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  • Dr. Sweeney

Hair loss after weight loss surgery

A common question that I get before and after surgery is "Am I going to lose a lot of hair?"

Great question and I don't have a crystal ball to be able to answer that for each individual but I do know the science behind most hair loss and here it is.

- 90% of hair exists in a growth phase (anagen) and the other 10% is in a dormant phase (telogen) which will eventually fall out.

-Certain stressors can result in a higher percentage of hairs shifting into the telogen stage and thus.... more noticeable hair loss. I always tell people, if your body is under stress, it is very smart and it sends it's energy to the parts of the body that are absolutely necessary like your heart, liver, lungs. It could care less about your hair while under stress. Some of these stressors include:

- major surgery

- rapid weight loss

-high fever

-severe infections

-hormal disruptions

-chronic debilitating diseases .... and quite a few more

So, let's consider the fact that if you just had weight loss surgery, you already fall into the first 2 categories there and can expect to lose some because of those 2 stressors. This hair loss may continue for up to 6 months after the surgery. After 6 months however, if hair loss continues, we need to consider that there might be a nutritional reason for it. Let me be perfectly honest here, there is no magic "hair growth vitamin" and you shouldn't waste your money on them. For example, many people tote Biotin as the magic pill when it comes to decreasing hair loss or improving hair growth. To date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that this is true.

However, there is some scientific evidence that these 3 nutrients may improve hair loss.

  1. Iron - this is the single nutrient most highly correlated with hair loss. Have your doctor check a ferritin level. If it is below 40, consider supplementation.

  2. Zinc - animal and human studies have shown that zinc deficiency can be linked to hair loss. The studies showing decreased hair loss after zinc supplementation however used extremely high doses of zinc and so it is best to work with your doctor and / or just take a standard OTC dose of zinc found in supplements you can readily find at the pharmacy.

  3. Protein - low protein intake is associated with hair loss so make sure you are meeting the daily goals given to you by your doctor. These protein goals may need to be adjusted based on your physical activity and individual make-up.


In conclusion; a certain level of hair loss is the body's normal response to stressors like surgery and rapid weight loss but it should be short-lived. Longstanding problems with hair loss should raise the question that your nutrition might be to blame and iron, zinc, and protein are at the top of the list as possible culprits.

In Health,

Dr. Sweeney

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