Gray goes black

Brilliant Friends,

As dusk settled on my twenties, darkness spread across the top of my head. Literally. Gray and white strands gave way to luscious onyx. My wife and I were mystified, but we rejoiced.

I’ve had gray hairs speckling my head since eighth grade. I was fighting to find meaning in the midst of family tension, the pressure to get A’s, and depression. My teenage follicles perished in the struggle.

I begrudgingly sported the salt and pepper ‘do through high school and college. But then, like Lazarus and The Arrow, my follicles were resurrected.

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We pondered over the exact root of the change (wink). It wasn’t because there was a lack of possibilities, but rather a plethora. The preceeding months happened to have been a sort of wellness expedition. I was experimenting with butter coffee and feasting on fats. I convinced my then girlfriend to do away with wheat products and sweep sugar aside. I delved into meditation. Progression strength training replaced “workouts”.

It was a renaissance, to be sure. I was stronger, brighter, and apparently richer in color than ever. The need to explain the little details became immaterial. For years since, I considered my repigmentation a fortuitous boon from the Universe. It was a small bit of reward for all the good I was doing for myself. I mean, who cared? It was just cool to have fully black hair again.

Like many wonders of the actual Renaissance, though, the world had already seen the magical recoloring of graying heads. Three years after my epic makeover, I ran into an enlightening article. Research had already demonstrated that premature hair graying was one symptom of vitamin B-12 deficiency. It was listed as a bullet point among other maladies like anemia. It made so much sense! I had been regularly taking methylcobalamin (B-12) supplements in the interim.

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This was it. I had B-12 on a pedestal as the holy hair supplement.

My belief was stoked by a number of other bullet-pointed articles and blogs that hailed vitamin B-12 as the cure for early hair discoloration. But when I started looking for the research, there was only one hit in Pubmed that made a reference to this phenomenon. I refer to a 1986 experiment on a man with gray hair, in which he was given a Vitamin B-12 injection that restored his natural color. He had been suffering from anemia caused by B-12 deficiency.

Awesome. I scoured Pubmed for more cases like this. Something substantial.

And found none.

The only other relevant study I could find involved teens in southern India. Prematurely graying hair correlated with low levels of vitamin D, serum calcium, and serum ferritin – but not vitamin B-12. This got me flustered. The articles claiming the connection refer to “studies” or “research” or “proof”. Even other Pubmed articles on the matter mention this “evidence”.

I finally came to a conclusion. They’re probably all pointing, whether or not they know it, to that one case in 1986. So it was a single gray head.

But really, I’m okay with that. Make me case number two. Whether or not a sole vitamin got me back in black, what does it matter? Intermittent gifts from the Universe make for a delightful adventure toward the spring of wellness. So onward I trek with you.

To powerful living,

Steve

 


Sources

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3740873 Arch Dermatol. 1986 Aug;122(8):896-9. Reversible hyperpigmentation of skin and nails with white hair due to vitamin B12 deficiency. Noppakun N, Swasdikul D.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746220/ Int J Trichology. 2013 Jan-Mar; 5(1): 17–21. doi: 10.4103/0974-7753.114706 PMCID: PMC3746220 Epidemiological and Investigative Study of Premature Graying of Hair in Higher Secondary and Pre-University School Children Ramesh M Bhat, Rashmi Sharma, Anita C Pinto, Sukumar Dandekeri, and Jacintha Martis

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5 thoughts on “Gray goes black”

  1. Steve I have had graying hair for several years. I’m 31 now and recently have been trying to find a reason why I’m going gray. Most blame genetics, but that wouldn’t explain why my hair is slowly starting to turn back to black. Recently i have been taking b12 and have been trying to take better care of my hair. I have found several white hairs that are black at the root and white at the tip. I’m curious if you still have dark hair and if you initially thought it was genetic that caused your graying. I was always under the impression that once a hair turns white thats it. But that would explain what I have found on my own head.

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  2. JM, thanks for sharing! It’s awesome to know someone else is experiencing this. My hair is still black at 31 years old. I’ll have to post a current photo at some point. I have not been taking B12 regularly for the past year, because of travel. However, I do think the supplement helped in the first couple of years. My hair became grey at around 13 because of stress and depression. I ate relatively balanced meals at home back then, although I probably could have eaten more vegetables. Along with taking B12 in my late 20’s, I made many food, training, and mind changes. I think the changes overall have kept me well up to this point. I don’t think it’s genetics either, because neither of my parents had grey hair in their teens. There are may good food sources of B12, including clean meats, seafood, and eggs.

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  3. You may well find, upon genetic testing, that you have common mutations in one or more MTHFR genes (involved in the folate pathway). You were lucky to happen across methylcobalamine as a supplement because that is what you needed to resolve the blockade in your biochemistry. This is important well beyond the hair 😉

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  4. Thanks Nika! There is a possibility, I haven’t tested for this gene mutation. Regardless of whether I have a mutation or not, I found that something in my diet changed the color of my hair back to black. I also noticed a lot of other positive changes to my health around the same time. I haven’t been taking B12 nor methyl folate for about a year now and haven’t had any gray hairs show up. I think, from this, that the stress I experienced as a kid had a lot to do with my gray hairs. Maybe I just “fixed” the problem with the period of improved nutrition. Maybe not. At the end of the day, eating better now I feel better and have black hair. Research studies seem to point to B12 as a possible fix. But nothing trumps experience. It’s the practices we use and the results that really shape life. Important not to put too much emphasis on any one factor!

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