Vitamin deficiencies can contribute to hair loss, and getting enough vitamins is therefore important to keep your hair healthy. Your body is constantly working to produce, absorb, and regulate micronutrients to support your health from the inside out. 

While many of the vitamins needed to help maintain healthy, strong, and voluminous hair are widely found in foods, some of them are also made by bacteria that live in a healthy digestive tract. These are mainly B vitamins. Understanding how some of these vitamins benefit your hair can help you best support your locks. 

1. Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

Thiamine is one of the many water-soluble B vitamins that are produced by bacteria in your intestinal tract. It appears to play a role in hair growth and volume. 

Research shows that thiamine is needed for proliferation of hair follicles and skin cells, and may even provide UV protection when combined with the amino acid L-cysteine. You can boost your thiamine intake with whole grains, meat, fish, and fortified cereals. 

2. Folate (Vitamin B9)

Folate may help maintain overall hair health, is found naturally in foods and is synthesized in the human digestive tract. Folic acid is the synthetic, or man-made, form of vitamin B9, which is typically found in dietary supplements, enriched foods, and certain personal care products for hair. 

In one 2017 study, researchers examined serum nutrient status of 52 adults with premature graying hair, and found that they were deficient in folate, as well as vitamins B7 and B12. And in another study, researchers found that adults who lost the most hair at six months following laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy had suboptimal levels of folate in their blood. 

Some folate-rich foods include dark leafy greens, oranges, legumes, and eggs. 

3. Biotin (Vitamin B7)

Biotin is among the most talked-about vitamins for hair, especially in studies about prevention and reversal of hair loss. In fact, hair thinning and loss are some of the potential signs of biotin deficiency. Biotin can help improve the infrastructure of keratin, a protein found in your hair, skin, and nails. 

In a 2015 study, women experiencing thinning hair were given an oral biotin-containing supplement or placebo twice daily for 3 months. The authors found that those who took the biotin supplement experienced a significant amount of hair growth, and had less hair shedding over the duration of the study compared to the placebo group. 

A similar study from 2012 also found that healthy women aged 21 to 75 with thinning hair experienced significant hair growth from a biotin-containing supplement at both 90 and 180 days of use. Biotin intake can be increased by eating egg yolks, legumes, sweet potatoes, avocados, nuts and seeds. 

4. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Riboflavin acts as an antioxidant to help protect the skin, immune system, and hair. While riboflavin deficiency is very rare, one of the common signs is hair loss. Some food sources of riboflavin include fortified cereals, oats, yogurt, mushrooms, and almonds. 

5. Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)

A common ingredient in skin and hair care products, pantothenic acid is also produced in the gut. It’s thought to help keep your hair strong, smooth, and shiny, though most of the research on its role in hair health dates back to the 1940s and 1950s, without more recent studies. 

Pantothenic acid can be found in foods like shiitake mushrooms, fortified cereals, chicken, tuna, and potatoes. 

Probiotics and hair growth

Probiotics are good bacteria that are found in your digestive tract. They can be found in fermented foods, such as kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, and miso, but can also be supplemented. Incorporating more probiotics into your lifestyle may help populate, and maintain populations of, your good gut bacteria. 

More research is needed, but it makes sense that having a healthy gut microbiome could also help optimize the nutrients needed for healthy hair. One study found that probiotic supplementation helped improve hair growth and thickness among men with alopecia.

There’s no question that nutrition status, especially certain vitamins, is a significant factor in hair growth, thickness, and overall health. While more studies are necessary to better understand how various vitamins produced in the gut influence hair, there is enough insight to encourage adequate intake of these vitamins as well as optimizing healthy gut bacteria.

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