Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery
Hair loss after bariatric surgery is very common and can be a very stressful situation. We all want to achieve great weight loss results and still have great hair. The hair loss associated with bariatric surgery is called telogen effluvium and has to do with the normal hair growth cycle. Human hair has a two stage growth cycle with the first stage being the anagen phase (growth stage) and the latter being the telogen phase (resting phase). Hair that is in the resting phase, or telogen phase, is ALWAYS shed from the body. This is the hair loss that we normally see on a daily basis. i.e. hair on the pillow, hair in the shower drain, hair in our hair brush. With Telogen Effluvium, a sudden or stressful event (surgery) can cause certain hair follicles to stop growing and prematurely enter into the telogen (resting) phase. This is important because the hair stays in the resting phase for three months before it is then shed from the body (hair loss). This is why about 3-4 months after surgery you may start to notice excessive hair loss. Combine this with a very low calorie diet, and telogen effluvium is manifested to an even greater degree. This makes perfect sense if you think about other situations where someone may lose their hair; a post-partum woman usually has excessive hair loss 3-4 months after delivery due to hormone shifts and great stress on the body and newborn baby can lose their hair a few months after being born.
Many patients state that they take Biotin in order to help this situation. Taking Biotin CAN help, but only if there is a biotin deficiency to begin with. In other words, if you hair loss is due to biotin deficiency, taking biotin can help make your hair regrow. The good news is that you can count on the hair returning to normal unless you have a chronic illness or genetic reason for the hair thinning. You can expect your hair to return to its normal state 3 months after it stops “falling out”. Remember, the hair does have to regrow to a length that makes a visual difference.
Things I suggest to manage the hair loss are as follows:
- make sure you are taking your regular vitamins. Yes, vitamin deficiencies can play a part in hair loss. Your labs will closely be monitored post operatively to ensure this is not the case.
- Make sure your thyroid function is normal. If you take thyroid medication before surgery, the dosages may need to be changed following surgery.
- Do not sabotage your diet by taking in excessive amounts of protein and calories to remedy the situation. Mild hair thinning will not kill you but obesity can! Get the recommended daily average of 50-60grams of protein daily. Taking in greater amounts will not help hair growth, but too little CAN affect it.
- If hair loss is SEVERE, I sometimes recommend seeing a dermatologist to discuss Minoxidil therapy. Althought minoxidil won’t reverse telogen effluvium, it can help stimulate new hair growth and therefore you will have more hair in the anagen (growing phase).
- If you are concerned about your hair loss please discuss this with your Doctor or Nurse Practitioner.