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Discover a wealth of weight loss surgery-specific hints and tips over on our blog, providing valuable insights and practical advice to support your journey towards a healthier and happier you.
Hair loss is a common and expected side-effect following weight loss surgery. While it is normal and expected, it doesn’t make it any less stressful! Our hair holds a significant role in our body image, confidence and identity, so when it starts to thin and change it can be really frightening.
The key is to try not to panic, know that it is a phase that will pass and focus on the things that can help that are within your control. We explain these things in more detail below.
WHAT IS TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM?
The hair loss experienced after weight loss surgery is known as ‘Telogen Effluvium’. This a common cause of temporary hair loss which occurs when more hair is entering the dormant (or telogen) phase than usual. This dormant hair stops growing and eventually falls out. This process occurs a few months after significant body changes, which explains why we tend to see most hair loss three to six months post weight loss surgery. It can however continue up to one year post surgery.
WHY IS HAIR LOSS SO COMMON FOLLOWING WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY?
Several factors can trigger Telogen Effluvium, many of which are a direct result of weight loss surgery including:
The surgery itself: the physical stress of surgery is a contributing factor.
Rapid weight loss: the body perceives rapid weight loss as a stressor.
Nutrient deficiencies: reduced intake and absorption of nutrients following weight loss surgery may lead to nutritional deficiencies that can contribute to hair loss.
Low protein intake: inadequate protein intakes or absorption can lead to hair loss. The body prioritises protein for essential bodily functions when minimum needs aren’t met, and hair growth is unfortunately low on the priority list.
Trauma: the body may perceive surgery as a traumatic event.
Hormonal disruptions: hormonal changes post-surgery may contribute.
WHAT CAN I DO TO MINIMISE HAIR LOSS?
Meet your protein needs: Aim for a minimum of 60g of protein daily, spread throughout the day for better absorption.
Consider protein powder: When your capacity for food is limited, particularly in the early post surgery stages, it is difficult to meet your minimum needs with food alone. Adding a protein powder throughout your day can be beneficial, however we do recommend you limit this to 30g of protein from supplements each day and focus on whole foods where possible.
Take weight loss surgery specific multivitamins: Weight loss surgery specific multivitamins are tailored for the needs of weight loss surgery patients and are the best fit for your post operative needs.
Regular blood tests: Regular and ongoing blood tests following surgery are essential to identify and correct nutrient deficiencies and ensure your nutrient stores are adequate.
Correct deficiencies: If any nutrient deficiencies are identified, these need to be corrected under the care of your team.
WHAT SPECIFIC NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES ARE INVOLVED IN HAIR LOSS?
Key nutrients associated with hair loss include iron, zinc, niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B12, selenium, biotin and fatty acids. These nutrients are generally covered by taking a high-quality weight loss surgery specific vitamin and mineral supplement, as well as additional vitamin B12, iron, calcium and vitamin D supplements which are routinely recommended following surgery and should have been recommended by your weight loss surgery team.
If you have a specific nutrient deficiency detected in your blood tests, additional vitamin and mineral supplements will be recommended to treat this specific problem/s. However, there is no evidence to suggest that adding additional supplements (above those recommended routinely or those required to treat a deficiency) is useful to prevent hair loss. In fact, it can cause far more harm than good.
HOW DO I MANAGE HAIR LOSS?
Do not add in additional supplements!
As tempting as they are, do not add in hair, skin, and nail supplements on top of weight loss surgery specific multivitamins! Excess levels of some nutrients can worsen hair loss. An example is selenium, which is required in adequate amounts for healthy hair growth. Selenium is commonly found in hair, skin, and nail supplements, but when taken in excess, it can ironically lead to hair loss.
Consult with Bariatric Dietitian
Treat low nutrient levels with targeted supplements guided by your bariatric dietitian rather than opting for additional, well marketed over-the-counter hair, skin, and nail supplements.
Understanding that hair loss is a part of the post-surgery journey and knowing how to manage it with the right nutrition and support is crucial. The key is to focus on meeting your nutritional needs, taking your vitamins as per the regime provided by your bariatric dietitian and seeking guidance from your team throughout the process.
If you find yourself in need of further guidance all things weight loss surgery including prevention and management of hair loss, we are here to support you. We offer direct access to our knowledgeable team through our signature online support program, Elevate, and can support you in our Facebook Inner Circle and during our fortnightly group calls as part of the Elevate program.
We provide a 'behind the scenes' look into Elevate and the support we offer in our FREE online workshop, ‘Three Super Simple Steps to Safeguard Your Weight Loss Surgery Success’. Reserve your seat for the workshop here.
PAM | WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY PATIENT
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