Why does my hair fall out after Bariatric Surgery?

A common fear and complaint of Kansas City Bariatric Surgery patients is hair loss after the operation. While our hair is an important part of our body image, it is not very important to our bodies. For this reason, nutrition can have a great impact on hair health because when forced to make a choice, the body will shift nutritional stores to vital organs like your brain and heart and away from your hair.

Hair loss has many causes. The most common type of hair loss after weight-loss surgery is a diffuse loss known medically as telogen effluvium, which can have both nutritional and non-nutritional causes.

Whether you are aware of it or not, for most of your life you are always in the process of both growing and losing hair. Human hair follicles have two states; anagen, a growth phase, and telogen, a dormant or resting phase. All hairs begin their life in the anagen phase, grow for some period of time, and then shift into the telogen phase which lasts for about 100 to 120 days. Following this, the hair will fall out.

Specific types of stress can result in a shift of a much greater percentage of hairs into the telogen phase. The stressors known to result in this shift, or telogen effluvium, include:

  • High fever
  • Severe infection
  • Major surgery
  • Acute physical trauma
  • Chronic debilitating illness (such as cancer or end-stage liver disease)
  • Hormonal disruption (such as pregnancy, childbirth or discontinuation of estrogen therapy)
  • Acute weight-loss
  • Crash dieting
  • Anorexia
  • Low protein intake
  • Iron or zinc deficiency
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Some medications (such as beta-blockers, anticoagulants, retinoids and immunizations)

Weight-loss Surgery and Hair Loss
Nutritional issues aside, Kansas City bariatric surgery patients already have two big risks: major surgery and rapid weight-loss. These alone are likely to account for much of the hair loss seen after surgery. In the absence of a nutritional issue, hair loss will continue until all hairs that have shifted into the telogen phase have fallen out. There is no way of switching them back to the anagen phase.

Hair loss rarely lasts for more than six months in the absence of a dietary cause. Because hair follicles are not damaged in telogen effluvium, hair should then regrow. For this reason, most doctors can assure their weight-loss surgery patients that with time and patience, and keeping up good nutritional intake, their hair will grow back. Discrete nutritional deficiencies are known to cause and contribute to telogen effluvium. One would be more suspicious of a nutritional contribution to post-bariatric surgery hair loss if:

  • Hair loss continued more than one year after surgery
  • Hair loss started more than six months after surgery
  • Patient has had difficulty eating and/or has not complied with supplementation
  • Patient has demonstrated low values of ferritin, zinc or protein
  • Patient has had more rapid than expected weight-loss
  • Other symptoms of deficiency are present


What can I do?


Diet and Healthy Hair

A healthy diet can help your hair stay strong and shiny. What you eat can also keep you from losing your locks. If you’re not getting certain nutrients from food, you might see the effects in your hair.

Essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s, play a key role in the health of your skin, hair, and nails. You should eat some of these foods, which are rich in omega-3, every day:

  • Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other fatty fish
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts and almonds

Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid are also important to your hair. Vegetarians and vegans often don’t get enough of them.

Foods with B-6 include bananas, potatoes (both white and sweet), and spinach. Major sources of B12 include meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products.

You can get folic acid with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits and tomatoes. Whole grain and fortified-grain products, beans, and lentils also have it.

Protein is also critical for keeping your hair healthy. Lean meats like fish and chicken, eggs, and soy products are good sources.

Bariatric Vitamins contain many of the essential vitamins and minerals to add to your healthy diet, continue taking your vitamins and calcium!

The right foods can be really good for your ‘do, but hair loss has many causes. Sometimes genetic factors like male or female pattern baldness can play a role. 


Hair loss can be distressing to Kansas City bariatric surgery patients and many will try nutrition themselves to see if they can prevent it. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that early hair loss is preventable because it is mostly likely caused by surgery and rapid weight-loss.

Later hair loss, however, can be indicative of a nutritional problem, especially iron deficiency, and may be a clinically useful sign. Thyroid disease, anemia, autoimmune diseases, and hormone issues may also cause changes or loss of hair.   If your hair loss lasts more than 6 months after surgery make an appointment with your doctor to evaluate for other causes.


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