Vitamin D deficiency has reared its ugly head again in recent years. And many of us have spent more time indoors this year, so 2020 could well see the biggest rise in the problem yet.
Severe vitamin D deficiency can cause bone deformities or rickets. But one very significant early warning sign that you might not be getting all the vitamin D your body needs is unexplained hair loss.
What is vitamin D?
Otherwise known as ‘the sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is the nutrient we absorb through exposure to the sun’s rays.
Britain has the lowest average annual hours of sunshine in Europe, which has led to a lack of vitamin D. Increasing numbers of people are spending their days indoors watching TV or playing computer games, so we are not getting access to all the sun we need. And lockdown restrictions may have exacerbated this.
How does vitamin D deficiency cause hair loss?
One important role that vitamin D plays in your body is in stimulating the hair follicles. When there is a lack of vitamin D in your system, hair growth can slow or stop altogether. A 2013 study showed that women with hair loss caused by either telogen effluvium or female-pattern hair loss had low serum levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that causes patchy hair loss on the scalp and body. Another study also showed significantly lower serum levels of vitamin D in alopecia areata patients when compared to a control group.
How can you tell if your hair loss is caused by vitamin D deficiency?
Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to tell if your hair loss is caused by a lack of vitamin D. Almost all forms of female hair loss have been linked to low serum levels of vitamin D in the blood.
If you are experiencing hair loss and you think it might be linked to a lack of vitamin D, your best bet is to visit your doctor and ask for a blood test to check the levels of vitamin D in your body.
How can I increase my vitamin D levels?
One option is to spend more time outside, but as winter draws in the UK sunshine is getting even weaker. If you really are vitamin D deficient, a few minutes outside each day is unlikely to cut it. Do spend as much time in sunlight as you can though.
You can also take vitamin D supplements. Multivitamins contain below the RDA of vitamin D, so either take a vitamin D specific supplement, or try to get some vitamin D in your diet as well.
Foods that are good sources of vitamin D include salmon, mackerel and animal fats.
If you are worried about your vitamin D levels, your best first step is to visit your GP for advice.