Rapid Weight Loss and Hair Loss - Specific to Gastric Bypass

People often notice significant weight loss and hair loss after a few months of their gastric bypass surgery. This is considered a normal side effect of the procedure, as the health experts describe it as the body’s response to the surgery. It does not involve losing all the hair, but the individual may experience strands falling off whenever they brush or wash their hair. However, this is usually temporary, and the hair fall starts to taper off within a few months. By this time, the body starts to grow new hair. A number of management modalities may be introduced for this, including the transformation of the diet or intake of supplements after doctor consultation.

Meet the expert

Dr. Reena Jogi is a dermatologist who specializes in PRP Hair Restoration in Houston, Texas.


What is Gastric Bypass?

Gastric Bypass, which is also referred to as Bariatric surgery, has become a common procedure for obese individuals to undergo weight loss. Dr. Mason initially introduced this in the 1960s, who noticed that individuals undergoing partial gastrectomy to treat their peptic ulcers had significant weight loss after a few months. This surgery was done in the past via an open approach, but this was later discontinued due to a high risk for incisional hernia and wound complications. This was when health experts came up with another approach known as laparoscopic gastric bypass, which was introduced to improve the overall outcome of the surgery.

The first case of a laparoscopic gastric bypass, which was referred to as Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, was done in 1994 by doctors Wittgrove and Clark. This procedure was associated with a lower hospital stay duration, decreased intraoperative blood loss, and lesser chances of pulmonary complications and wound infections. Individuals also reported a lesser degree of post-operative pain.

However, whether an open approach or laparoscopic approach to gastric bypass is taken, a majority of the individuals report significant weight loss and hair loss after the procedure completion.

Weight Loss Caused By Gastric Bypass

The weight loss caused by Gastric bypass has been investigated in a number of studies ever since it was initially introduced. The most common type of gastric bypass procedure conducted in North America is the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, which may be referred to as GBP.

(1) Studies have shown this procedure to lead to a slow and steady weight loss, with lower rates of complications. (2)This weight loss has also been linked to an improved quality of life, particularly in the individuals who were obese before the procedure was conducted. (3) This is because the weight loss caused by Gastric bypass leads to resolution of the comorbidities like hypertension and increased cholesterol that the individuals may be affected with. Many also reported an increased lifespan due to a lower risk for obesity-associated life-threatening conditions. (4)

The way gastric bypass leads to weight loss is through restriction of food intake due to the small gastric pouch that results from the procedure. It also helps prevent contact of the food that enters the body with the surfaces of different parts of the digestive tract like the stomach, duodenum, and jejunum. (5) However, not every individual who undergoes gastric bypass surgery undergoes weight loss. Data shows at least 5% to 15% of the individuals do not experience any weight loss, even when an accurate and precise surgical procedure has been conducted with a regular follow-up. (6) The factors that may be responsible for this include an increased age, individual belonging to an African American origin, individual being a male, higher BMI at the start, and the individual being diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitus. (7

A lack of weight loss may also be seen in individuals who do not undergo adequate physical activity after the surgery and have a larger pouch area than others. (8) Amongst these factors, the two which hold the most important are the size of the gastric pouch and the length of the alimentary canal.

Gastric Bypass and Hair Loss

Hair loss is commonly encountered by individuals who undergo gastric bypass surgery. While there have been mixed results about the exact moment where the individuals may start experiencing hair loss after the surgery, a majority agree that at least 50% of the individuals face hair loss in the short term after the Bariatric surgery. (9) Other factors that may accelerate this hair loss rate include the level of iron and zinc in the body. While the hair loss experienced after Gastric bypass is not associated with any disease or altered health condition, it can be a source of significant distress and lowered self-esteem for the patient.

One study which was conducted to evaluate the hair loss after gastric bypass showed more than 15% of the individuals experience hair loss after three months of the surgery. (10)  

The onset and end time of hair loss in patients after bariatric surgery was also evaluated in a number of studies. One study showed that while the time for the start of hair loss after the surgery was almost three months, the time for the end of this hair fall was approximately nine months. (11) The factors that may promote this hair loss after the surgery have been a topic of discussion amongst experts worldwide. One of these factors was the level of vitamin B12, which is found to be lower in an individual with hair loss compared to those who do not experience any hair loss.

The Bottom Line

Hair loss and weight loss in the first six months after gastric bypass, hair loss, and weight loss are commonly reported in the patients. While weight loss is considered a positive aspect of the surgery, particularly in obese individuals who experience an improved quality of life - the same cannot be said about hair loss. Even though this hair loss is not indicative of a health condition, it may affect the individual confidence and self-esteem. However, it is temporary and usually resolves within six months.

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