How to Deal With Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery 

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I fell into the world of Gastric Bypass Surgery when checking out a hernia. The surgeon suggested it and I wasn’t so sure at the time.. Sure enough, I did my research and pondered whether it was the right option for me. If you are reading this, you might be at that pondering stage too. But, it is a free will option, and you have the sole decision to make just be aware of everything that comes with it. One thing that came up: Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery! But what exactly is Bariatric Surgery?

Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery article cover photo

Gastric Bypass is a surgical procedure that helps one to lose weight by altering the way your stomach and small intestine process the foods you intake. The surgery cuts back on your stomach size, which means you will feel full after consuming less food. Your digestive system will not operate as it usually does, like the food you eat will be filtered, and the body will retain not all calories.

Can Gastric Bypass Cause Hair Loss?

How Does the Process Work?

With Gastric Bypass, there are two steps to complete the process. Firstly, your surgeon will make your stomach smaller but inserting medical staples to divide your stomach (a small portion about the size of a walnut and a larger portion). The smaller portion is where the food would go and generally holds about an ounce or depending on the size it measures. The foods that enter through this area will then go to the new opening in the stomach (bypass process).

This process will result in weight loss as the body will consume fewer calories. Bear in mind, though, throughout the entire process of the surgery, you will be under anesthesia, and there are side effects to that (which may not last for long). Before one does this surgery, they have to condition their mind and understand the changes their bodies will go through.

Understanding Body Changes after Gastric Bypass Surgery

Everyone who has been under a surgeon’s knife will tell you there are side effects associated, no matter the extent of the surgery. The anesthesia by itself is enough to make you feel out of this world as your natural body operations are stalled. But what are some of the obvious side effects of a Gastric Bypass surgery that would generally scare most people? The hair loss!

Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery man's balding head

This topic is in a class by itself, and persons who have experienced this issue (even from other reasons) will tell you it is not an easy reality to face. Hair loss is one of the most dreaded side-effects everyone fears, and though it may not always be permanent, you have to put in some hard work to regain its strength and stability.

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Most people who have done a bariatric surgery will note they experienced hair loss up to a few months after the procedure. But why does one lose their hair? The body functions mostly from the nutrients it gets from the food you eat. When one does this surgery or those similar, their bodies have a steep decline in the amounts of nutrients they intake and will lead to a deficiency. The weight loss is more rapid, and with each phase of weight loss, a percentage of your hairline recedes.

In the process of preparing for the surgery and recovering, the body undergoes a lot of stress. As such, when the body gets used to the fact that fewer nutrients are being consumed, it will shift the majority of benefits to other critical areas like your heart and brain. This new development will allow your bodily-cosmetic functions to become deprived, so hair growth reduction occurs. As the body gets used to the changes (varies for everyone as some take weeks, others lead into months), the hair loss will reduce and eventually stop.

Preventing Extensive Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery

After your surgery, you will want to ensure you don’t suffer from massive hair loss. As such, to efficient be successful in this, you may need to:

1. Consume lots of Protein

Before one does the surgery, one of the moat critical emphasis is placed on consuming lots of protein post-surgery. Bear in mind protein is needed by the body to function as it is one of the strongest basis for building body cells. It is recommended that one consumes a minimum of 60 grams of protein per day (minimum!) which may include:

  • Lean red meat
  • Chicken (Skinless!)
  • Low-fat string/cottage cheese
  • Fish (baked/grilled)
  • Protein bars, chia & flax seeds, greek yogurt, etc.
  • Protein Shakes – using whey isolate.
  • Eggs – these were my favorite as they average 9 grams of protein each!

If you happen to be a vegetarian, you need to ensure adequate protein-based foods are in your diet. Some of these include quinoa, beans, soy, peas, and chia seeds.

2. Don’t miss your Vitamins

Consider your vitamins a daily medication (that is critical to keep you alive) to fill the gap other nutrient-deficiencies may cause. Your body will need the additional B-vitamins you are missing out from foods you would normally consume. Also, to note, ensure you start taking your chewable bariatric multiple vitamins at least two weeks in advance (consistently!) to reduce the risk of fatigue and hair loss post-surgery.

3. Check Iron Levels

If up to six or seven months after the surgery you are still experiencing hair loss, it is recommended to get your iron levels checked. Low iron levels can affect hair growth, so check with your dietician or doctor to help in identifying if your body is processing the ones you intake effectively.

Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery woman with bald head

Sources of iron include dark leafy vegetables, beans & legumes, iron-enriched cereals, egg yolks, and red meat. When consuming iron-based foods, you may want to add a vitamin C-rich food to help the body absorb the iron much more effectively (add a citrus fruit like orange/kiwi, or you can add a side dish of cauliflower and broccoli).

Save Your Money

A lot of people panic when they see extra hair in the shower drain or on their brush. They do some quick Internet research and come up with things like hair loss prevention shampoo or Biotin supplements. Save. Your. Money. Biotin hasn’t been scientifically proven to make a real difference, and as for the fancy and expensive shampoos? Your hair is dead after it passes the surface of your skin. Using shampoo isn’t going to really make a difference. Focus on what you put in your mouth to really make a difference on what comes out of your skin.

Many people are worried that their hair loss will be permanent after their bariatric surgery, but with the right approach, it can be temporary. Hair loss for most people generally lasts between four to six months as their body uses this time to gets used to the changes. It is their responsibility, however, to ensure they follow the guidelines of their medical professional and dietician for a successful journey. Ensure you do your research to understand the processes that lead up to the surgery and what is required after. But, one of the most important factors to remember is to ensure you consume enough protein for the body to work with. 

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