You’ve had weight loss surgery. You’re losing weight at a good steady pace and feeling great about yourself! Then one morning, you notice more hair than normal in the drain after your shower. What’s going on, you wonder. And more important, how can I stop it? Then the horrifying thought enters your mind: What if it’s permanent?!

Many weight loss surgery patients are surprised to learn that hair loss is a common side effect of bariatric surgery and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve or Gastric Band (also known as LAP-BAND). The truth is many patients will experience some degree of hair-thinning, especially between the third and sixth month after surgery.  The good news is that there are several treatment options for this problem. And the better news is that since the hair follicles are not damaged, the hair will grow back.

Normal hair follicles go through a cycle of hair growth, followed by an inactive stage when the hair stops growing, and then the hair eventually falls out.  After rapid weight loss (even for those who’ve lost weight without bariatric surgery), this process is accelerated, leading to hair loss.

There are some simple things you can do to prevent or treat hair loss after bariatric surgery:

  • Protein! Protein! Protein!  Protein deficiency causes your body to “conserve” protein, so your hair stays in the “inactive” phase longer than the growing phase.  This way your body can use the protein for more vital functions such as maintaining muscle mass. That’s why it’s so important for weight loss surgery patients to get their recommended daily protein intake –especially if you are experiencing hair loss.  Women should aim for 80 grams of protein daily and 100 grams for men.  Protein shakes, eggs, fish, lean meats and beans are all great protein sources.
  • Do an iron check.  Anemia (or low iron) can lead to hair loss. Ask your doctor if iron supplementation is right for you.
  • BYO biotin. This B Complex vitamin may be effective in reducing hair loss. Daily consumption of 2.5mg of biotin has been established as safe.
  • Take these healthy oils. Choose from either oral flaxseed oil (15 mL), two capsules of 1g of linseed oil, or two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily.  These oils have high levels of essential fatty acids and may help in improving hair loss.
  • “B” happy! All post-op Gastric Bypass and Gastric Sleeve patients should be taking some form of supplemental vitamin B12.  Acceptable supplements include sublingual dots (1,000 micrograms daily), weekly Nascobal nasal spray or monthly injections.
  • A to Zinc. Zinc deficiency is a known contributor to hair loss. Ask your doctor to check your zinc level with a simple blood test.  If your levels are low, you can take over the counter zinc to help improve your hair loss.
  • Be kind to your hair. Limit the amount of chemical treatments to your hair while you are experiencing hair loss. Color treatments, perms and chemical straightening can make hair brittle and lead to increased hair loss.
  • Treat yourself to a new do. Pay a visit to your hair stylist.  A hair cut or trim will remove the “dead ends” and make your hair appear fuller and healthier.

Remember, hair loss after bariatric surgery is temporary! You should be proud of yourself for taking this significant step toward a healthier life.  Reach out to other patients, nutritionists and your surgeons for continued support through your weight loss journey.

Reference:  “Hair Loss Among Bariatric Surgery Patients”  Silvia Leite Faria, MS, Orlando Pereira faria, MD, et al.  Bariatric Times Online.  November 11, 2010.

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    By: Angela Glasnapp, MD, FACS

    Bariatric Surgeon, New Jersey Bariatric Center | Angela Glasnapp, MD, FACS, is a bariatric and general surgeon with New Jersey Bariatric Center, a medical & surgical weight loss center with offices in Springfield, Somerville and Hoboken, New Jersey. New Jersey Bariatric Center helps patients achieve long-term weight loss success through the most advanced bariatric surgery procedures, including gastric sleeve and gastric bypass procedures. New Jersey Bariatric Center’s approach to patient care has resulted in zero mortalities and a complication rate that is lower than the national average.

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