Does weight loss cause hair loss?
This is a very common question many women ask. The weight loss industry is big business and it seems that many women out there are prepared to try just about anything to shed a few kilos. While weight reduction relies on a decreased intake of calories, a lack of enough protein, iron and other dietary supplements can ultimately cause hair loss. An inadequate intake of nutrients starves our follicles and deprives them of nourishment, which eventually makes them fall. Weight loss certainly can contribute to hair loss but a balanced approach to diet and nutrition can minimise the risks.
What can you do to avoid hair loss caused by weight loss?
The most significant contributor to hair loss is rapid weight loss. This process shocks the body and cause a form of trauma to natural body patterns. The most common form of hair loss associated with rapid weight loss or significant weight loss, is Telogen Effluvium – also known as diffuse hair loss. When this form of hair loss occurs, the hair thins out all over the scalp - not just seen in one particular area. It's important to approach weight loss in a balanced, consistent and healthy way to ensure that the body's essential nutrient requirements are not disrupted.
Been on a keto diet recently? Here's some more information on keto diets and hair loss.
The pattern for normal hair growth
In order to understand the risks associated with weight-related hair loss, one first needs to understand the hair growth cycle.
Hair goes through several phases of growth: the growth phase (anagen), the transition phase (catagen), the resting phase (telogen) and the falling phase (exogen).
At any given time, most of a person's hair (approximately 90%) is in the growth or anagen phase. At this time, follicles are pushing out hairs that will continue to grow in length until they are cut or reach the end of their lifespan and fall out. This hair growth phase can last anywhere from 2 - 6 years and hair growth is generally about 1cm every 28 days .
The transition or catagen phase starts when the anagen phase ends, and tends to last about 10 days. During this period, hair follicles shrink and hair growth slows. Approximately 3 - 5% of the total hair volume is in this phase at any one time . The hair begins to separate from the bottom of the hair follicle during this phase but remains in place.
After the initial 10 day trigger cycle of the catagen phase, the resting (telogen) phase occurs. This period can last from one to six months with the average being around 3 - 4 months .
The exogen or shedding phase is essentially an extension of the telogen phase where hair is shed from the scalp due to normal activity like washing and brushing. As a result of this phase, it is common to lose between 50 to 100 hairs per day. This phase lasts somewhere between 2 - 5 months and as the hair sheds, new hairs begin to grow in the follicles.
This normal cycle happens without you being aware of it – until something interrupts the flow.
Why Does Weight Loss Cause Hair Loss?
When the body is stressed by surgery, illness, changes in diet, hormones and even emotional distress, it begins to alter natural systemic patterns for its own survival. When the body becomes over-stressed, healthy hair growth is often a casualty. As a result, it's easy to understand that sudden or extreme restriction of nutrients in the pursuit of weight loss, can be one of the big hair loss triggers.
Weight loss related nutrient restriction forces hair out of the growth stage prematurely and triggers the catagen and telogen phases prematurely. Hair remains in the resting phase 3 - 4 months as mentioned previously, so typically weight loss related hair loss doesn't become evident for a while after the episode or extreme diet that caused it.
There is also the possibility that weight loss is the trigger for hair loss, but there is an underlying cause for hair loss that is also at play. You can read more about the causes of hair loss here.
Bariatric surgery and hair loss
If 'normal' diets like paleo and keto regimes can cause hair loss, it's not hard to believe that more extreme procedures like bariatric surgery would have the same or more severe effects. There are a number of reasons that bariatric surgery and rapid weight loss cause hair loss; the shock on the body of surgery itself, a lowered intake of protein (protein is required for hair growth), nutritional imbalances due to vitamin deficiencies and the temporary disruption to your body’s normal physiology.
People who've had bariatric surgery, can't suddenly increase their protein intake to help with hair growth either. They must adhere to diet restrictions to maximise their weight loss opportunities. Often these patients are prescribed vitamin supplements to help to minimize the negative effects of the surgery and inability to eat enough extra nutrients on the body. It's vital that these patients keep up their vitamin supplementation for general health and hair loss prevention reasons. Hair loss following bariatric surgery is common in both men and women of all races.
Can I reverse weight-related hair loss?
In good news, it's quite likely that a normal hair growth pattern can be restored after significant weight loss. Unless other underlying issues like genetics, hormonal imbalances or chronic disease are present, the body will adapt to lower calorie intake eventually and restabilise at new levels.
In order to help prevent weight-related hair loss (or at least minimise its effects), we suggest the following:
- Try not to worry too much about a single period of hair thinning which will ultimately put your body under more stress.
- Ensure you have and maintain adequate protein volume in your diet.
- Take vitamins as prescribed post weight-loss surgery or request a blood test if you suspect that vitamin deficiencies are contributing to your hair loss in any way.
- Ask your GP to check for deficiencies in iron, zinc and B vitamins specifically as these are the main nutrients associated with healthy hair growth. (Note: Do not put yourself on these without confirmation from your physician as an over-supply of these elements can be as detrimental to your health).
- Consider an instant shake in volumiser such as Boost N Blend™ Female Hair Fibres. These natural cotton fibres instantly boost your hair volume and help to conceal thinner areas. This in turn reduces anxiety and stress and leaves you feeling confident as you wait for your normal hair growth patterns to re-stabilise.
Boost N Blend™ Female Hair Fibres are available from any one of our global stores:
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