Why You Lose Hair after Bariatric Surgery and What to Do About it

Hair Loss after Bariatric Surgery

We all want to achieve great weight loss results and still have great hair. However, this is not always possible as hair loss after bariatric surgery is very common. The hair loss associated with bariatric surgery is called telogen effluvium and has to do with the normal hair growth cycle.

Your hair has two phases that it goes through, the anagen phase and the telogen phase.

  • The anagen phase (growth phase) takes place 90% of the time.
  • Hair is in the telogen phase (resting/dormant phase) 10% of the time until it falls out.

Hair that is in the resting phase is ALWAYS shed from the body. This is the hair loss that we normally see on a daily basis on the pillow, in the shower drain, and in our hair brush.

Why patients experience hair loss after bariatric surgery

As mentioned above, after weight loss surgery, your hair will transfer into what is medically referred to as telogen effluvium. This is a situation whereby a sudden or stressful event (surgery) can cause certain hair follicles to stop growing and prematurely enter into the telogen (resting) phase.

The normal span that hair is in the telogen phase before falling out is 100-120 days. 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 is because since your body will be undergoing extreme changes, it will take nutritional storage from certain areas and give it to your vital organs. To your body, it is more important for your brain and heart to receive adequate nutrition than your hair.

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,
  • Iron and zinc deficiencies.

During telogen effluvium, the actual hair follicles are not damaged so your hair should return to normal within a few months.

Why bariatric patients are at a bigger risk of hair loss

Normally, you may not notice hair loss because your hair grows way more than it is losing. Undergoing any surgery can cause a shift in the telogen phase, but bariatric patients are at an even higher risk.

According to an article from St. Luke’s Bariatric Services, anesthesia can 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.

How to manage hair loss after bariatric surgery

Many bariatric patients say that they take Biotin to control hair loss. Taking Biotin CAN help, but only if there is a biotin deficiency to begin with. In other words, if your hair loss is due to biotin deficiency, taking biotin can help make your hair regrow.

That said, below are some things you can do to manage hair loss after bariatric surgery:

  1. Take regular vitamins. Yes, vitamin deficiencies can play a part in hair loss. Your labs will closely after surgery to ensure this is not the case.
  2. Make sure your thyroid function is normal. If you take thyroid medication before surgery, you may need to change the dosage after surgery.
  3. Take the recommended daily average of 50-60grams of protein daily. Eating greater amounts will not help hair growth, but too little CAN affect it.
  4. If hair loss is SEVERE, see a dermatologist to discuss Minoxidil therapy. Although minoxidil won’t reverse telogen effluvium, it can help stimulate new hair growth in the anagen (growing phase).

 

I hope this article was helpful. Let me know.

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