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Moonfall
October 13th, 2017, 12:15 PM
Good evening,

Today I got my blood tested and it turned out that my iron levels are very, very low. I have to start taking iron pills right away and might even need an infusion. I decided to get tested because of my hair, since I've been losing a lot of it ever since I got into puberty. My menstruations are very heavy so I'm probably also going to have to take contraceptive pills. I really look forward to losing less hair and finally get a chance to let it grow past the everlasting MBL, but I'm worried about it as well. Can anyone tell me what to expect? Will my hair suddenly become very full at the top and will this make my ends seem even thinner than they are now? Will I get layers (please don't tell me I will)? I really, really don't want to do a big chop - even thinking about it makes me very sad and anxious.

I hope some members can help me out here by sharing their experiences :)
Thanks in advance,
Moonfall

lapushka
October 13th, 2017, 12:35 PM
It takes a while once your iron is back on track for the hair to grow back in normally. I've seen it with cousins and my mom had low iron levels in her life as well. It's not going to suddenly "beef up", no. It's all very gradual.

Moonfall
October 13th, 2017, 12:37 PM
Lapushka, thank you for your answer :) So it's not like I'll suddenly get layers (I have a straight hemline now)?

lapushka
October 13th, 2017, 12:53 PM
Lapushka, thank you for your answer :) So it's not like I'll suddenly get layers (I have a straight hemline now)?

You might get wispy bits growing in, but to say that it's going to layer in your hair... IDK, I doubt it.

meteor
October 13th, 2017, 01:13 PM
Sorry to hear about this, Moonfall. :grouphug: But at least you have your test results, and you and your doctor have a good plan of action now.

I've been taking high dose iron supplements on and off for years now and my iron stores (ferritin levels) are still low at the moment, though nowhere near what they were at my worst, of course.

Some things to expect:

- It can take a very long time to get ferritin up even by heavy dose supplementation. (I regret not accepting transfusions when my doctor recommended them, because I hear that you get practically instant results with those and you can even physically feel them right away, but I wanted to go the more conservative route.)

- Keep re-testing *frequently* while you are supplementing - every 3 months is recommended where I live, for example. The reason for this is that high iron can be even more dangerous than low iron (especially to heart and liver) and at extreme levels it can be toxic to the body (e.g. check out hemochromatosis and how extremely dangerous it can be to have very high iron).

- Check whole blood count, ferritin, serum iron, TIBC, UIBC, but also B12 and other B vitamins (folate), if you haven't. These deficiencies can be related (low B12 & ferritin -> "pernicious anemia") and these markers are usually tested together.

- There are *a lot* of different forms of iron supplements that can be taken and doctors usually just say to take whatever you tolerate and absorb well in adequate doses. Some are tougher on the stomach and cause lots of side effects like constipation but may also contain higher % elemental iron but might also get absorbed at lower rate (e.g. ferrous fumarate), so it can be a bit of a trade-off... Most iron supplements are non-heme iron-based, and non-heme iron doesn't get absorbed as easily, but its absorption rate increases if you combine it with Vitamin C and avoid tea, herbal teas, coffee, fiber and calcium-rich foods an hour or 2 before/after you took it. Of course, this goes not only for supplementation, but also for meals rich in non-heme iron (while heme (animal-based) iron is much more readily absorbable even in suboptimal food combinations). Heme iron (animal-based) is the best for getting ferritin up, so it might be worth eating more organ meats, dark meats and shellfish to get the diet more heme iron-focused. Even using iron cookware might help a bit.

- One can get pretty different symptoms with anemia, because *so many* functions require a lot of iron. For example, I still have very thick hair, even past knee, but I can faint or feel dizzy and cold and my nails are very weak, etc... If the hair has been shedding, it can grow back in thicker again after a few months of having higher ferritin levels, but it's different for different people, I think it's almost impossible to predict - even the range of ferritin levels it takes to regrow for different people is not set in stone, as far as I know. Low iron can hit different functions of your body, for example, thyroid requires a lot of iron to produce its hormones and there are lots of women with low iron and low thyroid function (plus their symptoms often overlap).

- It's worth pushing your doctor(s) to find out the root cause(s) of your iron deficiency, though many doctors just want to quickly push levels up with supplementation without any further investigation, because they see so many women of child-bearing age suffering from it, they tend to assume it's menstruation-related and want to fix it (which isn't wrong, but may be incomplete). In your case, since the periods are very heavy, they will likely settle on that as the cause, but there are so many other things that can cause/exacerbate it, including inflammation, infections, tumors, absorption issues caused by GI problems, low kidney function, etc... So it's worth digging in some cases, if you haven't yet done a bunch of testing.

