If you follow me on Instagram, you will already know that I detest Biotin – The most popular hair supplement pushed down our throat. Every research I have done suggests it is the most pointless supplement because this deficiency is very rare in humans. And there is no research to back up the claims that Biotin works unless you happen to be deficient, which again is very rare.
That said, for those joining my course I ask them to go to their doctors and get tested for Vitamin D and Iron deficiencies; two deficiencies that are common amongst black women and the two deficiencies that can wreak havoc on your hair and health. Half of my course members come back with a deficiency in Iron and at least 25% in vitamin D.
Funmi getting her vitamin D.
Now, there are one or two other vitamins that I mention in my hair course; not as growth pills but hair strengthening pills, I do this in the course after careful explanation. But that’s not today’s agenda.
Today I want to really emphasize that you simply can’t be popping pills without consideration of your general health or any medications you may be on! To make the point better I recruited my friend Funmi Akanmu who is a practicing pharmacist in the UK to share some thoughts and wisdom before you even think of putting a pill in your mouth.
Words by Funmi Akanmu – Pharmacist – Mpharm, MRPharms
Modern living and lifestyle suggest that a significant number of people are not eating a healthy, balanced diet. But the solution is not always to supplement with pills. Unfortunately, big businesses, including many black-owned businesses have managed to push the use of vitamins and supplements as a means of getting that long dreamy hair or nails. This has resulted in the routine use and over the counter purchase of pharmacological vitamins and supplements, more so in the natural afro hair movement. It is, however, important to highlight that most supplements are not 'natural' hence they carry the side effects and risks associated with any type of 'medicine' or 'formulated drug product' if used incorrectly or in excess.
Most over the counter vitamins and minerals are chemical compounds that affect the body's metabolic function, so just as medications may have toxic interactions when taken together, vitamins may also have toxic interactions when taken with other medications. While many people discuss their prescribed medications with their doctors, vitamin supplements sold over the counter are often not considered as part of the medication people feel they should mention to their doctor and they should! Indeed, it is sound advice to discuss any vitamin or mineral you propose to take with your doctor prior to taking them. For example, excessive Vitamin D ingestion while on diuretic therapy may result in increased calcium in the blood. And increased blood calcium may cause abnormal heartbeats called arrhythmias. Increased levels of Vitamin B3 (niacin) may affect antihypertensive medications which help lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels.
It is therefore important that you discuss all medications, supplements and over-the-counter products with a medical professional to reduce the risk of adverse interactions especially in cases where you are taking medications.
We should remember that most people don't need to take vitamin supplements at all! and are able to get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Deficiencies in some vitamins required for healthy body functions do happen but are not majorly common. However, there are a few vitamins that the Department of Health recommend for some groups of people who are at risk of such deficiency; folic acid in pregnancy, vitamin D throughout the year in certain groups of the population (black people), vitamins A, C and D in children aged 6 months to 5 years, also iron deficiencies (in women and young people of menstruating age) which in some cases may be linked to Vit B12 deficiencies (Vegans need to be mindful of B deficiencies). Iron should not be taken without consultation with your doctor.
To conclude Investing in good quality wholesome food will take you far, if you need a little hump, of course, to consider a good multivitamin – but popping hair growth pills, etc is likely to be a major waste of money and could compromise your health if you are on other medications for example. (be careful out there)