|Let’s Talk Hair Loss|
December 17, 2020
I’ve been hesitant to post about this because I don’t want to jinx myself But I think the time has come.
I have very thick hair. I always have. My hair is naturally curly and very fluffy if I don’t style it. It’s long (about to my boob line) and it’s A LOT OF HAIR. I’m always shedding. My husband teases me about having to clean out the shower drain frequently because HIS hair is clogging it again (that’s his nice way of bitching gently about how my hair is EVERYWHERE). There’s lots of my hair wrapped and tangled in the vacuum cleaner, and when I sweep the bathroom floor it looks like a giant hairball. That’s just the way it’s always been for me. I could never commit a murder because they’d identify me with my trail of hair that I’d leave behind. This is normal life for me.
They say that around month 3-4 is when you start noticing an increase in hair loss after bariatric surgery. Of course, that varies, just like everything else. Some people may experience it worse than others. I’ve seen pictures and posts of people pulling out HANDFULLS of hair, hairbrushes full of tons of hair after one swipe, piles of hair on the counter… and then some people experience minimal hair loss, almost unnoticeable. I’ve heard it has to do with protein intake in the beginning and I’ve also heard it has nothing to do with that. Here’s what I understand about it so far (and I could be totally wrong about this and I’m not going to be using technical terms so… bear with me):
Our hair at any given time is in 1 of 3 stages – it’s either growing (new hair and growing hair), transition and resting, or shedding. So new hair may be at varying lengths depending on how long it has been growing. Then it reaches a stagnant state where it’s just hanging out on our heads. Then it eventually falls out. There are many factors that affect the rate at which our hair moves through these phases. One of those factors is nutrition. So- considering that most bariatric patients have significant impact to their food intake, it stands to reason that this is just part of the process.
Stage 1 – Growing – This phase is the longest and usually lasts between 5-7 years. Most of the hair on our heads (specifically referring to scalp hair here… other body hair has a different life span or we’d have REALLY long pubic hair and eyebrows ) is in this phase.
Stage 2 – Transition and Resting – This phase is a shorter one and lasts a few months before the shedding occurs. 10-15% of the hair on our heads is in this phase at any given time.
Stage 3 – Shedding – this is when the hair falls out… and while it’s falling out, new growth is getting ready to start the process over again (in a healthy situation).
So… here we are, as bariatric patients, fresh out of surgery. Our hormone levels have changed drastically and our nutrition levels are changing drastically. Vitamins and Protein that used to come from food is now coming from supplements and it’s not absorbed as well as our bodies are trying to adjust. Our bodies are now thinking “TRAUMA! Must stop all non-essential functions and focus on staying alive!!” So hair growth isn’t super important and our bodies tell our hair in the growth phase to stop growing and move into the resting phase.
Fast forward to 3-4 months after surgery and all that hair that moved into the resting phase now begins to fall out. And suddenly we’re now in the shedding phase and it freaks some people out. The good news is that usually our bodies are healthy enough by this time in the post-surgery process that we’ve already started growing tiny new baby hairs that will eventually fill in for all the hair that we’re about to shed. So… while it’s not fun to lose hair – it’s a pretty normal part of the process and we’ll recover. Another thing that can happen due to lack of nutrients and stress on the body is that hair in the resting phase can become brittle and begin to break. That’s no fun at all but it does happen.
Now… where am I in this process? It’s so hard for me to tell. Like I said, I lost a TON of hair daily even before my surgery. I’m still losing a ton of hair daily now. My hair still looks and feels very healthy although I think I’m noticing it getting a little thinner when I put it in a ponytail. But that could all just be in my mind because I’m expecting it to happen. Who knows? Right now, my hair looks the same as it did pre-surgery. If anything, it’s longer and healthier than it was before (at least by all outward appearances). I will say that I do take very good care of my hair. I use salon products only and I am pretty diligent about getting trims on a regular basis so my hair stays very healthy. I definitely noticed how much my hair and nails grew after the surgery (which is odd… I know) but I attribute that to the vitamins and increased protein intake. So… I started with very heathy hair and post-surgery I have been very good about maintaining healthy hair habits, getting my protein, and taking my vitamins. So here I am almost at the end of month 3 post-op and not a lot has changed with my hair so far. HOWEVER – I’m moving into month 4 now… so we shall see. I will definitely keep tabs on this because I’m so curious how this will all play out.
I’m not super concerned about it actually. I just find it fascinating… all these changes that are happening in my body and how nutrition and hormones play such an important role in how our bodies function. Of course, I’ve always known this… but now it’s so interesting to really SEE the changes that happen. This has been a fascinating process for me. Fortunately I’ve remained pretty healthy and have had very few challenges after surgery. It certainly has been an adjustment in many ways, but I’ve been one of the lucky ones. I hear many people in my online support groups talk about horrible complications and some have even died as a result of complications. While this seems to be the exception, not the rule post-op, I do realize how fortunate I am. My surgeon and support team have been FANTASTIC and I think that makes a world of difference in all aspects of recovery and success. It’s a huge decision to have this surgery and anyone who is considering it should NOT take it lightly. Yes, hair loss is a fairly minor side effect of this process but there are other potential complications that can occur. So far I’ve been lucky. I hope it continue.
How am I feeling? As “normal” as can be. No immediate physical concerns. So far (as of my Tuesday weigh in) I’m 42# down since September 21 when I had my surgery. That’s pretty amazing to me. 10# a month would be incredible but I’m averaging more than that. This is huge. The changes in my body and in my energy levels is so exciting to me. I still have a long way to go but I consider myself very fortunate to have had the levels of success I’ve had so far. I’ve already met my 3rd weight goal which was to be at the weight I was 9 years ago when I started working out with my personal trainer. My next goal is to get to the 100s… “Onederland” is what it’s referred to in my weight loss groups. I’m about 8# away from that so we shall see.
Mentally/emotionally – I feel silly writing this in every entry but I know it’s good to track. I’m still normal on that front too. Nothing to report. I’m feeling positive and no signs of depression that I can see. Let’s pray this continues.