You may not be aware, but hair loss is a common occurrence after weight loss surgery. So, you’re excited about the weight falling off, but when your hair starts falling out, it can be very stressful.
Is this normal?
It’s okay, hair loss after bariatric surgery is normal. It usually starts happening from month three to six post-surgery and can last up to twelve months. Hair loss associated with bariatric surgery is called telogen effluvium and has to do with the regular hair growth cycle. It usually starts abruptly and very seldom lasts longer than six months.
How often does hair loss happen in patients undergoing bariatric surgery?
Hair loss after gastric surgery can happen in 30% to 40% of patients. However, this situation is merely temporary if you follow the advice of Dr Gounder and our dieticians.
The Hair Growth Cycle
Hair grows from hair follicles. During its growth, hair goes through different phases.
This is the growth phase of the hair and can last up to 7 years. This growth phase allows the hair to grow, sometimes reaching up to a metre in length.
This is a transition phase lasting 2 to 3 weeks where the active growth of anagen phase slows down.
This stage lasts for about 100 days. The hair starts forming a thick white club-like base, then starts falling. During this stage, it’s normal for between 25 to 100 to drop per day. The follicles then remain inactive for a few months before the cycle starts again.
Why does it happen?
Due to stress on the body, more hair follicles can enter into the resting phase. This is important because the hair in the resting phase at the time of surgery is most likely the hair you will shed. This stress is why your hair drops between 1 to 6 months after surgery (usually about 3 to 4 months).
With rapid weight loss happening due to your surgery, the anagen phase is cut short, and many follicles go into the catagen phase at the same time, resulting in increased hair loss.
Fortunately, the hair loss is usually temporary. In the early stages post-surgery, it is mainly due to the shock of your procedure and resulting rapid weight loss. If it persists for longer, then it may be due to nutritional deficiency.
It will be okay!
The good news is, you can count on hair returning unless you have a chronic illness or genetic reason for the hair thinning. The following suggestions are the best advice I can give anyone with telogen effluvium, now that we know what it is.
- Relax and don’t worry: consider your hair loss as a natural response to the stress of surgery and weight loss. It rarely lasts more than six months, and it will grow back.
- Visit your GP: if your hair persists, it’s worth checking in with your GP to be evaluated for any illness or non-nutritional reason for hair loss (thyroid disease or other chronic illnesses).
- Follow our dietary advice: make sure you stick to the guidelines outlined by Dr Siva, limiting calories and including a diverse protein intake each day.
- Don’t add lots of protein or increase your calories: if you do this, you will not only sabotage your weight loss but may also suffer from instances of dumping or other side effects.
- Take your vitamins: we suggest taking a bariatric specific multi-vitamin with adequate B vitamins, folate, and biotin. Don’t forget your B12 and calcium citrate with vitamin D supplements.
- Eat oily fish: ensuring you are eating fish rich in omega three fatty acids several times a week (supplement with fish oil supplements in consultation with your healthcare provider) can help the regrowth process.
We understand that losing your hair can be stressful, but we want to reassure you that you can manage your hair loss.
If you have any questions about hair loss after bariatric surgery, please don’t hesitate to contact us.