Bariatric hair loss is so emotionally devastating that we tend to look the other way rather than acknowledge, understand and attack the problem. Instead of sharing science we share sage advice to ‘get a short haircut’ to divert attention when the truth is that nothing hides it or soothes the emotional scars. When you cut hair that has thinned from fallout, you end up with short thin hair. I suffered through hair loss for nearly two years before making the connection between my diet, the hair on the floor and disturbing scalp show through.
Three Kinds of Fallout
Those who have had bariatric surgery suffer from two stages of hair loss, first is surgical shock, that eventually drifts into a second stage of longterm nutritional baldness. Many women have hormonal or thyroid thinning as well, which means they are fighting through multiple layers of hair loss.
The large initial hair fall out takes place anywhere from 5 to 9 months post bariatric surgery as a result of the stress of anesthesia and a major surgical procedure. About one third of all hair follicles are in a replacement cycle at any one time. But the shock of surgery causes the hair follicles already in a shedding cycle to fall out and skip a turn. Nothing can really predict the degree of loss or who will be most severely impacted. The timing of this initial shedding is determined by the individuals hair cycle.
When this dormancy overlaps with the next normal fallout cycle, there can be a large difference in the hairbrush, shower drains and bathroom floor. Those who do not seem to lose much hair after surgery have just hit a better or luckier time in their hair cycle.
When It Doesn’t Grow Back?
If the person having surgery is nutritionally sound and remains such, the hair comes back quickly and fully. It is when the intent of bariatric surgery is fulfilled that the normal surgical shed can turn into years of angst, sadness and embarrassment.
Bariatric surgery works by means of forced malnutrition. There is no way to sugar coat it, the bariatric patient loses 100 pounds or more in a 7 to 12 month period through surgically induced and monitored starvation.
If the patient does not make up for essential nutritients and protein while leaving caloric intake low, the body ‘preserves life’ by shutting off what it considers non-essential functions such as hair and nail growth. As long as these nutrient stores remain low, hair will not return to it’s normal growth cycle.
While one would think that the need to strategically supplement malnutrition would be reason enough for those having weight loss surgery, it is not; until nutrient deficiencies manifest as obvious hair loss, many do not use protein drinks or take vitamins. Doubling up on protein and making sure vitamins are taken on schedule should improve hair loss situation in even long term bariatric post ops who have suffered for years.
Please Come Back Soon!
To reverse long term post operative hair loss, the first step is to follow program suggestions for protein minimums of 70grams daily and to take a good bariatric multivitamin consistently, then add specific hair nutrients if needed. We are alarmed by the number of post ops who take Journey Hair Balance but do not take Journey Bariatric 3+3 Multi. They are treating the symptom of the larger problem. If malnutrition has shut down hair regrowth, imagine the condition of organs and internal processes!
Bariatric surgery is a big step in reclaiming health and life. We do it not only for ourselves but for our loved ones… we do it to be there for our children. Take vitamins, pay attention to the foods you eat and grow your hair back as a testament to your good nutrition.