Hair loss is no light matter. According to statistics compiled over the past decade, over one in five Americans suffer from hair loss. Among these, the highest prevalence is that of men.
Moreover, hair loss is not just a symptom of age or disease. Sometimes, nutritional deficiencies can lead to the weakening and breakage of hair proteins. An example of this is a folic acid deficiency, which highlights the importance of folic acid for hair growth.
To fully understand the role folic acid plays in hair growth and protein building, let’s see what it is and what it does.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid or folate is simply vitamin B9. B9 belongs to the water-soluble category of vitamins and is an essential component of your diet. Many of the synthetic processes in your body would grind to a halt if your cells fell short of folic acid.
Interestingly, folic acid deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the US. Moreover, this deficiency is usually found in pregnant women or alcoholics. But we will come back to this in a bit.
Natural Sources of Folic Acid
Luckily for us, it is quite possible to keep our folic acid levels up naturally. All we need to do is incorporate adequate amounts of folate-rich foods into our daily diet. This vitamin can be found in rich amounts in many common vegetables, so this is not difficult at all.
The richest sources are dark-green, leafy vegetables. However, it is present in some other natural food products.
Here is a handy little list for you:
- Brussel sprouts
- Kidney beans
- Sunflower seeds
So, it turns out, all you need is a well-rounded, balanced diet to reap the benefits of folic acid for hair growth.
What Is Folic Acid Good For?
The simpler and easier answer to the question, “what is folic acid good for?” is simply growth. It promotes the growth of different cell groups in your body and keeps your tissues in prime health.
Generally, the most crucial function of folic acid is in the synthesis of DNA. DNA is the genetic information that all our cells carry, and these cells cannot exist without it.
Thus, the importance of folic acid for hair growth springs from its ability to promote cell synthesis and consequent protein synthesis. However, we will explore this aspect in detail a little ahead.
Primarily, folic acid maintains both the quality and the number of our blood cells. For example, we know that red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to our cells. When they fall in number or are defective or immature, this oxygen-carrying capacity decreases, and our cells do not get enough nourishment.
Moreover, vitamin B9 works in conjunction with vitamin B12 to maintain our normal gut function. In addition, recent research has explored the possibility that these two vitamins might act synergistically to detoxify our tissues in case of arsenic poisoning.
However, the importance of folic acid becomes even more enhanced during pregnancy. Let’s see why.
What Are Folic Acid Supplements For?
We have all seen people around us taking folic acid and iron supplements. These usually come hand in hand, along with vitamin B12.
So, what is folic acid used for in supplement form?
Apart from that, folic acid supplements are beneficial in some cases of anemia and alcoholism. You can take them either orally or in the form of injections. Of course, once again, you would need to consult your doctor.
Finally, some people take supplementary folic acid for hair growth and better skin. However, these cases are relatively fewer. The folic acid present in a good diet is enough to maintain healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Folic acid has similar effects on hair health as does CBD oil, resulting in healthier-looking hair.
Now that we are talking about folic acid supplements, you might want to check out these CBD Pet Hip and Joint Chews for your pet. These chews contain sunflower extract with folic acid, and your pets need this vitamin just as much as you do.
Effects of Folic Acid on Hair
When we considered what folic acid is good for, we mentioned blood-cell health and the general growth effects of the vitamin on body cells. All that translates to the rapid growth of hair cells, skin cells, and nails. Ultimately, all regenerative tissues in our body benefit from folic acid supplementation.
Prevents Hair Loss
Folic acid prevents hair loss. So naturally, when our body is short on this vitamin, it will direct its resources towards carrying out the more vital functions. These include the growth of blood cells to prevent anemia and infections.
However, amid this folic acid shortage, your limited resources cannot care for your hair and skin health. When your hair gets little to no folic acid, it stops growing and becomes weak. As your follicle cells become slow to grow and regenerate, they stop making hair protein.
As a result of this, your hair becomes weak and easily breakable. Simple hair brushing causes large strands to split and break, and you will start noticing larger clumps of hair in the drain as you shower.
Alternatively, the correct percentage could be guided towards hair health and maintenance with a sufficient amount of folic acid available. Taking a supplement fills up this deficit. Therefore, folic acid reduces hair fall and breakage.
Promotes Hair Growth
By a similar mechanism, folic acid also promotes hair growth. It speeds up the healthy growth and division of cells in the hair follicles. Not only do these cells then build up hair proteins faster and cause your hair to grow longer, but they also strengthen it.
Therefore, folic acid for hair growth is an essential ingredient to look for in hair serums and hair oils. There might be harmful consequences to taking oral supplements simply for hair growth without a doctor’s prescription. However, you can safely apply folic acid-enriched oils to your hair to see the benefits.
Halts Greying of Hair
Age is not the only cause of grey hair. Your hair can also start turning grey with stress or when it’s not getting adequate nutrition.
As we discussed before, folic acid helps in the production of mature red blood cells. When levels of folic acid are low in your body, large, immature red blood cells are formed.
The function of red blood cells is to carry oxygen all around your body. They collect oxygen from your lungs and take it to different, far-away tissues, including hair follicles. When immature red blood cells are formed, this oxygen-transporting function is impaired.
As a result, your scalp, among other tissues, receives less oxygenated blood. Poor circulation leads to poor nutrition and prevents growth. Not only can your hair cells not repair themselves efficiently, but they also start turning grey.
Therefore, taking folic acid for hair growth helps maintain hair luster and color too.
Adds Shine to Hair
The combined effects of folic acid on hair start becoming visible after a while. A reduced hair loss rate manifests as voluminous locks. You will notice not only more hair but also increased hair thickness after a while.
