prilosec®), esomeprazole (Nexium®), pantoprazole (Protonix®), lansoprazole (Prevacid®), dexlansoprazole (Kapidex®), rabeprazole (Aciphex®)
  • NSAIDs: ibuprofen, naproxen, sulindac, ketoprofen
  • Corticosteroids: prednisone, methylprednisolone, dexamethasone
  • Barbiturates: secobarbital (Seconal®), mephobarbital (Mebaral®), butabarbital (Butisol®), pentobarbital (Nembutal®), phenobarbital (Luminal®), amobarbital (Amytal®) 
  • Loop diuretics: furosemide (Lasix®), bumetanide (Bumex®), torsemide (Demadex®), ethacrynic acid (Edecrin®)
  • Thiazide diuretics: chlorothiazide (Thalitone®), hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide®), indapamide (Lozol®), methyclothiazide (Enduron®), metolazone (Zaroxolyn®)
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics: spironolactone (Aldactone®), amiloride (Midamor®)
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): estradiol, conjugated estrogens (Premarin®)
  • Oral contraceptives: (Ortho Novum®, Mircette®, Nordette®, etc

The following meds deplete iron:

  • Antacids: Maalox®, Tums®
  • Acid blockers (H2 blockers): famotidine (Pepcid®), ranitidine (Zantac®), cimetidine (Tagamet®), nizatidine (Axid®)
  • Proton pump inhibitors: omeprazole (Prilosec®), esomeprazole (Nexium®), pantoprazole (Protonix®), lansoprazole (Prevacid®), dexlansoprazole (Kapidex®), rabeprazole (Aciphex®)
  • All antibiotics
  • Aspirin or other salicylates
  • NSAIDs: ibuprofen, naproxen, sulindac, ketoprofen, indomethacin
  • Cholesterol meds: fibrates (fenofibrate (TriCor®), gemfibrozil (Lopid®)) and bile acid sequestrants (cholestyramine (Questran®) and colestipol (Colestid®))
  • Levodopa/carbidopa (Sinemet®)
  • Thyroid meds: Armour Thyroid®, Nature Thyroid®, levothyroxine (Synthroid®)
  • Bisphosphonates: alendronate (Fosamax®), ibandronate (Boniva®)
  • Loop diuretics: furosemide (Lasix®), bumetanide (Bumex®), torsemide (Demadex®), ethacrynic acid (Edecrin®)
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics: spironolactone (Aldactone®), amiloride (Midamor®)

If you eat a healthy diet and have already tried all kinds of proven methods to reverse hair loss without any success, check your medicine cabinet and check for potential nutrient depletions caused by your medications.  If you are on any of the medications listed above, these meds may be the cause for your hair loss.  

I recommend you have a conversation with your doctor to see if it is absolutely necessary for you to be on that medication and if there is a possibility to change the medication with another.  

In addition, I recommend you replenish these nutrients whether or not you change the medication or not.  One caveat is that you must ask your doctor to test your iron levels before supplementing it, because excess iron can be harmful to your health just like low iron.  

Need to talk with a practitioner who is experienced with uncovering and navigating hair loss and nutrient deficiencies? Book a Complimentary Strategy Session HERE.

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