Bariatric Hair Loss: Causes & Treatments

Bariatric Hair Loss: Causes & Treatments

Bariatric Hair Loss: Causes & Treatments

Have you recently had weight loss surgery and now your hair seems to be falling out? Bariatric hair loss is quite a common phenomenon, but we understand it can be a scary thing to deal with, especially for women. While excessive hair loss can be quite traumatic, In most cases, your hair will grow back. We outline why this might be happening and what you can do to help it.

Why am I losing my hair?

There are many causes of hair loss but the most common reason after bariatric surgery is a condition called telogen effluvium, which is abrupt hair loss in adults following a stressor. So why does it happen? To understand this, we first have to explain how hair growth occurs.

Our hair follicles exist in two states, a growth phase (anagen) and a dormant phase (telogen). Usually the dormant stage of the hair follicle lasts for about three to four months, after which the hair falls out. Usually approximately 85-90% of our hair is in anagen stage, which can last for 3-4 years. In cases of telogen effluvium, stressors cause significantly more hair follicles to shift into the dormant stage. The average increase is from 5-10% to around 30%.

This rapid increase in dormant hair follicles leads to rapid hair loss a few months later. Some people describe pulling out chunks of hair at a time. Or seeing clumps in the brush. Other people see a gradual loss which is less noticeable and manageable. Diffuse hair loss persisting more than six months is considered chronic.

What are the risk factors?

Telogen effluvium has a number of risk factors, unrelated to bariatrics, these include:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Hormonal disorders including thyroid disease
  • Menopause
  • Underlying health conditions
  • High stress
  • Medication and drug intake

Bariatric risk factors

Not every bariatric patient experiences significant and noticeable hair loss, but there are risk factors which are particular to weight loss surgery which may increase your risk. These include:

  • Major surgery
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Will my hair grow back?

The good news is, in most cases this condition is not permanent and your hair will begin to grow back 3-6 months after the stressor has been removed. So if the condition surfaced simply due to rapid weight loss, or the surgery itself, then there is every chance it will improve in time, often in the following 6 months.

How can I prevent hair loss after surgery?

There may be no specific way to prevent it. One thing you can do, is ensure you are eating a nutritious diet, and taking your bariatric vitamins as prescribed. Getting your bloods monitored regularly works hand in hand with this. Follow up visits with your surgeon is the best way to reduce or prevent health problems after you’ve had weight loss surgery. 

Diet tips

  • A diet rich in protein is not only good for weight loss, it is one of the most important building blocks for our cells, including hair. With your new limited stomach size, prioritising high quality protein at every meal is advisable.
  • Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables and include red meat to ensure adequate iron levels. Accompanying these foods with those high in Vitamin C also help the body absorb iron.
  • Zinc-rich foods are also great – oysters, shellfish, poultry, seeds, nuts and eggs can be incorporated into more meals.
  • Your dietitian can recommend certain foods for you, as well as help with planning interesting meals to satisfy your individual nutritional needs.

What can I do to help the condition?

The things which help prevent bariatric hair loss, can also be implemented to help improve an existing condition. We cannot stress enough how important regular blood work and nutritional monitoring is for the bariatric patient, and this includes for cases of telogen effluvium. Poor nutritional status, due to vitamin malapsorption can bring on the condition or prolong it. Chiefly, iron deficiency is a common cause, but also inadequate levels of protein, zinc, B12, fatty acids and other vitamins may also be the cause. Adjustments to your current levels if required could lead to improvement. It is important to note that excessive intake of some vitamins can have detrimental health effects so any supplements should always be prescribed by your surgeon, or dietitan who have access to your individual history and lab results. 

Help for the condition may also be required on a mental and emotional level as well as physical. If you are struggling with the impact of bariatric hair loss, chatting to a Psychologist who has experience with bariatric patients might help. 

Further reading

For more extensive information on the condition, you may find this Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research Article, titled Telogen Effluvium: A Review interesting. 

Please note: this article is of a general nature and intended for information only. It is not intended to be comprehensive and does not constitute medical advice. Any person with a specific medical concern should seek the individual advice of a medical practitioner. 

