Tag Archives: biotin

Hair loss and hair thinning: a few causes and solutions

Long before I figured out the whole gluten-ruining-my-health thing, I noticed that I felt better the less I ate. This was because like most Americans I ate wheat (gluten) at almost every meal. This revelation eventually led me to such a low caloric intake that I developed a palsy in my hands, stopped sleeping, and lost a third of my hair.

To give you an idea of how much hair: I used to wear it in a half ponytail (like this) and about every three weeks the 1/4-inch, spring-loaded barrette I used would break from being stretched too far. Two years later I could put all of my hair in the same type of barrette and the barrette would slide off onto the floor.

The switch to gluten-free and back to eating like a horse slowed but did not stop the hair loss. It took me a few years to figure out the reason, during which I was on a daily regimen of all the basics: calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, etc. When I read that magnesium deficiency can be involved in hair loss, I took extra but it didn’t help. The same happened with biotin. When I read that the two work together in some ways, I tried them both at the same time and in about a week the hair loss stopped.

It did not grow back much, though, and since nothing else has worked, and since my iron levels have never even remotely high for various reasons, I am assuming that iron deficiency is the cause. An oft-repeated statistic among hair-loss experts is that if low iron is responsible for your hair loss, your iron ferritin level has to be at 70 for three months before it will start growing back.

When I finally learned to look at my medical test results myself, I discovered my ferritin level, which had been 6 for two years, was by European standards so low as to warrant hospitalization and a blood transfusion. In two years not one of the dozens of doctors I consulted even commented on it. Finally an alterna-doc, who had seen me before, mentioned that it should ideally be 50-60.

After that episode I lost another chunk of faith in doctors and in lab ranges. To give you an idea of the widely disparate opinions about lab ranges, my conventional doc said a ferritin level of 12 is fine. In 10 years I haven’t been able to get it past 26.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the thickness/fullness of the hair can change in a matter of days based on my protein and iron intake. Drinking/eating large amounts of peppermint in the form of tea or Peppermint Patties, for example, will lower my iron levels and make my hair wimpy in a few days. Not eating protein for a few days will do the same.

Other things I’ve tried are taking apple cider vinegar and betaine hydrochloride on the theory that I wasn’t producing enough stomach acid to absorb needed nutrients, but no dice. I also tried rinsing my hair in apple cider vinegar to remove whatever buildup our notoriously hard water here might be creating, but I couldn’t take the smell. There’s no point in having great hair if you smell like a pickled egg.

The inadvertent ending to my hypoglycemia

I had this for years without knowing what it was. At its worst, I had to eat every 45 minutes or my brain would do that revving/screaming/wheels spinning thing (silently, I mean; I’m pretty sure no one else could hear it). If I drank fruit juice alone without food, I’d get woozy and almost pass out. Long periods without eating would leave me shaking and practically comatose. However, when my doctor tested me for it with blood tests and an oral glucose tolerance test, they came back negative.

All this resolved after I started taking magnesium and biotin. I don’t remember how much magnesium I had been on — 500 mg/day? — but when I added 2,000 mcg of biotin, after a few weeks I could go for eight hours without food without crashing, although I can’t guarantee I wasn’t surly and irritable.

This was actually an accidental discovery. I was taking the biotin and magnesium in an attempt to stop the hair loss, which it did, although the lost hair did not grow back in. The evened-out blood sugar was a pleasant byproduct of the experiment.

The heartbreak of stupid fingernails

February 7, 2013: I later had some success with vitamin D3.

Updated February 6, 2012

Growing up I’d watch movies set in the heyday of the manicure, the 1930s to the 1950s, and then I’d look down at my own bendy, shallow, round nails and I’d think, whyyyyy? When I got my first full-time job I splurged on French-manicured, squoval artificial nails and enjoyed them thoroughly despite being laughed at by the guy giving me riding lessons. Eventually the cost of filling them every three weeks got to be too much, so I abandoned the habit. I’d bet those nail salon chemicals are still in my system, plotting their oncological revenge.

Going gluten-free brought me no nail improvement. Over the years I did notice some of the classic nutritional correlations: vertical ridges when iron levels are low and hangnails when zinc is low. I can’t comment on the whole white-spots-is-a-zinc-deficiency thing, though. I just don’t remember.

As for strength and length, all the following helped a little, but nothing major:
iron
sufficient protein intake
biotin
horsetail (silica)

My fingernails were actually pretty healthy, all things considered, until about two years ago when they started peeling from the top, shredding, and then ripping horizontally under the quick. Betaine hydrochloride took care of the first two and a ton of calcium the last.

I recently had a huge transformation but unfortunately it didn’t last. I was trying two things at the same time: Nailtiques “2 plus” nail strengthener polish from the drugstore, and methylfolate.

I was taking 8 mg of methylfolate — yes, that’s 10 800 mcg tablets. As in, a lot. When I first heard that some people might have more luck with this newish type of folate I tried it, and when 4 mg improved my concentration I just kept going. At 8 mg my concentration was amazingly better. Then I looked down at my nails and they were like another person’s. Unfortunately after several days my histamine rose to zombie levels, a tendency of folate I was hitherto unaware of, and that was the end of that. (Note 2/6/12: I’m not sure that last bit is right. In theory the methylfolate shouldn’t do that, so perhaps the zombieism was caused by something else — an induced deficiency of a folate cofactor, maybe. Not sure. Note 9/20/12: Best guess is that all that folate lowered my vitamin C levels, which for me raises histamine.)

I kept going with the Nailtiques. My nails didn’t look quite as good after the folate ended but it was still a lot better than the usual. Sadly, eventually my nails turned yellow enough to show through the pale polishes I wear. (The stupidity of stupid fingernails is only accentuated by dark polish.) It looked creepy so I quit. In theory a toluene/DBP/formaldehyde-free product would avoid this, but I’ve tried a lot of them and they didn’t do much. Nailtiques is definitely NOT carcinogen-free.

It has been pointed out to me that no matter how strong fingernails are, if they are too shallow and too wide they just won’t have the structural integrity to shoot out very far past the fingertip in Rihanna-like talons. So what I really have is a nail BED problem. Maybe there’s an unethical Brazilian plastic surgeon out there who can help me.