Jun 23

Hair Loss After Weight-Loss Surgery

Hair loss after gastric surgery. Weight loss surgery causes hair loss.

Hair loss after weight loss surgery is common. The loss has to do with the normal growth cycle of hair, but also can be a sign of nutritional deficiencies or illness.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I did not suffer hair loss after my gastric bypass surgery (yet). But, many of the folks I interact with daily who also have had bariatric surgery have experienced hair loss. What’s up with that?

Without getting too technical or deep into the medical side of the issue, hair loss is common among surgery patients, but not a long term problem. And, the good news with hair is, it grows back.

Hair loss associated with bariatric surgery is called telogen effluvium, a temporary hair thinning over the scalp that occurs because of changes in the growth cycle of hair. A large number of hairs enter the resting phase at the same time, causing hair shedding and subsequent thinning. Hair loss also can be caused by problems with inadequate nutrition, so hair loss should be discussed with your nutritionist and/or doctor.

Hair loss often begins abruptly but do not often last longer than six months. The severity of post-surgery hair is predicated upon many factors. So one person’s experience can be vastly different from that of another. Many factors come into play.

For most, the real challenge with hair loss is not the physical aspect but psychological manifestations. Remember, hair loss is temporary and hair grows back

What Causes Hair Loss in Weight Loss Surgery Patients

Some of the common reasons for hair loss are:

  1. Surgery, acute illness, trauma
  2. Chronic disease such as liver disease or any chronic debilitating disease
  3. Hormonal imbalance such as hypothyroidism
  4. Crash dieting, low protein intake, anorexia, chronic iron deficiency
  5. Heavy metal toxicity
  6. Medications such as beta-blockers, excess vitamin A and anticoagulants

Nutrition and Hair Loss Concerns

If any of the following occurs, bariatric dietitian Dorothy McFadden, RD, LDN, says you should be suspicious the hair loss could be caused by nutrition

  • Hair loss continuing more than one year after surgery
  • Hair loss not starting until six months after surgery
  • Blood work indicating low levels of ferritin, zinc or protein
  • Difficulty tolerating protein-rich foods and vitamin and mineral supplements

10 Steps to Lessen Hair Loss After Surgery

Don’t make any changes to your diet, vitamin or supplement routine before first consulting with your doctor

  1. Relax and don’t worry. It is natural hair loss of 5- to 15-percent of your hair due to the stress of surgery and weight loss. It rarely lasts more than six months. It grows back
  2. Visit your nutritionist and/or doctor to determine if an illness may be the causal factor
  3. Maximize your dietary intake and follow your nutritionist’s instructions
  4. Forego adding so much protein you increase your calories to the point of sabotaging your weight-loss success
  5. Follow your medical team’s/doctor’s instructions for taking a bariatric-specific multivitamin with adequate B vitamins, folate, zinc and biotin. Also discuss iron, B12 and calcium citrate with vitamin D supplements
  6. Discuss intake of excessive vitamin A and high-dose zinc supplements, both are said to be harmful
  7. Be aware of your iron levels
  8. Consider adding an additional B-complex. The B vitamins are not generally toxic and the extra B vitamins with biotin may help keep your metabolism running smoothly
  9. Enjoy fish rich in omega three fatty acids several times a week or consider supplements with fish oil supplements have some benefit
  10. Continue with general healthy hair-care practices

More Information on Hair Loss After Surgery – Resources

About the author

Laurie Lee Dovey

LLD is a writer, photographer, marketing and media consultant, hunter, angler, RVer, sports nut, poker player, and wife.

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