Is Your Weight Gain Caused by Your Antidepressant?
Drugs and more drugs. It is incredible to think that 60 percent of Americans take prescription drugs. And of course, if you add in over the counter drugs… it is a lot of drugs circulating throughout the bodies of Americans!
There are several drugs that can cause weight gain. In this article, I am going to focus on antidepressants and their relationship to weight gain.
Let me start with a couple of questions. When you or a loved one were prescribed an antidepressant, were you told that one of the potential side effects is weight gain?
I have seen many patients who were prescribed antidepressants by their family doctor or psychiatrist and gained twenty or more pounds. The weight gain can occur quickly, and some of these people gained twenty or more pounds within a year!
13% of Americans 12 and older have taken or currently use an antidepressant.
An article in Scientific American noted that up to 25% of people who take antidepressants report significant weight gain! They also state that it is not uncommon for people to report gaining 8-10 pounds in only a few weeks of starting their antidepressants. That creates a situation where a lot of people are gaining weight as a result of their medication.
The side effect of weight gain is not limited to particular antidepressants. A doctor writing for Mayo Clinic notes that “weight gain is a possible side effect of nearly all antidepressants.”
Perhaps your doctor told you that a popular class of medications known as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine(Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), Sertraline (Zoloft) help with weight loss. There is research showing that for some people that these antidepressants help with weight loss in the short term, but are associated with a long-term risk of weight gain!
The biochemical reasons as to why antidepressants can cause weight gain is not precisely known.
Current theories focus on the changes in brain neurotransmitter receptor activity from antidepressants that lead to increased appetite. There are also complex hormonal changes that are taking place, which may cause a slower metabolism.
I am not opposed to people taking antidepressants. However, my experience is that they are way over-prescribed, and people with mild to moderate depression often do just as well or better with holistic treatments that address underlying neurotransmitter and hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, and spiritual/stress problems. Do not stop an antidepressant abruptly. If you are planning to quit your antidepressant, make sure to work with a doctor to wean down over time. For my patients weaning off antidepressants, I support them nutritionally and biochemically with natural approaches so that their neurotransmitters are better regulated so that they are less likely to have withdrawal side effects.
If you need to stay on an antidepressant, then you need to be more diligent with your diet and exercise program. Watch for future articles from me on how best to manage your weight with non-toxic, natural approaches.
Brady, D. (2015). Nearly 60 percent of Americans-the highest ever-are taking prescription drugs. Retrieved 8 July 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/11/03/more-americans-than-ever-are-taking-prescription-drugs/?noredirect=on.
Hall-Flavin, D. (2020). Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 8 July 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/antidepressants-and-weight-gain/faq-20058127.
Lee, S., Paz-Filho, G., Mastronardi, C., Licinio, J., & Wong, M. (2016). Is increased antidepressant exposure a contributory factor to the obesity pandemic?. Translational Psychiatry, 6(3), e759-e759. https://doi.org/10.1038/tp.2016.25
Reinagel M. 2018. Why Do Antidepressants Cause Weight Gain?. Scientific American. [accessed 2020 Jul 8]. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-antidepressants-cause-weight-gain/
Sifferlin A. 2017. 13% of Americans Take Antidepressants. Time. [accessed 2020 Jul 8]. https://time.com/4900248/antidepressants-depression-more-common/