Although hair loss can happen after bariatric surgery, it is not permanent, and your hair will grow back. But why does this happen, will it happen to me and what can I do to prevent it?
It is impossible to predict who will experience hair loss after surgery. Whether you are aware of it or not, for most of your life you are both growing and losing hair. Human hair follicles have two states: anagen, a growth phase, and telogen, a dormant or resting phase. For most of us, our hair is an important part of our self-image, but it is not important to our bodies. The stress of surgery coupled with rapid weight loss can result in a shift of a greater percentage of hairs into the telogen phase, more hairs fall out than before. This is typically noticed three to six months after surgery. The good news is since the hair follicles are not damaged the hair will regrow with time and patience.
So, what can you do to prevent excessive hair loss? There is little evidence that hair loss is preventable after having major surgery and rapid weight loss. Don’t throw the towel in just yet! A healthy diet can help. Certain nutritional deficiencies can cause hair loss as well. Protein, protein, protein is critical for keeping your hair healthy. Take your bariatric vitamins daily, they contain necessary vitamins and minerals such as iron (Hemoglobin carries oxygen for the growth and repair of cells in your body, including the cells that stimulate hair growth), zinc (which plays an important role in hair tissue growth and repair as well as keeps the oil glands around the follicles working properly), vitamins B6, B12, folic acid, and Calcium are also important. Drink your fluids! Like protein, water also facilitates wound healing and helps minimize hair loss.
What about Biotin? Although Biotin plays a role in hair growth, there is little evidence that taking additional Biotin supplements reduces hair loss. For Biotin to be effective it needs to be consumed, thus topical shampoos and ointments are thought to be more of a gimmick. Sources of Biotin are meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, and vegetables (bariatric surgery patient diets) and Biotin is included in the bariatric vitamins. Be patient and save your money, hair grows an average one-half inch per month and will take time to notice the regrowth.
Hair loss that lasts longer than six months or further out from surgery could be indications of other problems such as nutritional deficiencies (take your vitamins and have your labs checked), thyroid issues, certain medications, or other medical conditions. Don’t hesitate to seek medical advice in these situations.
Be sure to watch the video our Dietitians made on this topic: