By Laura Greaney, MSN, Nutritionist
One of the concerns of patients before having bariatric surgery is if they are going to experience hair loss. Unfortunately, it is not something that is easily predicted. The safest guess is to assume you may lose a little hair. Your hair has two phases that it goes through, the anagen phase and the telogen phase. The anagen phase is your growth phase and your hair is in that 90% of the time. The telogen is your resting/dormant phase, which lasts 10% of the time until it falls out. As you could guess, your hair is normally growing way more than it is losing so you generally don’t notice hair loss. However, there are a number of things that can disrupt these phases. Undergoing any surgery can cause a shift in the telogen phase, but bariatric patients are at an even higher risk.
Although your hair may be extremely important to you, your body does not feel the same way. When undergoing extreme changes, the body will take nutritional storage from certain areas and give it to your vital organs. Sorry to say, but it is more important for your brain and heart to receive adequate nutrition than your hair. After weight loss surgery your hair will transfer into what is medically referred to as telogen effluvium. Stressors will cause an increase of telogen hairs. During telogen effluvium the actual hair follicles are not damaged so the hair should return to normal within a few months. The normal span that hair is in the telogen phase before falling out is 100-120 days. Stressors that may cause an increase of hair to the telogen effluvium phase include: major surgery, infection, fever, chronic illness, hormonal disruption, acute weight loss, crash dieting, anorexia, decrease in protein as well as iron and zinc deficiencies. According to an article from St. Luke’s Bariatric Services, anesthesia can also cause a 30% increase of hair to move into the telogen phase. If you take away nutritional deficiencies, bariatric patients are at risk of hair loss due to anesthesia, major surgery, rapid weight loss and modified anorexia (due to great dietary restriction for the first few months). These factors should not contribute to hair loss after your body is able to return to normal in roughly 6 months after surgery.