Monday, November 30, 2009

Hair Loss and Iron Counts

When I first started this journey into studying The Word of Wisdom I emailed a few friends and family members about their vegetarianism.  One of them was my sister-in-law Krystyna who had decided that she was going to try a completely vegetarian diet for a year and see if she could do it.   I emailed her some specific questions and I received the following response from her:

Hey Tiffany!

I love that you have been studying the Word of Wisdom and encouraging others to do so as well.  We had a really good family friend who has been overweight as long as I can remember her, but just lost a tremendous amount of weight in the past couple of years, which is pretty impressive considering she's probably 65 and has been overweight pretty much her whole life.  She was telling us about a woman in her ward who had always struggled with the latest and greatest "fad diet" losing weight and gaining it back, etc.  Well, this other woman asked out friend Susan how she managed to lose all the weight and keep it off, and Susan's response was that she just studied the Word of Wisdom and really tried to live by it.  And it really is exactly what she did.  I love that story, especially because of all the issues people have these days with the way they eat and treat their bodies.

Anyway, on to your questions.

I initially started eating a vegetarian diet for a few reasons I guess.  First of all, I wanted to see if I could do it.  It was a little bit of a challenge to myself and my goal was to stick to it for at least a year.  Also, I've always had a deep love for animals, and while I do have a testimony of the fact that God created the earth and everything on it "for the benefit and use of man," I don't agree with the way a lot of animals are treated, ya know?  Even still now that I eat meat, I try to buy organic stuff when I can (and when it's not too overpriced haha).  Also, like you were asking me, I've heard that not eating meat can be healthy and that vegetarians (and especially vegan vegetarians) are usually thinner on average.  So I tried it out...  I really loved being a vegetarian because I love cooking, and it really forced me to cook for myself instead of just going through a drive through.  It was also a fun conversation starter with people at meal times and I did lose some weight after making the switch.  That being said, however, I will say that I was not the smartest vegetarian a) because I didn't have a lot of money to supplement my diet, and b) because I was always busy and on the go and too lazy and/or scatter-brained to remember to take vitamins, etc.

Some negative things I noticed about myself when I was a vegetarian:
--- My hair and nails were growing super slow and near the end of the year my hair actually started falling out a little..  Scary!
--- I never actually missed periods, but my menstrual cycle was definitely irregular.
--- When I was lacking protein I would get sooooooo tired and weak, and often grumpy haha

So... I know a lot of people are vegetarian and have been for years (I have a sister who has been a vegan vegetarian for over 10 years) and are just fine, but the key is that they have to be SUPER careful about what they eat to make sure they are getting all the nutrients their body really needs.  Here are two websites that may be interesting to you:

I hope that was somewhat helpful to you.  Sorry again that it was so late!!!


I had a received a few replies to my questions and had filed them away in an email folder.  I didn't remember too much of what was said until recently. Months ago my hair started falling out like crazy.  handfuls and handfuls.  drano down the shower drain twice.  I kept thinking it was the normal cycle of my hair until I went to a doctor's appointment in late August for a physical (my son's preschool requires that parent volunteers have physicals) and asked for a blood test although it was not required.  I wanted to know how my counts were doing since my diet changes.  

Well, I got the results about a week later in the mail and the results showed that I was anemic.  I was significantly low in iron and was told that I needed to take a supplement to regain my count.  

I started putting things together and wondered if the hair falling out had to do with the lack of protein/iron in my body.  Other symptoms started stacking up and I started wondering if I needed to make changes.  

I debated taking a iron pill.  I still may try that, but in the mean time I have had to up my iron and protein in my diet.  And so, I have let a little more meat in.  I eat it 2, and occasionally 3 times a week instead of the once I was doing before.  If you read a little about protein in the side bar links you will learn about combining to make full proteins and such.  In my stage of life I cannot let my body get low on iron or protein (baby making years).   But 2-3 times a week is still a vast improvement on the every night meat we were doing before with deli sandwiches and other meatsies in between.

I am still working on my balance.  The handfuls of hair seem to not be as frequent and I am hoping the iron is coming back up.  

