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Hair loss after weight loss surgery? This is what causes it and this is what you do about it

Imagine this. It’s a few months after your surgery. You’re already noticing some subtle changes. You notice that you are less hungry. You’re already more accustomed to eating small amounts. Every day, exercising is a little easier. Before you know it, the weight starts coming off. You feel good and the reflection in the mirror makes you feel more and more confident. Yet there is something that worries you. Your hairbrush is fuller than usual. It seems like you’re losing hair…. 

Unfortunately, hair loss is a common complaint after weight loss surgery. About 57% of people with weight loss surgery suffer from it. What causes hair loss? And more importantly, can you prevent it? 

The cycle of hair growth

To understand what causes hair loss, it is helpful to know how your hair grows. Each hair cycle has 3 phases:

  • Anagenic phase (growth phase)
  • Catagenic phase (transition phase)
  • Telogen phase (resting phase)

Each hair follicle will pass through these 3 phases, but at its own pace. As a result, your hair won’t all fall out at the same time. A stomach reduction disrupts the hair growth cycle, which leaves 10 to 15% of your hair in the resting phase. Under normal circumstances your hair makes way for new hair follicles in this phase. If you suffer from hair loss after your surgery, the new hair follicles temporarily don’t work. Consequently, new hair doesn’t grow.

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What causes hair loss after weight loss surgery?

Hair loss after weight loss surgery may occur due to any of the following factors:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Stress, e.g. from surgery and anesthesia
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Hair loss occurs in part due to a deficiency of zinc, iron, folic acid or protein. A stomach reduction causes you to lose weight because you eat less. But it also means that you take in and absorb fewer nutrients. And food is the main source of essential vitamins and minerals. You need these to function properly every day.

After surgery your body is working hard to lose pounds. The nutrients you do get, your body puts into the most important body functions. This means that other processes are slowed down. Like the growth and quality of hair and nails.

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What can you do to prevent hair loss?

Hair loss is annoying. An unpleasant experience you don’t want to have. Fortunately, there is also good news. Hair loss after weight loss surgery is often temporary, if you take the right steps. The first step towards reducing the risk begins weeks before the surgery.

Many people who are overweight or obese have vitamin and mineral deficiencies, due to an unhealthy diet for example. Therefore, it is essential to supplement any deficiencies before the surgery. This better prepares you for the surgery and also reduces the risk of deficiencies after the surgery, which will have a lasting impact on your health.

Besides hair loss, vitamin and mineral deficiencies before surgery can lead to other symptoms, like fatigue, low immune function, joint pain or fertility problems. To minimize these symptoms including hair loss, you can do the following:

After surgery:

  • Take multivitamins every day. Use them not only in the months after surgery but for the rest of your life
  • Drink protein shakes to help your body recover and retain muscle
  • Eat healthy and varied and choose foods rich in zinc, protein and calcium

Last but not least, relax. Stress causes your body to produce more cortisol hormones. And that can make hair loss worse. So try not to worry too much. Hair loss after weight loss surgery is often temporary. Follow the steps from this blog and you are already on the right path to healthy and strong hair!

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