The Facts about Hair Loss And Bariatric Surgery
It is indisputable that Bariatric Surgery, and the weight loss that accompanies it, has a tremendous positive impact on the length and quality of the life of patients. However, one potential side effect, hair loss, has caused a great deal of concern along with some inaccurate information. In this article we will explore hair growth and hair loss in general and the impact of Bariatric Surgery in particular.
Believe it or not, the average person sheds approximately 50-100 strands of hair per day and this is normal. The normal hair cycle consists of 3 phases:
- The Anagen phase is when hair actively grows. This phase lasts 2-8 years.
- The Catagen phase is when hair follicles shrink. Thid “transition” phase lasts 4-6 weeks.
- The Telogen phase is when hair follicles shed. This phase lasts 2-3 months.
90% of the hair on your head is in the Anagen phase. Each hair follicle is independent so some hairs may be growing, while others are in transition, and others are shedding. This prevents the shedding of hair all at one time.
There are some stimuli that can cause a premature change from the Anagen phase to the Telogen (shedding) phase resulting in hair loss. This may be caused by hormonal imbalances, pregnancy, thyroid disorders, autoimmune disorders, stress, nutritional deficiencies, or chronic illness.
Approximately 3-5 months after Bariatric Surgery, hair follicles in the Anagen phase can prematurely enter the Telogen phase resulting in hair loss. Be assured that if this is the cause of hair loss and there aren’t any nutritional deficiencies, the hair should grow back. For most who experience hair loss after surgery, it is usually due to the stress of surgery and rapid weight loss and will not be permanent.
Some nutritional deficiencies can cause hair loss as well. A diet low in protein can cause hair loss. Correlations have been seen with hair loss and diets low in Iron and Zinc.
Protein- It is well documented that a diet inadequate in protein can cause loss of muscle as well as loss of hair. Protein recommendations after surgery can range from 50-80 grams/day. Protein shakes are recommended since the restrictive nature of the surgery will make adequate intake of protein from foods alone very challenging.
Iron- Iron helps the body produce new red blood cells which contain Hemoglobin. Hemoglobin transports oxygen in your blood. An Iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency. Symptoms may include fatigue, anemia, impaired learning, and hair loss.
Zinc- Zinc is a trace mineral necessary for protein synthesis. It plays a role in cell division, cell growth, and wound healing. Some of the symptoms of zinc deficiency include muscle wasting, impaired immune function, and hair loss. Safe doses of zinc are found in Multivitamins. High doses of Zinc, if taken for an extended period of time can be toxic.
Biotin- Biotin is necessary for cell growth and the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. It is one of the “B Complex” vitamins. B Complex vitamins are needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. They also help the nervous system function properly. Although Biotin is often thought to be beneficial for hair and nail growth, there is limited evidence to support this. Expecting that Biotin supplements will “cure” hair loss is not so clear.
Hair loss after Bariatric Surgery can be scary and emotional for the patient. Consuming adequate calories, protein, and micronutrients can lower the risk of nutrition related causes of hair loss. Remember, some hair loss is normal. Be sure to drink your protein shakes as directed and reach the protein goal of 50-80 grams as recommended by your dietitian. Take your vitamins daily and follow up regularly with your Bariatric team and this should greatly decrease any long lasting hair loss.