Antidepressants, oral steroids, and blood pressure medications are just a few of the medications that can cause a change on the scale.
Anyone who has ever looked at a drug package insert is not surprised to learn that many drugs come with a long list of side effects, some of which may make you give up taking them altogether. One of the most common risks on these lists is weight gain. Although this effect is not dangerous in itself, depending on your health goals, a higher number on the scale can be distressing. That’s why it’s important to be prepared, to understand why weight gain may be happening, and to be certain that it’s not a situation you have to deal with. Indeed, other options may be available to you.
Whenever you start taking a new medicine, ask your pharmacist for basic information, such as the use of the medicine and its side effects. If weight gain is likely and bothers you, ask your doctor if the dose can be lowered or if there are other options. Of course, you’ll need to continue to eat healthy and exercise (or start doing so if you haven’t already got into the habit).
Whether you’re taking a drug to treat anxiety or depression, a steroid to relieve arthritis pain, or an antihistamine to control allergy sniffles and sneezes, here’s how they can affect your weight.
1. Tricyclic antidepressants
These drugs include amitriptyline, doxepin, and nortriptyline. As a category, these drugs can increase appetite and stimulate weight gain. If you are taking antidepressants, do not stop them abruptly. Discuss this with your doctor first and come up with a plan that will best support your mental health. If weight gain causes you to stop your treatment, you can ask your doctor to change the class of antidepressants.
Oral corticosteroids treat a range of conditions, from asthma and arthritis to back pain and lupus. These drugs have many side effects, including increased appetite, fluid retention, and impaired metabolism. Pharmacists recommend taking corticosteroids with food, such as a healthy, balanced snack like almonds or a cup of yogurt. Oral steroids are usually recommended for a short duration (eg, a one-week or two-week dose), which limits side effects. If they are to be taken long term, weight gain may be more difficult to control, and you will need to be more diligent with diet and exercise.
If you have allergies or an itchy rash, you’ve probably taken antihistamines. Studies have shown that people who regularly take certain antihistamines have higher body weight and waist circumference than those who don’t. Previous research, published in the journal Obesity, found this association with the H1-receptor antihistamines cetirizine, fexofenadine and desloratadine. For what ? Histamine in the body turns off hunger signals. On the other hand, antihistamines can somehow interfere with satiety signals. Nasal spray steroids are an alternative. They act differently than oral steroids and are not generally associated with weight gain.
4. Medicines for epilepsy
Medications that treat seizures, including gabapentin, pregabalin, and vigabatrin, can increase appetite. Excess calories from eating more food can eventually lead to weight gain. If you are taking any of these medications, it is important that you know that weight gain may be the result. If you think this medication is not right for you, ask your doctor about switching to epilepsy medications that are associated with weight loss or have no effect on weight.
Beta-blockers are commonly used to treat hypertension. Some are more likely to cause weight gain. The reason for a rise on the scale is unclear, but beta-blockers can make you tired, especially at the start of treatment. They slow the heart rate and can decrease exercise tolerance. Fatigue and discomfort during activity can cause you to remain sedentary, which promotes weight gain. A study published in the journal Gastroenterology in May 2017 showed that the drug can also decrease metabolism. This is why the researchers suggest not prescribing beta-blockers as a first-line treatment for people who are overweight or suffering from obesity. Instead, ACE inhibitors may be a better option, but talk to your doctor.
SSRIs are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a type of antidepressant that increases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Examples include escitalopram, paroxetine, sertraline. These drugs can cause weight gain by affecting appetite. In addition, by relieving the symptoms of mood disorders, they can also modify eating habits or physical exercise. If you gain weight, talk to your doctor. Weight gain usually occurs early, indicating that it may become a long-term problem for you.
The MAOI is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor that, according to an August 2020 article in StatPearls, treats depression by blocking a brain enzyme that degrades mood-balancing neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. It can also be used to reduce migraine symptoms. They can also stimulate the appetite. Phenelzine is the most weight gaining drug in this class of drugs. If this concerns you, ask your doctor about other options.
If you take insulin to treat your diabetes, be aware that it can promote weight gain. Indeed, this hormone helps your body to absorb the glucose present in your bloodstream. Glucose is a good thing: your body’s cells use it to function efficiently. That said, once sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream and pushed into cells, if it’s not used by your body for energy, it will be converted into fat. If you eat too much, especially foods high in sugar (sweets, desserts), you will gain weight. If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need to take insulin. In contrast, if you have type 2 diabetes, lifestyle changes will help improve insulin function, and you may be able to use diet and exercise to reduce (or even eliminate) your insulin dose.
Sulfonylureas, another common class of diabetes medication, lower blood sugar by 20% but also cause weight gain, according to a study published in August 2015 in the Archives of Medical Science. The sulfonylureas include gliclazide and glibenclamide. These drugs stimulate the release of insulin from beta cells in the pancreas. The more insulin there is in the blood, the more sugar enters the cells. Ultimately, they cause weight gain in the same way as an insulin injection. There are diabetes medications, including metformin or SGLT2 inhibitors, that also promote weight loss or have no effect on weight. The type of medication that is best for you depends on your medical history, current medical condition, and cost considerations.
These drugs can be used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. One of them, olanzapine, is associated with the greatest potential for weight gain compared to other antipsychotics. In addition, these types of drugs impair glucose function and raise cholesterol and triglycerides, which increases the risk of metabolic syndrome in patients, says a review published in August 2017 in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.