Bariatric (Weight Loss) Surgery: Metabolic, nutritional, psychological and physiological Consequences
You will often see sources that recommend protein, biotin, silica, and snake oil shampoos such as Nioxin to promote hair growth following bariatric surgery. Many of these sources are just trying to sell you products because you have hair loss and it bothers you. They often suggest a single product and offer to sell it to you. Perhaps dietary manipulation will help to retard hair loss, but it may be that you must reverse the bariatric surgery to overcome the associated hair loss from long-term nutritional depletion.
The fact is that nutritional depletion following bariatric surgery can lead to protein wasting, loss of iron, depletion of biotin, B12, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, calcium, zinc, magnesium, fatty acids, and sufficient calories each day. This can lead to stress on the hair shaft. Very few structures metabolize as rapidly as hair. This means that hair needs more nutrition daily than other body structures. When protein is lost in sufficient quantities along with vitamins and minerals, hair shafts cease to elongate, go into the resting phase, and shed. All the factors lead to hair loss. The question is whether this hair loss is permanent. This has not been properly addressed over time, but it needs to be evaluated.
Remember, when a person is given chemotherapy, they loose their hair. This loss is due to the cytotoxic affects on the rapidly dividing hair follicle cells. The chemotherapy is meant to attack rapidly dividing cells such as cancer cells. Other rapidly dividing cells located in scalp hairs are also affected by such medications. They are lost and shed. Chemotherapy is given in small increments, however. This allows the hair follicles to grow back.
Bariatric surgery is similar in that it has a negative impact on rapidly dividing cells. The rapidly dividing cells in this case are hair cells rather than cancer cells. The impact on the rapidly dividing hair follicle cells occurs over a span of months and may not become evident for over one year. The impact is based on robbing the follicles of vital nutrients. No one knows if this nutritional starvation may be overcome.
Bariatric surgery often has only a temporary effect on one’s weight. Unfortunately, the impact on one’s hair loss may be more permanent as the stress on the follicles is a long-term, chronic nutritional deprivation. We would love to see someone evaluate hair loss from bariatric surgery to see if there it may be overcome through dietary manipulation. Certainly, traditional hair loss drugs such as Propecia and Minoxidil may not have a beneficial impact because they tend to target the cause of hair loss in androgenic alopecia whereas hair loss following bariatric surgery is due to nutritional depletion.