What your blood tells us about your hair


'The branch of medicine involving study and treatment of the blood.'

The Dermal Papilla that produces our hair is directly fed by our blood supply to it. Understanding and interpreting your blood results are a crucial part of a successful investigation into causes of hair loss. The results of blood tests tell us so much!

The most relevant point being, when your GP reads your bloods they are quite rightly looking for normalisation with regards to your over all state of health.

However, certified and qualified Trichologists will be reading your results for optimisation of the blood results. This means having the optimal numbers with in your results for your dermal papilla to produce healthy, strong, thick hair. 

One type of blood test relevant to hair health is known as a:

Complete Blood Count (CBC) including Serum Ferritin, Folate tests (Vitamin B9) and Vitamin B12

This test looks at your Ferritin levels, Folate and B12 stores. A lack of Ferritin and B12 in the body leads to a reduction in the number of red blood cells as they are necessary for the production of red cells. Folic acid is primarily responsible for healthy cell growth.

Ferritin is a protein which stores iron in your cells for your body to use later. Measuring Ferritin levels gives us a good indication of the amount of iron stored in your body. Low levels of Ferritin can indicate Anaemia which can be caused by excessive or chronic bleeding, poor absorption of iron or too little iron in the diet. A lack of Ferritin can lead to Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA). Symptoms of IDA can be tiredness and lack of energy, shortness of breath, headache and of course hair loss. 

With regards IDA and hair loss, this is because the follicles in which our hair is produced are effectively microorganisms and will thrive on exactly the same things we ourselves biologically thrive on, oxygen, nutrients etc. If our oxygen delivery capacity is compromised with a condition such as IDA then our follicles capacity to grow optimal hair density will also be compromised.

In my clinic consultations examining the aeitiology of hair loss, I find Ferritin insufficiency or deficiency is a common factor for the hundreds of clients I see each year experiencing hair density reduction. I would estimate the number of women I see with hair density reduction and Ferritin insufficiency or deficiency can be as high as 70% of my clients. In peer reviewed research and documentation Ferritin numbers of 80-100 are considered optimal for maximum hair generation capability, however readings at 20 can be considered medically 'normal'.

Vitamin B12 is important for production of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body - low levels can cause anaemia with associated symptoms of lack of energy and fatigue.

Vitamin B12 is is found in virtually all meat products and certain algae such as seaweed. It helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells and is also needed to make DNA, the genetic material in all cells.

The human body stores several years' worth of vitamin B12 - nutritional deficiency is most commonly seen in vegans and some vegetarians as well as the elderly who are more likely to suffer from absorption problems.

Folic acid is primarily responsible for healthy cell growth. These cells include those found inside your skin tissues as well as in your hair and nails. Such effects on your hair has spurred interest in folic acid as a possible hair-growth treatment measure. Additionally, folic acid helps keep red blood cells healthy.

The most common response I see to insufficiency or deficiency in CBC tests including Serum Ferritin, B12 and B9 is a process of hair loss known as Telogen Effluvium (TE). You can read about Telogen Effluvium and how it is commonly triggered and treated in my blog 'Telogen Effluvium triggers and treatment'. However back to the blood tests.

Once insufficient results in a CBC have been picked up in a consultation the first port of call to start the process of improving hair quality and density will be to create a plan of action to elevate these deficient numbers. We would do this through a process of professional diet planning, 'quality' supplementation ( I work with GP support if the numbers are significantly deficient) and reviewing blood capacity response by retesting the CBC over a timed period. I can't stress how important this approach is, as optimal blood composition will give the follicle the best opportunity to produce the best hair quality.

This blog was written by Wil Fleeson CiT ART. 

Wil is the CEO and founder of TrichlogyUK and Trichology Scotland as well as a practicing Consultant Trichologist.


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