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Hair Loss after Bariatric Surgery Is Reversible
Bariatric surgical procedures have been proven to be an effective method for achieving long term weight loss for those who are obese. In addition to weight loss, patients can experience bariatric hair loss after having their surgical procedure. Fortunately, hair loss is temporary and there are ways patients can set themselves up for strong hair growth post-surgery.
Hair loss is very common post-operatively. Typically, hair loss starts about three to six months after surgery, but the issue should resolve itself after 12 months. If hair loss lasts for more than one year, patients should consult with their health care providers.
The topic of hair loss after bariatric surgery is not very well studied, so the exact causes are not well known. It is believed that stress on the body from rapid weight loss, vitamin deficiencies and decreased protein intake are causes of hair loss among bariatric patients. Also, daily habits can cause damage to hair, which can further promote hair loss.
Below we will take a closer look at each cause and what patients can do to prevent large amounts of hair loss.
Stress Can Cause Bariatric Hair Loss
Weight loss: Rapid weight loss and weight loss of more than 15 pounds are temporary stressors on the body. Be patient. When weight loss starts to slow down so will hair loss.
Hormonal fluctuation: Hormone changes occur with rapid weight loss. Again, be patient. Hormones will stabilize once weight loss is stable.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Bariatric Hair Loss
Iron: Iron is one of the few vitamins that has been studied for its role in hair loss. It has been established that there is a relationship between low iron levels and hair loss. This is important for bariatric patients to know since iron deficiency is possible due to either decrease dietary intake and/or malabsorption of iron. Female patients are at increased risk for iron deficiency due to iron loss from menstruation.
Being diligent with daily vitamin supplementation and proper nutrition can prevent iron deficiency in bariatric patients. Iron levels should be checked routinely and results should be discussed with bariatric health care providers to determine if additional supplementation is necessary.
Biotin: Biotin (vitamin B7) is the vitamin that is most publicized as the “hair vitamin.” It is the star in most hair, skin and nail supplements; however, it has not been shown to increase hair growth in samples of populations that do not have biotin deficiency.
Bariatric patients are at risk for biotin deficiency due to the changes in intake and changes in the way foods are absorbed, so it is important to stay on top of recommended supplementation and proper nutrition. Please discuss additional biotin supplementation with your health care providers.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning that biotin supplementation could interfere with lab values for thyroid and cardiac monitoring.
Zinc: The mineral zinc is one that most people do not associate with healthy hair, but it does play a role in the development of new hair. Deficiencies should be treated with supplementation; however, large doses of zinc should not be taken for long periods of time without evaluating copper levels. Long term use of high dose zinc can create copper deficiency, which can cause other unwanted symptoms for patients.
Protein: Like iron, protein deficiency has been researched in the role of hair loss and is a vital macronutrient for hair since it is made of a protein called keratin. Protein deficiency in patients can occur due to nausea, vomiting and decreased appetite. Recommendations for protein intake range from 60-90g daily and are dependent on gender and type of surgery (restrictive- vs- malabsorptive)
There are routines that many patients practice daily that cause damage to hair, which can further exacerbate hair loss. Pulling on hair with brushes, using heating tools, using hair accessories and even washing too frequently can all cause damage to hair. Using a wide toothed comb, air drying hair and avoiding rubber bands can all reduce the amount of stress on hair.
Hair loss after bariatric surgery can be frustrating. Fortunately for patients it is temporary and reversible. With a little patience, diligent vitamin supplementation and a protein rich diet, patients can prevent loss of large amounts of hair.