 

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7 Best Christmas Gifts for Weight Loss Surgery

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7 Best Christmas Gifts for Weight Loss Surgery

Has a special someone in your life just had weight loss surgery? You may be looking for a way to give a unique Christmas gift which supports them in their journey to great health. But what to get them? Here are 7 ideas for gifts which complement a weight loss surgery journey.

1. Portion control plate

A portion plate is more than just telling someone who has just had surgery how much they can eat. It is about helping to reinforce the balanced diet which is so necessary. A portion plate helps to shape the type of meals your loved one eats, by showing the correct portions of protein, vegetables and fibre at each meal. This is handy for someone who has recently had surgery. Bear in mind that nutritional requirements may differ with surgery types. We love this portion plate from Portion Perfection available in Queensland and optimised for a gastric sleeve patient.

2. Bariatric recipe book

The unique needs of the bariatric patient mean that most ‘normal’ recipes must be modified to suit. The bariatric patient can no longer eat a large amount of food and must make protein a priority. Therefore, meals should as often as possible be small, high protein and highly nutritious. New bariatric recipes are most times very welcome. Try the book Return to Slender by Bariatric Cookery’s Carol Bowen Ball or The Gastric Sleeve Cookbook by Sarah Kent, available in most bookstores in Australia.

3. Active wear

One of the crucial factors to success for the bariatric patient is to maintain an exercise regime. This ensures there is less muscle loss while losing weight. Unfortunately, it has been difficult in the past to find stylish and comfortable activewear in larger sizes. Thankfully, more manufacturers are realising the growing need for plus sizes and are designing activewear in larger sizes. This is great news for bariatric patients who can feel comfortable and excited about the new exercise regime they are entering. We love Active Truth, who are a Queensland company offering up to size 26.

4. Weights

Maintaining and building muscle is crucial for the weight loss surgery patient. More muscle encourages a faster metabolic output and burns more calories. Weight bearing exercise also helps to promote joint stability and bone strength and tone and firm the body. Hand weights are wonderful to use on walks or a set of dumb bells are a great way to support a gym program.

5. Fitness tracker

Weight loss surgery fitness and health is all about focusing on short term goals continuously for eventual long-term success. Being able to measure and record improvements in heart rate, distance, calories burnt and improvements in sleep can help to keep motivation levels high. Celebrating small changes can be one of the best ways to see significant transformations long term.

6. Music voucher

Walking is great exercise after surgery, and your loved one may appreciate having a soundtrack to get them in the mood for fitness. Giving them something like an Itunes or Spotify voucher is a lovely thought. Our top 10 motivating tracks for smashing those fitness goals?

  1. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  2. Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys
  3. Run The World – Beyonce
  4. Harder Better Faster Stronger – Daft Punk
  5. Lose Yourself – Eminem
  6. Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough – Michael Jackson
  7. Happy – Pherrel Williams
  8. Diamonds – Rhianna
  9. Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  10. Beautiful Day – U2

7. Fancy water bottle 

Hydration is crucial for everyone, but it can take a bit to get right after weight loss surgery. The restricted stomach size means water can no longer be gulped down in one hit! Water is therefore a constant priority, so anything related to hydration is going to be a great prezzie for your loved one. A fancy bottle with a hydration counter, or stainless ‘keep cool’ bottle is a great gift. Some people also struggle with the taste of plain water, and if your loved one is one of those people, they might like a tea infuser for iced tea or a glass jug for flavouring water with fruit. For adding fruit, stainless steel or glass is best.

It’s the thought that reallly counts

These gift ideas are intended for general advice only. It is important to note, that every patient is different and what is a great recommendation for one person may not suit another. You may need to do a little digging, or be prepared to swap out a gift if it’s not quite right. What is the bigger gift you are giving? Your support. We thank you for thinking of ways to support your loved one as they take this journey. Post weight loss surgery it is really important to remain focused on mindset and lifestyle changes, and the support of others is a huge piece to this puzzle. A little something in their Christmas stocking might be just the way to show your encouragement!

 

 

Curious about weight management after surgery?

If you would like to know a bit more about the process of maintaining and losing weight after surgery, head to our website for more information.

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