Moreover, your hair will grow faster. The increased growth rate will become evident over a few months.
In addition to all this, hair repair mechanisms speed up. As hair strength increases, a strand is less likely to break in the middle or develop split ends. These breaks lead to an overall rough appearance in unhealthy hair with unequal strands sticking out here and there.
With time, your healthy hair will start looking smooth and shiny with minimum effort.
Mechanism of Action
Four types of molecular components, known as nucleotides, together make up our DNA. Each of these nucleotides needs to be present in an equal amount for proper DNA synthesis. Even if one is deficient, our cells fail to make DNA and divide.
Folic acid or folate is required to make one of these nucleotides, called thymine. Thymine synthesis requires a specific enzyme, and folate is an essential component of that enzyme.
Without this enzyme, our cells cannot make thymine. Without thymine, the cellular machinery does not work to produce DNA. When cells cannot make DNA, they cannot reply.
Cell division is the mechanism by which the processes of growth and repair take place in our cells. Therefore, we can trace the link between folate and its role in promoting hair growth and repair.
Other Possible Causes of Hair Loss
Nutritional deficiencies are a prevalent cause of hair loss and poor hair growth. However, there are multiple other reasons you might be losing hair.
Folic acid supplementation will only work on some of them. You must always consult your doctor and try to reach the root cause. Treating with folic acid supplements will not be helpful if folic acid deficiency is not that problem.
To give you an idea, here is a list of some of the leading causes of hair loss:
- Congenital baldness, known as male or female pattern baldness, traveling from one generation to another
- An autoimmune disease known as alopecia areata, where the body attacks its own hair follicles
- Thyroid disorders
- Hormonal balance due to starting or stopping birth control medication, or because of the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Psoriasis on the scalp
- Infections on the scalp, especially those of hair follicles
- Hair thinning and hair loss often accompany aging, especially after middle age
- Chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer treatment
- Using harmful hair products
- Poisoning with metallic poisons, for example, arsenic, thallium, and mercury
- Excessive hair pulling
- Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders
Although most of these conditions are treatable, or at least the hair loss is reversible, simply taking folic acid would not help. Now that you know what folic acid is used for, you can also figure out when you need it and when not.
Therefore, if you are constantly finding large clumps of hair in the shower or cleaning out your hairbrush multiple times a day, it may be wise to consult with a doctor. They will help you figure out the underlying cause and exactly what treatment you should be taking.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
The Recommended Dietary Allowance or RDA is the daily nutrient intake level required to meet all the biological needs of ninety-seven to ninety-eight percent of the population. However, this is not the minimum requirement. Therefore, when assigning an RDA to a nutrient, adjustments are made to include a safety margin that works for most people.
Here are the three most essential RDA values for folic acid:
- 400 mcg per day for all individuals above the age of nineteen years
- 600 mcg per day for pregnant women, starting from a few weeks before conception
- 500 mcg per day for lactating mothers
Taking folic acid within these recommendations daily intake values helps prevent any deficiency of the vitamin. In addition, with the fortification of flour and grains in the USA, the FDA has found a viable solution to folic acid deficiency in pregnant females.
What Happens In Folic Acid Deficiency?
How Does It Develop?
Some vitamin deficiencies take months and years to develop because your body can store up these vitamins in large amounts. It then depends on these stores when the nutrient is not directly available. Moreover, other times, your body can use some other nutrient it does not usually use to synthesize the deficient one.
However, there is no such mechanism for the storage of folic acid. Therefore, all the folic acid that your body requires must be present in your diet and consumed routinely.
As soon as you stop taking adequate amounts of folic acid, symptoms of deficiency start showing up. These deficiency symptoms usually take only a few weeks to develop.
In addition, any condition affecting your ability to absorb folic acid from the diet leads to its deficiency. A typical example of this is Crohn’s disease. Drug side effects and alcohol toxicity can also be important contributing factors.
The most severe and common manifestation of folic acid deficiency is anemia. Therefore, the symptoms of these two overlap to give a collective picture of folic acid deficiency. However, the anemic symptoms may occur slightly before the growth disturbances become apparent.
Here is a list of the common symptoms of folic acid deficiency:
- Loss of appetite
- Painful and sore tongue
- Tongue ulcers
- Mouth sores
- Unexplained fever
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Unhealthy, pale skin appearance
- Bleeding spots on the skin
- Hair loss
- Poor hair and nail health
- Other growth disturbances
- Shortness of breath
- The feeling of pins and needles on your arms and legs
These symptoms are particular to vitamin B9 deficiency. Moreover, if you look back at what folic acid is used for, you can easily explain these symptoms.
Accompanying Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Often, vitamin B9 deficiency is accompanied by vitamin B12 deficiency, with similar symptoms. However, in this case, pernicious anemia is indicative of an accompanying B12 deficiency. Therefore, most supplements contain both vitamin B9 and B12 together.
Harmful Effects of Excess Folic Acid Intake
No matter how vital a nutrient is, consuming an excess of anything is wrong. Make sure you stick to the 400 mcg per day RDA unless you are pregnant or lactating. Excess folic acid can lead to nausea, vomiting, and skin reactions.
Moreover, when you consume more than 1000 mcg per day, you can develop severe nerve damage.
The Bottom Line
Folic acid deficiency is a common and severe cause of hair loss, and the simple solution lies in bettering your intake of the vitamin. Now that you know what folic acid is good for, you can trace how increased uptake helps improve your overall health.
However, in any case, always consult a doctor before starting supplementary folic acid for hair growth.