The thought of losing your hair can be frightening, and while hair loss after bariatric surgery is a common occurrence, it’s a temporary inconvenience at worst. The question that begs to be asked is why is bariatric surgery hair loss so common and what can you do to manage it?
The short answer is that, due to the rapid weight loss you’ll experience during surgery, your body will shift vital nutrients to major organs such as the brain and heart. As a result, less vital functions in the body, such as the functions that govern hair growth, are deprived of proper nutrients.
Hair loss is a common side effect of bariatric surgery. With the help of your bariatric surgeon or dietician, you can manage your symptoms until you’re sporting a full head of hair once more. Let’s look at a few facts about this process to help you put your mind at rest.
Facts About Hair Growth
Human hair has a natural three-stage growth cycle – the anagen phase (growth phase), the catagen phase, and the telogen phase (resting phase). During the telogen phase, you’ll likely experience hair loss in the form of shedding. This phase typically lasts around 3 months.
Factors such as trauma, extreme dieting, chronic disease, nutritional deficiencies, and severe illness can all affect anagen and telogen cycles. Because nutritional deficiencies are common amongst those who struggle with obesity, weight loss surgery patients are often at a higher risk of experiencing hair loss post-surgery.
The first 3 to 6 months after weight loss surgery is often the most challenging, as the body is healing and adjusting. During this time, calorie intake is restricted and can cause a decrease in macronutrients such as carbohydrates and proteins. Patients may also be experiencing increased stress levels and hormonal changes.
All of this can culminate into a condition known as telogen effluvium, a type of hair loss patients often experience after undergoing weight loss surgery.
How Long Will You Experience Hair Loss?
Generally, you will only have to deal with hair loss for six months or less. Because telogen effluvium doesn’t damage hair follicles, your hair will eventually begin to grow back.
Most bariatric doctors will tell their patients the same thing – with time, patience, and adequate nutrition their hair will return in full. With that being said, weight loss patients should be concerned if they experience the following:
- Hair loss begins more than six months after surgery
- Hair loss continues for more than one year post surgery
- Low levels of protein, ferritin, and zinc
- Greater weight loss than predicted
- Symptoms of deficiencies
How Can You Prevent Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery?
First and foremost, don’t panic. If you’re experiencing hair loss just remind yourself you’re going through a perfectly natural reaction to bariatric surgery and your hair will be returning in no time.
Let’s look at a few tips to help you manage and possibly prevent hair loss from occurring so you can focus on improving your health and getting your life back on track.
1. Take Iron
Iron plays a major role when it comes to maintaining healthy hair. If you’re still losing hair seven months post-surgery, it will behoove you to have your iron levels checked out. Iron is considered to be a micronutrient, and is a common factor in hair loss.
Iron storage in your body can be measured by your ferritin levels; if your ferritin levels are low, then there’s a good chance you’re experiencing an iron deficiency. Talk to your doctor or dietitian to ensure you have adequate levels of iron in your body.
2. Take Your Vitamins
Nutritional deficiencies are the most common cause of hair loss in bariatric patients, so take vitamins to keep your body balanced. Vitamins will keep your nutrient levels high, which will help to combat hair loss. Speak with your bariatric doctor to see what types of vitamins you should be taking and how often.
3. Increase Protein Intake
It’s vitally important you incorporate protein into your daily diet to help combat hair loss. It’s generally recommended patients take at least 60 grams a day. However, speak with your bariatric doctor for further guidance.
During meals, you should consume plenty of lean protein foods. Examples of foods that are jam-packed with plenty of protein include:
- Low-fat string cheese
- Skinless chicken
- Cottage cheese
- Grilled/Baked fish
- Protein bars
- Chia seeds
- Greek yogurt
- Lean red meat
Vegetarian options include:
- Chia Seeds
4. Incorporate Zinc Into Your Diet
If all of your efforts fall short and you’re still losing hair, you may need to incorporate more zinc into your diet. Zinc is an essential building block of healthy hair. Be careful with your daily doses, however. Taking too much zinc can have adverse side effects on your health. Foods rich in zinc include poultry, oysters, and red meat.
Olde Del Mar Surgical Is Here To Help
It’s natural to freak out about the potential of hair loss after bariatric surgery, but you really have nothing to fear. In the absence of an underlying condition such a chronic illness, your hair will eventually grow back. Educating yourself about the potential for hair loss and its underlying causes can help you to prepare yourself and make proper choices regarding supplementation and your diet. Olde Del Mar Surgical offers fantastic supplements to help manage this problem.
Are you considering bariatric surgery, but worried about how it will affect your quality of life? It’s a natural reaction, but there’s nothing to fear. Olde Del Mar Surgical will provide the guidance you need during your weight loss journey.