Why Do Most Bariatric Surgery Patients Lose Their Hair?

Why Do Most Bariatric Surgery Patients Lose Their Hair?

Alex Brecher

A common side effect of bariatric surgery is thinning of hair. Over half of patients lose a noticeable amount of hair after weight loss surgery, and hair loss can be a top worry for patients who are planning for their surgeries.

Why does hair loss occur, and will it happen to you? Can you do anything about it, and how long will it last? Here is what to know about hair loss after bariatric surgery. 

Why Hair Loss Can Occur

Hair has a growth cycle that includes two stages. During anagen, hair grows. During telogen, hair does not grow; instead, telogen is known as the “resting phase.” Normally, about 10 to 15% of hair is in the telogen phase. 

However, the balance of anagen and telogen phases can shift after weight loss surgery, leading to more resting and shedding compared to growth. The result is excessive hair loss and noticeable hair thinning.

Causes of hair loss can include:

  • Trauma or shock from undergoing surgery.
  • Protein energy malnutrition (PEM).
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiencies. 

Rapid Weight Loss and Hair Loss

After weight loss surgery, rapid weight loss can occur. That is great, because it was the goal of surgery, but the weight loss happens so quickly because of a severe deficit of energy. The way you take in energy is through the calories in foods and beverages. 

This leads to a conflict. Having a severe energy or calorie deficit is the way to lose weight after weight loss surgery, and it is what a bariatric meal plan usually recommends. However, having such a large calorie deficit can contribute to hair loss.

There is almost no way to get around it if you want to keep losing weight. Instead, it is best just to talk to your surgeon about your concerns and to stick to the plan that your surgeon, nutritionist, and you agree on. 

Protein Sufficiency to Prevent Hair Loss

Most surgeons recommend emphasizing a high protein intake after weight loss surgery to increase metabolism, support a strong immune system, speed healing, and reduce hunger. Failing to achieve protein recommendations can increase the likelihood or severity of hair loss.

It can be difficult to take in 60 or more grams of protein a day as recommended because of factors such as:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Poor tasting products
  • Lack of available products
  • Eating only a limited amount of food.

Since you are on such a low-calorie plan, it is important to make the most of each calorie that you do take in. Most surgeons instruct patients to start each meal and snack with protein to ensure that you get in as much as possible before getting too full to eat more.

The BariatricPal Store makes it easier with concentrated Protein Shots, sugar-free Protein Shakes and Smoothies, and Hot Protein Drinks, such as Protein Hot Cocoa. We even have Protein Soups. They are all easy to use and great-tasting.

These liquid proteins are suitable to start using within days after weight loss surgery, as soon as your surgeon approves progressing from clear liquids to full liquids. Protein remains important as you progress to semi-soft and then solid foods. Protein Snacks and Protein Entrees including Bars, Omelets, Chips, Cookies, Chili, and all kinds of other choices make it easier to get enough protein.

Vitamins and Minerals Linked to Hair Loss

Many vitamins and minerals are linked to hair loss or are essential for healthy hair growth. And, many of these same vitamins and minerals are commonly deficient in weight loss surgery patients. Vitamin D, Biotin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Zinc, and Iron are often named, and you can find these and other supplements in our store to prevent or address deficiencies.

The first line of defense against micronutrient deficiencies after weight loss surgery is a solid Bariatric Multivitamin that is extra high in the nutrients that are most commonly deficient. Your surgeon may also recommend specialty supplements, that are particularly high in one or two vitamins and/or minerals, to give you a lift.

It can be challenging to take multivitamins and other bariatric supplements, but there are a number of ways to make it easier. A major strategy is to choose the form that is best for you. Capsules, chewable tables, liquids, and even patches are all good options. Your doctor can help you sort through the various choices and see which ones may be best for your personality and comfort level so you remember to take your bariatric vitamins and so you avoid discomfort that could come with swallowing large capsules or with digesting and absorbing oral supplements.

If you are taking capsules or tablets, you can also use helpers such as Pill Organizers to help you remember which ones you still need to take today.

Coping with Hair Loss

Hair loss can be distressing, but there are some ways to handle it better. First, doing your best to stay healthy and focus on the bigger goal - long-term weight loss and improved health - can distract from the side effect of hair loss.

In addition, it can help to join a support group such as BariatricPal.com. When you talk to other bariatric surgery patients, it can help put things into perspective. It is easier to remember that this is a common issue, and that it will pass. And, it can help you remember why this is happening - because you are in the process of a life-saving change.

Remember that hair loss can be temporary, and may be over within 6 months. The best way to support yourself and hair regrowth is to follow your doctor’s instructions for post-op diet and self-care. That includes taking any protein, multivitamins, and other supplements your healthcare provider may recommend. 

Handling hair loss due to bariatric surgery is just one more reason to focus on staying nourished before and after surgery. The BariatricPal Store has protein and bariatric vitamins to help prevent deficiencies and be an ace at bariatric nutrition. Just ask your healthcare provider what you may need to stay healthy, and then come find it in the store!

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