By: Jennifer Davis, RD, LD
One of the most common questions we get during a new patient surgery consult is, “how can I prevent losing my hair after surgery?”. Hair loss is quite common after weight-loss surgery and can range from an increase in hair shedding to clumps of hair loss. This problem tends to occur between months 1-6 post-op when the majority of weight is lost. This is a very stressful time for your body, thus affecting hair growth.
There may be other reasons such as nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and other illnesses that contribute to hair loss as well:
- Rapid Weight Loss: In telogen effluvium, stress pushes large amounts of hair follicles into the “resting phase” of the growth cycle. Within a few weeks to months, those hairs may fall out suddenly when styling or washing hair.
- Low protein intake: Your body uses protein to build tissues, including the cells of your hair. Up to 85% of your hair is built out of a protein called keratin. If you are consuming a low protein diet, then your hair will be affected. Ensure that you are consuming adequate protein after surgery: at least 80 grams for females, and 100 grams for males. Your goal will be given to you by your Registered Dietitian.
- Lack of Omega-3 in diet: Omega-3 supplements and food sources such as salmon, sardines, etc help reduce inflammation in the body, which also includes your hair. High inflammation in the hair follicle directly contributes to hair loss. Incorporate more omega-3 food sources or take at least two fish oil soft gels daily (2000 mg)
- Lack of Biotin: Biotin stimulates keratin production in hair and helps increase the rate of follicle growth. Add a biotin supplement – 5 mg or 5000 mcg once daily.
- Lack of Zinc: Zinc helps keep the oil glands around the hair follicles working properly. It also helps with hair tissue growth and repair. Zinc Gluconate of 50 mg daily for two weeks is commonly used to encourage hair growth.
- Change in Estrogen/Androgen Balance: Estrogen stored in fat decreases with rapid weight loss resulting in “androgen alopecia.” Spironolactone (prescription) may help. Speak with your physician about this medication.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Taking Spironolactone (anti-androgen) helps in eliminating facial hair as well as slowing hair thinning. Speak with your physician about this medication.
In summary, hair loss is extremely common after weight loss surgery. Although it is side effect that no one wants to experience, the benefits of the surgery outweigh the risks and possible side effects. Remember, hair loss is temporary if you experience it and there are many ways to manage it.