This year has most definitely been an experience.  I am wondering if any of you have experienced something like this?  What changes did you make?  I am wondering if my body was telling me things and to not be so drastic.

thoughts?  I am open for any solutions or advice.


  1. oh, my goodness. I have been losing more hair that I thought was normal too. And I first thought it was just because I had a baby- but it has been some time since then and I have been putting off my blood test I am supposed to have. Maybe I am having similar effects... thanks for sharing this.

    so no. no solutions.

  2. Lily has low iron and we try really hard to keep her on an iron rich diet...she does not really like the red meats so we supplement with other foods. We do give her a childrens vitamin (because I do not like having her blood taken, and while she is on the vitamin they do not take it as often) but I have learned a LOT about iron.
    Vitamin C will help your body absorb the drink something like orange juice during meals where you content of iron is higher (or put some orange slices on the table to snack on before or after your meal). Molassass also has great iron in it. Our ped. said to add it to milk instead of chocolate for a sweet treat (we are not a fan) but you can also use it instead of syrup on pancakes. If you want you can try some of our molasses...we have a whole jar and don't use it often. Dried Apricots and raisins and prunes are also great ways to snack on iron rich foods with out eating extra meat. And when buying cereal and oatmeal read the labels to see if they are enriched with iron...most have like 4 percent but some have much more. Leafy greens have a lot of iron too...we put spinach on pizza all of the time to get in the extra iron...But meat is going to give you the best boost... I also learned that pork has a large amount of iron. I always thought that red meat had the best...and it does have more then like chicken or turkey...but pork has more than those. Pork chops are not as 'heavy' as a meat as a steak. There are also a lot of types of fish that have really good iron and protien (salmon and I think even tuna). Just remember to have vitamin c when eating foods with iron and protien because they will help your body absorb more!

  3. crazy Sandra! wow. yes, it is something to look into. I had other symptoms too, low energy, moodiness....

  4. Katie, thank you! I think this may be a good solution. I need to incorporate more vitamin C rich foods. Maybe that is why they call it absorbic acid??? hmmmmm.....

    I am going to do some research on this and get back to you.

  5. I've been a mostly-vegetarian most of my life and a full-vegetarian the last year, and I have experienced a dramatic hair loss. At least half of my hair has fallen out in the last six years.
    -Sandra's sister

  6. Sandra's sister,

    What have you done about it, if anything? Did you already link diet and hair loss together? Do you think this is okay or do you want to make changes?

  7. I think it actually has a lot more to do with medication, but protein deficiency certainly aids to the problem. Oh, I've known for awhile, I was concerned when it began and saw a dermatologist who suggested the culprits.
    It's not okay, it's frustrating. I consume more protein than before, but I haven't noticed anything yet.


  8. I've struggled with anemia for a while. I was eating tons of iron but found out from my doctor that my body wasn't able to absorb it because I was eating too much calcium, which data has shown restricts iron absorption.

    So, shredded wheat=high in fortified iron but if you have milk with it, it may do you no good. Also, iron suppliments (I've tried plant based and mineral based) give me a very upset stomach so I'd drink milk with it which would again prevent iron absoption.

    I started making smoothies with spinach and lots of blackberries (high in iron) and laying off of the milk products. I use beans nearly every day too. It has helped me keep a handle on the anemia, but I still have to watch it because my hair falls out too--especially after having kids.

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  10. To clarify--I still eat foods high in calcium, I just make sure it's not within one hour of eating high iron foods.

    Love the blog! So fun to see other people are thinking about the same things as I am. And running into similar challenges. Thanks

  11. Fascinating! When I was a vegetarian for 5 years I can honestly say I didn't notice hair loss, but I was eating a lot of beans and rice and leafy vegetables. I don't know if it is true, but someone once told me that rice and beans make the perfect protein, but they were Brazilian and that is very convenient because that is all they eat! I love it!!

  12. Elizabeth -- THANK YOU! I am loving all of these great responses! so much wisdom and experience out there. Thank you so much.

    Serena, I have heard that too and I need to remember that! rice and beans. I need to eat more green leafy vegetables too..

  13. The simplest way to nourish the hair is taking hair vitamin supplements, letting the hair grow naturally. Topical products only provide a limited result unlike the supplements wherein it can help improve the hair's health.


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