Good luck, Moonfall! :) Thankfully, iron deficiency is something quite manageable with modern medicine, even if it's usually a very long term thing to work on.

queenbee1
October 13th, 2017, 11:41 PM
Lapushka, thank you for your answer :) So it's not like I'll suddenly get layers (I have a straight hemline now)?

The new growth will look like a frizz halo at first. You won't get the layers for at least a year. Your ends won't look thinner although if there are any bald spots they will get covered in about six months. YMMV.

queenbee1
October 13th, 2017, 11:43 PM
Sorry to hear about this, Moonfall. :grouphug: But at least you have your test results, and you and your doctor have a good plan of action now.

I've been taking high dose iron supplements on and off for years now and my iron stores (ferritin levels) are still low at the moment, though nowhere near what they were at my worst, of course.

Some things to expect:

- It can take a very long time to get ferritin up even by heavy dose supplementation. (I regret not accepting transfusions when my doctor recommended them, because I hear that you get practically instant results with those and you can even physically feel them right away, but I wanted to go the more conservative route.)

- Keep re-testing *frequently* while you are supplementing - every 3 months is recommended where I live, for example. The reason for this is that high iron can be even more dangerous than low iron (especially to heart and liver) and at extreme levels it can be toxic to the body (e.g. check out hemochromatosis and how extremely dangerous it can be to have very high iron).

- Check whole blood count, ferritin, serum iron, TIBC, UIBC, but also B12 and other B vitamins (folate), if you haven't. These deficiencies can be related (low B12 & ferritin -> "pernicious anemia") and these markers are usually tested together.

- There are *a lot* of different forms of iron supplements that can be taken and doctors usually just say to take whatever you tolerate and absorb well in adequate doses. Some are tougher on the stomach and cause lots of side effects like constipation but may also contain higher % elemental iron but might also get absorbed at lower rate (e.g. ferrous fumarate), so it can be a bit of a trade-off... Most iron supplements are non-heme iron-based, and non-heme iron doesn't get absorbed as easily, but its absorption rate increases if you combine it with Vitamin C and avoid tea, herbal teas, coffee, fiber and calcium-rich foods an hour or 2 before/after you took it. Of course, this goes not only for supplementation, but also for meals rich in non-heme iron (while heme (animal-based) iron is much more readily absorbable even in suboptimal food combinations). Heme iron (animal-based) is the best for getting ferritin up, so it might be worth eating more organ meats, dark meats and shellfish to get the diet more heme iron-focused. Even using iron cookware might help a bit.

- One can get pretty different symptoms with anemia, because *so many* functions require a lot of iron. For example, I still have very thick hair, even past knee, but I can faint or feel dizzy and cold and my nails are very weak, etc... If the hair has been shedding, it can grow back in thicker again after a few months of having higher ferritin levels, but it's different for different people, I think it's almost impossible to predict - even the range of ferritin levels it takes to regrow for different people is not set in stone, as far as I know. Low iron can hit different functions of your body, for example, thyroid requires a lot of iron to produce its hormones and there are lots of women with low iron and low thyroid function (plus their symptoms often overlap).

- It's worth pushing your doctor(s) to find out the root cause(s) of your iron deficiency, though many doctors just want to quickly push levels up with supplementation without any further investigation, because they see so many women of child-bearing age suffering from it, they tend to assume it's menstruation-related and want to fix it (which isn't wrong, but may be incomplete). In your case, since the periods are very heavy, they will likely settle on that as the cause, but there are so many other things that can cause/exacerbate it, including inflammation, infections, tumors, absorption issues caused by GI problems, low kidney function, etc... So it's worth digging in some cases, if you haven't yet done a bunch of testing.

Good luck, Moonfall! :) Thankfully, iron deficiency is something quite manageable with modern medicine, even if it's usually a very long term thing to work on.

Beautifully summed up. You know a lot of about this stuff! Are you a medical student?

Moonfall
October 14th, 2017, 01:55 AM
queenbee1, so you do reckon I will get layers instead of just some wispy bits, like lapushka suggested? And meteor, thank you very much indeed! I'm glad you never had any problems with your hair related to your iron levels. I really hope I can someday get my hair to knee length like you (or even just waist length)!

lapushka
October 14th, 2017, 10:46 AM
queenbee1, so you do reckon I will get layers instead of just some wispy bits, like lapushka suggested?

