Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery

For many individuals who have undergone bariatric surgery, the dramatic weight loss journey can be both exhilarating and challenging. While shedding excess pounds brings a myriad of health benefits, one unexpected side effect that often catches patients off guard is hair loss.

Hair thinning or excessive shedding can be a distressing experience, especially when you’re already navigating the physical and emotional changes that come with significant weight loss. However, it’s important to understand that this temporary hair loss is a common occurrence and, in most cases, a normal response to the body’s adjustment after bariatric surgery.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the underlying causes of hair loss after bariatric surgery, explore strategies to minimize its impact, and provide you with the reassurance that this phase is usually temporary and manageable with the right approach.

Weight Loss and Hair Loss: What’s the Connection?

Hair loss after bariatric surgery can be emotionally challenging, especially when you are recovering from the surgery and trying to cope with a new diet regimen and lifestyle changes. To understand the relationship between weight loss and hair loss, it is important to know the underlying causes of this condition.

  • Low intake of proteins: A diet rich in lean proteins after a weight loss surgery is highly recommended. Apart from other benefits, it also helps prevent bariatric surgery hair loss. New hair follicle development may be poor if you lack in proteins.
  • Low micro-nutrient intake: The risk of weight loss surgery hair loss is higher because your nutrient absorption in the body may be reduced. Low levels of niacin, zinc, vitamin B, vitamin D, and selenium in the body may result in bariatric hair loss.
  • Post-op hormonal changes: The relationship between weight loss and hair loss is also indicated by the hormonal and metabolic changes that will occur after the surgery. In some cases, a change in androgen hormone levels may lead to hair thinning or hair loss.
  • Physical or mental stress: Following your bariatric surgery, you may experience elevated levels of physical fatigue and emotional stress or anxiety for some time. Release of stress hormone cortisol in this condition may trigger slow hair growth or hair loss.
  • Obesity-related diseases: Depending on your obesity-related medical conditions, your weight loss hair loss or hair thinning may be aggravated. For example, patients with thyroid disorder, Basedow’s disease or Hashimoto’s disease may suffer from alopecia (hair loss).

What is Bariatric Surgery Hair Loss?

Weight loss surgery hair loss is a common but temporary condition in most cases. Rapid reduction in body mass index (BMI) after a bariatric procedure can trigger metabolic, hormonal, and other physical changes. When these changes are combined with a low consumption of vitamins, minerals, and proteins, you may experience hair loss or thinning hair after bariatric surgery.

  • More common in women: Although hair loss in normal conditions is seen more commonly in men, a research study showed that hair loss after bariatric surgery is more common among women. Gastric sleeve hair loss was observed in 56% of the patients who participated in this study.
  • Short term hair loss: In a women-specific study to evaluate the effects of hair loss after gastric sleeve, it was found that nearly 7 in 10 women reported hair loss. However, in almost 80% of these patients, the weight loss hair loss lasted only 5½ months on average, and the condition reversed thereafter.
  • Malabsorptive surgery hair loss: Researchers have found that hair loss after gastric bypass is more common because in addition to restricting the diet, it also lets the nutrients partially bypass the small intestine. This causes nutrient malabsorption, resulting in bariatric surgery hair loss.

Thinning Hair After Bariatric Surgery

Many patients want to know why do you lose hair when you lose weight and does everyone experience hair loss after bariatric surgery? The fact is that not everyone will go through weight loss hair loss, and many patients may only experience thinning hair after bariatric surgery.

Telogen effluvium after rapid weight loss

Telogen effluvium is a condition in which the hair may start becoming noticeably thin, even though your hair loss is minimal. It is marked by diminishing thickness of the hair. Thinning hair after weight loss surgery is seen more commonly in women, and occurs when rapid weight loss causes a disruption of the hair growth cycle.

Treatment for bariatric telogen effluvium

Fortunately, thinning hair after bariatric surgery is a treatable condition. Once your doctor identifies what is causing this type of weight loss surgery hair loss, they can help you stop the trigger. In most cases, weight loss and hair loss cycles are related due to nutritional deficiencies. This can be corrected with diet and nutrition supplements.

Related: Pros and cons of weight loss surgery

Hair Loss after Gastric Sleeve

Hair loss after gastric sleeve

Gastric sleeve hair loss is a common side effect of this weight loss surgery. But patients should note that hair loss after gastric sleeve is less severe compared to other bariatric surgeries. This is because a VSG only restricts your diet, but does not cause nutrition malabsorption in your body. Therefore, the nutrition loss is relatively lower, and the resulting hair loss after gastric sleeve is also less.

Remember that a sleeve gastrectomy does not include very rapid weight loss. As long as you are losing up to one to two pounds of excess weight each week, your body will cope much better post-surgery. Hair loss after surgery: will it grow back? The answer is yes, in most cases. Be prepared to follow your weight loss surgeon’s directions to prevent or minimize the risk of gastric sleeve hair loss.

RelatedHair Loss After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Do you lose hair after gastric sleeve?

Most patients naturally want to know do you lose hair after gastric sleeve, and whether the hair will grow back after a few months. The answer to both questions is: yes! It is likely that you may experience some hair loss after gastric sleeve, especially if you are a woman. However, the brighter part is that hair loss after bariatric surgery is temporary for most patients, and you can overcome it quickly with a focus on nutrition and stress reduction.

Does everyone lose hair after gastric sleeve?

Does everyone lose hair after gastric sleeve? The answer is no. If you remain committed to your prescribed post-op VSG diet, you may avoid any significant hair loss. Although more than half the women and some men who undergo this surgery may experience gastric sleeve hair loss, the normal hair growth cycle is likely to be restored within a few months. An adjustment to your diet and medications will slow or stop the hair loss.

