Hair loss after bariatric surgery can be frustrating and emotionally exhausting. You’ve taken on a huge lifestyle change to improve your health and appearance – and then out of nowhere, large clumps of hair start appearing on your brush, in your shower, and on your pillow.
It can be stressful, but in most cases, there’s an underlying cause that can be addressed.
The Natural Hair Cycle
Hair grows and sheds on our bodies in a natural cycle. The first step is the growth cycle, where hairs are actively growing. This is followed by the resting cycle, where hair follicles loosen and fall out. This process takes between one and six months.
When your hair is healthy, you don’t notice this process as only five to 15 percent of the hairs on your head will be in the shedding stage at any one time. However, after traumatic events such as surgery, more hair can shed.
Causes of Hair Loss in Bariatric Patients
According to the book Micronutrition for the Weight Loss Surgery Patient, the most common causes of hair loss after bariatric surgery are:
- “Shock” from the surgery itself
- Underlying chronic illnesses
- Thyroid issues, such as hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease
- Effects of certain medications, such as beta blockers or blood thinners
- Low protein intake or vitamin deficiency
How Long Will the Hair Loss Last?
If you don’t have any underlying genetic reason for hair loss, you should see regrowth start about six months after you noticed the initial shedding. Try not to worry too much about it before then, but in the meantime, make sure you take care of your hair by using gentle shampoos and conditioners and avoiding heat styling.
If you’re still noticing a lot of hair falling out even after six months, it might be time to start looking at your diet. You should be eating according to the plan set out for you by your surgeon, doctor, and dietitian. This means lots of vegetables and fruits as well as lean protein – and almost no fat or sugar. If you’re still relying on “slider” foods, which are heavy on sauces, at mealtimes, you might not be getting the protein you need for proper hair health.
Vitamins and Minerals
Once you’ve examined your diet, look at your supplement regime. Are you taking bariatric-specific vitamins to make up for the loss of vitamins and minerals that come with eating less food? If you aren’t, it could explain why you’re losing a lot of hair. You need to make sure that you’re taking iron supplements, as well as B12, vitamin D, biotin, and calcium. Conversely, if you’re taking a high-dose vitamin A, you may want to look at cutting down, as excess amounts can cause hair loss.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns, but don’t beat yourself up or blame yourself for your hair loss. You’ve already taken a huge step forward by opting for bariatric surgery – this is just a blip in the process towards lifelong health. Make sure your diet and supplement regime is on-point so that you can ensure that your hair grows back quickly and in great condition.