Is today a good hair day or do you feel like hiding your hair under a hat?
Many bariatrics after surgery experience hair today but gone tomorrow! Well not always gone for good but many suffer from temporary hair loss and thinning. Often this is mild and hardly noticeable but sometimes it’s more severe and causes untold distress at a time when most WLS patients feel very vulnerable.
The medical name for this kind of hair thinning is telogen effluvium and it’s true to say it can occur after any major stressful event like giving birth, major surgery or even a crash diet. So with the combined effects of surgery and rapid weight-loss it’s hardly surprising that WLS patients suffer from this condition to varying degrees.
Hair loss and thinning after bariatric surgery is common regardless of weight-loss surgery procedure, be it band, sleeve, bypass or revision.
There are several reasons why people lose hair after WLS, some can be expected and attributed to any form of surgery that involves anesthesia. It is a side effect commonly experienced. The main reason why and how it works is like this:
At any given time about 90% of your hair is in a ‘growing phase’ and the remaining 10% is in a ‘resting phase’. After the hair rests for 2-3 months, it falls out and new hair grows to replace it. Anesthesia causes more hair to go into this resting phase than normal, more like 30%. So it follows that 2-3 months after surgery, this larger than usual amount of hair falls out. This is usually temporary and the hair does replenish itself in time.
However, there are additional reasons for hair loss after WLS which relate more to rapid weight-loss and malabsorption of nutrients in the body. It is this rapid loss of weight and reduced nutrition that can cause additional hair loss and hair thinning. Any kind of rapid weight-loss will produce hair loss (it doesn’t only happen with surgery) and likewise lack of nutrients can compound the effect too. So it goes without saying that the best way to minimise this loss is to maximise nutrition.
WLS patients after surgery need to aim for about 70g protein a day for good nutrition and to supplement their diet with a daily multi-vitamin. This is essential for all patients but especially important for gastric bypass patients whose ‘re-plumbing’ means their body cannot absorb all the nutrients it takes in as food. Your bariatric team may also recommend a daily dose of calcium citrate, an additional B vitamin complex tablet and an iron supplement in addition to these … follow their guidelines to the letter.
It’s not easy and can be tricky to get the high level of protein in your diet in the early days after WLS when appetite is low and toleration levels of food are small. Some people, who constantly underscore in achieving the recommended levels, opt to take a protein drink supplement. There are many available in a multitude of flavours, but if you’re considering one, then do check out its nutritional profile and choose one that is low in fat, sugar and calories. Don’t opt for the body-builder’s version!
Others boost their protein levels by adding dried skimmed milk or unflavoured protein powder to their food. Tasteless and virtually unnoticeable it can be stirred into soups, stews, smoothie-type drinks and most pureed foods for a welcome protein boost.
So focusing on getting your nutrition right is the way forward to minimise hair loss and maximise hair regrowth after surgery. Most hair loss happens about 3-4 months after surgery but does grow back to normal after about 1 year. Gentle shampoos and some hair supplements may also help but there is no guaranteed over the counter solution.
I have found the Head High Supplements available on this website very helpful and received many messages from purchasers who have been much encouraged by taking them. It isn’t by any means conclusive that they halt hair loss or thinning (although some swear they do) but I can vouch for the sure-fire way in which they seem to promote new hair growth after just a few weeks use.