I think, like meteor said and said it well, it depends on the person and just how much hair you lost. If it's just in between the hair you'll likely get wispy bits, if it's patchy and with bald spots, you might get layering, yes. Why are you so afraid of that, can I ask? I think it's more important for the hair to grow in, no matter how.

Moonfall
October 14th, 2017, 01:31 PM
I think, like meteor said and said it well, it depends on the person and just how much hair you lost. If it's just in between the hair you'll likely get wispy bits, if it's patchy and with bald spots, you might get layering, yes. Why are you so afraid of that, can I ask? I think it's more important for the hair to grow in, no matter how.

Yes, that is indeed more important. I'm sorry if it comes across as strange. I am mildly autistic and having my hair one length is something that has somehow always been very important to me. I've had my hair like this for as long as I can remember and getting layers would feel like a very big change, which makes me feel very scared.

meteor
October 14th, 2017, 02:14 PM
Not a medical student, I just had to research this because it's been going on for so long in my life and doctors are understandably too busy to discuss things beyond the most critical/urgent stuff. I think it helps to learn more about our own issues to work more closely with our doctors, to ask them better questions, to make diet more effective, etc...

As for ends being uneven, first, it might not even happen as badly as you imagine, but if it does, I'd recommend micro-trimming. I'd actually avoid S&D ("search & destroy" for individual hair strands), because it can chop into hemline and add unevenness, if you are very much into even hemlines. Oh, and it's not so much that ends appear like layers with shedding, they tend to appear more like fairytale ends.

When hair sheds in massive amounts, hemline can get uneven, but frankly, when hair regrows, hemline is usually even more uneven and taper is even more visible for a while, because one can have this great new thickness growing at the top, but ends are still from pre-shed era. So try not to see it too badly, it does take a lot of patience, but if you can't stand the look, you can still bun or do pretty intricate cool updos - it can still look fantastic on the way to regaining full thickness! :)

One of the LHCers who I think are pretty inspiring for regrowing hair after shedding is Emi Longhaired at Heart, she wrote some good blogposts on micro-trimming to create even hemlines during/after shed: http://longhairedatheart.blogspot.ca/2010/03/even-hemline-without-loosing-length.html, http://longhairedatheart.blogspot.ca/2012/03/trim-and-new-approach-to-trimming.html

lapushka
October 14th, 2017, 02:25 PM
Yes, that is indeed more important. I'm sorry if it comes across as strange. I am mildly autistic and having my hair one length is something that has somehow always been very important to me. I've had my hair like this for as long as I can remember and getting layers would feel like a very big change, which makes me feel very scared.

Oh I understand how it's important, it's even important to loads of people who aren't autistic and need the hair to be this or that for whatever reason, which is why I asked. Thank you for answering! :flower: If worst comes to worst, you can always microtrim to let the new (at least it's new growth then, right) layering catch up. That's maybe a solution.

But first work on getting your health back up! I wish you well with that, because it can be tough. :flower:

queenbee1
October 15th, 2017, 03:27 AM
I think, like meteor said and said it well, it depends on the person and just how much hair you lost. If it's just in between the hair you'll likely get wispy bits, if it's patchy and with bald spots, you might get layering, yes. Why are you so afraid of that, can I ask? I think it's more important for the hair to grow in, no matter how.

Exactly what Lapushka said. You can always microtrim it to get one length. Layers will take time until you realize you have them.

queenbee1
October 15th, 2017, 03:28 AM
Oh I understand how it's important, it's even important to loads of people who aren't autistic and need the hair to be this or that for whatever reason, which is why I asked. Thank you for answering! :flower: If worst comes to worst, you can always microtrim to let the new (at least it's new growth then, right) layering catch up. That's maybe a solution.

But first work on getting your health back up! I wish you well with that, because it can be tough. :flower:

This. :) I think Lapushka has answered your questions beautifully. :)

Moonfall
October 15th, 2017, 02:10 PM
Thank you all for being so understanding and helpful :) And meteor, thank you so much for redirecting me to that webpage! Her hair journey is really impressive, and it does give me hope!

Amelia777
October 6th, 2018, 02:14 PM
Great thread! I've found out much useful information here. As for the usage of supplements, usually I check such info at Canadian Pharmacy Online (https://www.canadadrugsdirect.com/) store. But I didn't know it could effect hair growth process. So, thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts, guys!