Understanding Hair Loss

After Bariatric Surgery

Hair loss after bariatric surgery is very common and very stressful. We all want to achieve great weight loss results and still have great hair. The hair loss associated with weight loss surgery is called telogen effluvium and has to do with the normal hair growth cycle. It usually starts abruptly and very seldom lasts longer than 6 months. Human hair has a two-stage growth cycle. The growth phase is called anagen and 90% of our hair follicles are in this phase at any given time. The resting phase is called telogen, which lasts about 1 to 6 months, with an average of 3 months. About 5-15% of our hair is in the resting phase at any given time. It is also known that telogen effluvium has to do with stress to the body and hormonal changes that can occur. Due to the stress more hair follicles can enter into the resting phase. This is important because the hair in the resting phase at the time of surgery is most likely the hair you will shed. This is why your hair sheds between 1 to 6 months after surgery (usually about 3 to 4 months). When the hair starts to grow again the old hair follicle is released and you lose hair. Sometimes the hair comes out before new hair grows, yikes!

Common Reasons for Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery

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

So, what we have here are a few things that may be affecting people with hair loss. It starts with surgery, very low-calorie intake and possibly low protein intake. Then you add any illness along the way, an underactive thyroid, iron deficiency, or genetics and you get hair loss of about 5-15% of your hair follicles. Other nutrients implicated in hair loss include zinc, biotin, folate, vitamin B-6 and essential fatty acids. (2) If no deficiency of these nutrients exists, then they will likely be of little use.

The good news is that you can count on the hair returning unless you have a chronic illness or genetic reason for the hair thinning.

Tips for Preventing Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery

  • Relax and don’t worry. It is natural hair loss of 5-15% of your hair due to the stress of surgery and weight loss. It rarely lasts more than 6 months. It grows back.
  • Visit your primary care doctor to be evaluated for any illness or non-nutritional reason for hair loss such as thyroid disease or other chronic illnesses.
  • Follow our dietary prescription which calls for limited calories and exceptional diverse protein intake on a daily basis. DO NOT add a lot of protein and increase your calories so much that you sabotage your weight loss. We suggest a protein supplement that is low in sugar.
  • Take a bariatric specific multi-vitamin with adequate B vitamins, folate, zinc and biotin. Don’t forget your B12 and calcium citrate with vitamin D supplements.
  • Avoid excessive vitamin A and high dose zinc supplements they are both potentially harmful.
  • Add iron if you are iron deficient based on your lab findings in consultation with your healthcare provider.

In summary, this type of hair loss is a diffuse shedding of hair as it relates to the normal hair growth cycle. It is common in men and women and all races. It occurs a little more frequently in women typically after childbirth and can also happen to infants after the first month or so of life.

References:
1. Jacques J. Micronutrition for the Weight Loss Surgery Patient. Edgemont, PA: Matrix Medical Communications; 2006
2. Hughes E. CW. Telogen Effluvium. Website. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1071566-overview. Updated 12/17/2010. Accessed 8/4/2011

Patient Testimonials


Janet S.

Lost 93 pounds*

"93 pounds later, I have a whole new life. I’ve gone from a size 24 down to 10-12. I no longer have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. My knees, which were in sad shape before surgery, don’t hurt anymore. I joined a gym and participate in water aerobics and a latin impact aerobics class. My whole life has changed. I have much more confidence in myself and love to be with people."

Erlinda N.

Lost 120 pounds*

“I have experienced incredible changes in my life after losing over 120 lbs with weight loss surgery. I no longer have high blood pressure. I also no longer have sleep apnea or have to use a CPAP machine. I take a yoga class, walk, swim, and have a new passion…golf. I’m having a blast! I’m looking forward to going to a water park for the first time ever and having adventures I never thought possible. I am so happy that I took this life changing step and highly recommend DFW Bariatric Institute.”

Vivian P.

Lost 140 pounds*

“First off….this surgery will give you your life back. It is a total life changing surgery and I feel like I owe DFW Bariatric my life since they restored mine to me. My weight ballooned up to 273 lbs before my surgery. I have successfully lost and maintained a 140 lb weight loss… This is the most amazing journey that anyone could ever take and the DFW Bariatric Institute staff will all be there to hold your hand and lead you down the road to your success.”

Sherrie M.

Lost 110 pounds*

“I am currently 29 years old and weigh 130 lbs. Before surgery I weighed almost 240 lbs…This is the best thing I have done with my life and would do it again today. It changed my life drastically. My surgeon said to me, 'I can do 50% for you and give you the surgery, but the other 50% is up to you. Your eating, your exercise, your total outlook on life make up the other 50%. And what you want from the surgery is what you will get, and the life you will gain.'”

John E.

Lost 90 pounds*

“I went to a seminar and left there with complete ease, feeling like everyone cared about me and my health. On first office visit I was totally impressed…I never felt rushed in the office, and always felt everyone cared. My surgery was completed and I am now down 90 pounds…The biggest part of recovery comes from the encouragement DFW Bariatric gives. Everyone is always positive and takes the time to explain things in a positive way.”

Kathy D.

Lost 161 pounds*

“There are no words to express the amount of change that weight loss surgery has brought to my life. I am a 54 year old female. There were so many things I was unable to do before the surgery that I blamed on age. It wasn’t my age at all, it was the weight. I am 30 again…The day of my surgery, I weighed 299 pounds. Today I weigh 138 and wear a size 6…I feel so good about myself now. The surgery saved my life!”

Brian S.

Lost 130 pounds*

“After losing 130 pounds, I feel like I have a new lease on life. I was able to stop all of my diabetes, high blood pressure, and my cholesterol medicines. I have always had chronic knee problems and now I am able to run three miles per day without any pain. If I had a choice of doing this surgery again or not, I would definitely do it again. I feel that by having the surgery it not only gave me my life back but it also saved my life.”

Lorna Q.

Lost 107 pounds*

"I have lost the astonishing amount of 107 pounds in less than a year. I feel like I have my life back and I am in control again. All my family and friends are always telling me that I look happier than before and they are right, I am much, much happier than before. I have to thank DFW Bariatric and my husband for helping me throughout this very emotional and amazing journey. I do not regret at all having the surgery, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.”

Danielle L.

Lost 154 pounds*

“My outlook on life was so different before having my weight loss surgery. I was taking medicine for diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression, and my back, legs, and shoulders hurt all the time which kept me from sleeping. My start weight was 298 pounds. And I am now 144. I’m no longer on any type of medications. My body is the best shape I have ever been in. I am so happy to be where I am today mentally and physically. With my hard work and dedication and with the aid of DFW Bariatric, I am where I want to be. I trust this team with all my heart.”

Dennis H.

Lost 170 pounds*

“At 365 pounds, I was medicated for high blood pressure, diabetes, joint inflammation, and high cholesterol…I was a living example of morbid obesity. I knew then that it was time to do something with my weight…It was not easy to get through all of the hoops that my health plan demanded, but the DFW Bariatric team helped me every step of the way. Today I weigh 195 pounds and feel great! From the time I left the hospital after surgery I have been free from all prescription medications. I can never thank this team enough for giving me back my life."