How long does hair loss last after gastric sleeve?

How long does hair loss last after gastric sleeve? On average, your hair loss after gastric sleeve may last for about six months, but individual results will vary. The hair thinning and gradual hair fall may begin within three to four months after your sleeve gastrectomy. In a few cases, the gastric sleeve hair loss may continue for up to one year after surgery, but with an increased focus on nutrition supplements your hair cycle may normalize faster.

RelatedGastric sleeve complications

Hair Loss after Gastric Bypass

Bariatric surgery and hair loss relationship is more definitive in case of a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. The reason is that unlike gastric sleeve, a gastric bypass surgery is more restrictive and malabsorptive. It is designed to reduce calorie absorption, but in the process, nutrient absorption also goes down. Therefore, hair loss after gastric bypass is more likely for both women and men. Here are the signs to indicate gastric bypass hair loss:

  • Weight loss hair loss began 4 to 6 months after gastric bypass
  • Hair loss after gastric bypass has not slowed at one year post-surgery
  • You have not taken your daily recommended nutrition supplements
  • Blood tests have shown deficiency of protein, zinc, or ferritin
  • You find it difficult to follow your prescribed gastric bypass diet
  • You have experienced faster than expected weight loss
  • You have thyroid disease, PCOS or insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes
  • You have demonstrated other symptoms of nutrition deficiency
  • Your hair loss after gastric bypass is attributed to genetics

Related: Gastric bypass pros and cons

Lap Band Surgery and Hair Loss

Lap band or adjustable gastric band is the least invasive among mainstream weight loss surgeries. As a result, lap band hair loss risk is relatively lower compared to other procedures. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize the correlation between lap band surgery and hair loss. Here are some of the salient things to know about hair loss after lap band surgery.

  • Lap band surgery is not malabsorptive, so the nutrition deficiency risk and resulting hair loss risks are significantly reduced.
  • The procedure is completely reversible if at some point you are worried about lap band surgery and hair loss.
  • Gastric band is still restrictive even if it does not surgically reduce the stomach size, so nutrition focus is important to prevent hair loss.
  • Weight loss failure rate is high, so if you stress over slow or poor weight loss, you could face the risk of lap band hair loss.
  • Lap band revision to gastric sleeve is possible later on, which will increase your risk of temporary hair loss after bariatric surgery.

Related: Lap band complications

Hair Loss 5 Years Post Bariatric Surgery

Although weight loss and hair loss is usually a transient phenomenon, in some cases, the problem may persist for years or the symptoms may recur a few years later. Hair loss 5 years post bariatric surgery is a possibility, which should be taken into account when you are making a decision about this procedure.

  • Lack of nutrition: Your body’s dependence on nutrition supplements may continue lifelong. If at some point, you become complacent about your daily nutrition supplements or the prescribed dietary nutrients, you could be at a risk of hair loss 5 years post bariatric surgery.
  • Medications: As age progresses, you might have to take certain medications even if your problem of obesity and its co-morbidities is under control. Anti-hypertensive and cholesterol drugs, diabetes medications, antibiotics, anti-fungals, beta blockers, or retinoids may trigger hair loss.
  • Natural aging: Weight loss hair loss may be transient, but it is important to recognize that the surgery will not reverse the natural aging process. If you have had your procedure at a relatively later age, hair loss 5 years post bariatric surgery may occur simply because of the forces of aging.

How to Prevent Hair Loss after Bariatric Surgery

Hair loss after bariatric surgery, particularly gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy, is a common occurrence due to rapid weight loss and changes in nutrient absorption. This condition is known as telogen effluvium. While it’s usually temporary, there are steps you can take to minimize hair loss and promote healthy regrowth:

  1. Protein intake: Ensure you’re consuming adequate protein to support hair growth. After bariatric surgery, protein intake becomes crucial due to reduced food intake and altered absorption. Aim for around 60-80 grams of protein per day, but consult your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations.
  2. Nutrient supplementation: Take supplements recommended by your healthcare provider to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Common deficiencies post-bariatric surgery include iron, zinc, biotin, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and folate, all of which are important for hair health.
  3. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to maintain hydration, which is essential for healthy hair growth.
  4. Balanced diet: Consume a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to provide essential nutrients for hair growth.
  5. Avoid crash diets: Rapid weight loss can exacerbate hair loss. Aim for a steady and sustainable rate of weight loss to minimize stress on the body.
  6. Hair care practices: Be gentle with your hair. Avoid tight hairstyles, excessive heat styling, and harsh chemicals that can further damage fragile hair.
  7. Stress management: Stress can contribute to hair loss, so practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
  8. Regular follow-ups: Attend regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider to monitor your nutritional status and address any concerns about hair loss.
  9. Consider professional advice: Consult a dermatologist or a trichologist (hair specialist) if you’re experiencing significant hair loss post-surgery. They can provide personalized recommendations and treatments tailored to your specific needs.

Remember, it’s normal to experience some degree of hair loss after bariatric surgery, but by following these steps and being patient, you can minimize its impact and promote healthy hair regrowth.

The Bottom Line

Weight loss and hair loss are correlated, but it is one of the minor post-operative concerns for most patients. Your hair growth is likely to be fully restored within months after your surgery. In any case, the long-term benefits of weight loss surgery will far outweigh the temporary, short-term side effects such as hair loss after bariatric surgery. A positive attitude and a determination to reclaim your health will help you achieve excellent results from your weight loss surgery.

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