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This amazing post was written by Jenn Ryan, a freelance writer, and editor who’s passionate about natural health, fitness, gluten-free, and animals. You can read more of her work at thegreenwritingdesk.com.

The Top 10 Medications You Had No Idea Cause You to Gain Weight

I’m no stranger to gaining weight while on a particular type of medication. I gained 50 pounds while being on prednisone, which is—spoiler alert—one of the medications on the following list (hint: its #5!)

In the world of Western medicine, pharmaceutical drugs are used to treat just about every possible ailment you could imagine having. This has saved some lives—and destroyed others.

Nearly 69% of adults in the United States are overweight or obese [1]. Worldwide, 2.1 billion people—almost 30% of us—are overweight or obese [2]. How did this happen?

Although medications certainly aren’t solely to blame for our collective weight problem, being more aware of how medications affect you as well as your health can help you maintain (or return to) a healthy weight.

That said, let’s take a look at the top 10 medications that can cause you to gain weight as well as things you can consider doing to counteract this unhealthy side effect.

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to replace the advice or care of your doctor. Never stop taking a medication without first talking to your doctor.

If you are thinking about using alternative or complementary medicine in addition to your physician-recommended treatment, remember these important steps as outlined by The Mayo Clinic:

  1. Don’t stop taking your prescribed medications or skip therapy sessions. Alternative or complementary medicine is not a substitute for regular medical care when it comes to treating bipolar disorder, or other serious mental health concerns.
  2. Be honest with your doctors and mental health professionals. This is important for them to be able to properly monitor your symptoms. Tell them exactly which alternative or complementary treatments you use or would like to try.
  3. Be aware of potential dangers. Alternative and complementary products aren’t regulated the way prescription drugs are. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. Before using alternative or complementary medicine, talk to your doctor about the risks, including possible serious interactions with medications.

1. Paxil: Anti-Anxiety Drug

How it causes you to gain weight: Paxil is an SSRI, which stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. What this essentially means is that the drug is an anti-depressant, and it works by increasing serotonin in the brain.

How the medication actually causes you to gain weight remains a mystery, since increased serotonin levels typically result in a decreased appetite [3]. Experts hypothesize that the medications influence metabolism and food cravings to lead to an increased waistline.

How worried you should be: Paxil affects the liver as well as has been noted by takers to have withdrawal symptoms [4]. What’s worse is that research has been showing that Paxil isn’t any more effective for anxiety or depression than a placebo [5].

More options to consider: Working with a natural holistic doctor to incorporate herbs such as lavender, lemon balm, and even valerian can majorly help when it comes to your anxiety [6]. You might also choose to incorporate meditation into your daily routine.

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How to counteract the weight gain: Exercise, be aware of your appetite and when you’re actually hungry, and talk to your doctor about potentially switching off this medication.

2. Depakote: Anti-Psychotic Drug

How it causes you to gain weight: Used to treat bipolar disorder, seizures, and migraines, Depakote is another medication in which, despite research, it’s still not clear how it causes weight gain. Some people will be more susceptible than others in regards to putting on additional pounds while taking this drug [7].

How worried you should be: Depakote causes severe birth defects so you shouldn’t take while pregnant. Suicidal thoughts and tendencies are also a concern among Depakote users. It also causes damage to the pancreas and liver, including liver failure, making this drug a questionable choice unless the situation is severe and it is absolutely necessary [8].

More options to consider: From omega-3 fatty acids to magnesium and zinc, there are many options when it comes to supporting bipolar disorder [9]. Always work with a qualified healthcare professional to get on the supplements or herbs that are right for you.

How to counteract the weight gain: Take a close look at your diet and determine what can improve. Sometimes just cutting out inflammatory agents such as gluten and dairy can help tremendously, and make even help improve your condition!

3. Prozac: Anti-Depressant Drug

How it causes you to gain weight: Again, it’s not exactly known. It could be disrupting your hormone balance, encouraging your body to store more fat, or just making you feel happier and more able to enjoy food again [10].

How worried you should be: From rewiring the human brain to making certain people more suicidal or homicidal, Prozac is definitely a scary one [11]. People who gained weight on this drug report losing weight in the beginning, but then may develop a tolerance to the drug and gain weight in the long run.

More options to consider: Curcumin (the active compound in turmeric) and saffron have been shown to be as effective as Prozac when it comes to depression [12].

How to counteract the weight gain: If you really can’t get off this medication, continue to monitor your weight and exercise as well as eat a healthy diet.

4. Zyprexa: Anti-Psychotic Drug

How it causes you to gain weight: Zyprexa actually inhibits serotonin, the neurotransmitter that typically helps you feel full. This is why this drug can cause you to gain weight. This drug is used for disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

How worried you should be:  Zyprexa can cause a range of side effects including memory loss and numbness. It can also cause a condition known as DRESS, which can lead to death [13]. If you have a fever and a rash while taking Zyprexa, seek medical attention immediately.

More options to consider: There are vitamins, supplements, and diet solutions that can help people who are struggling with bipolar or schizophrenia. Always talk with your doctor before adjusting your medication. In the meantime, give some of these suggestions a try [14].

How to counteract the weight gain: You could try switching to another anti-psychotic drug [15], consume more fiber rich foods to help keep you full, including nuts, seeds, and plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits.

5. Prednisone: Anti-Inflammatory Drug

How it causes you to gain weight: Up to 80% of prednisone users gain weight on this drug, with higher doses making you more likely to gain weight. Prednisone affects your metabolism, appetite, and even redistributes fat in odd places around your body [16].

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How worried you should be: Prednisone is often used for a limited amount of time and then discontinued. However, some people remain on prednisone long-term. Long-term effects include osteoporosis, cataracts, and a compromised immune system [17].

More options to consider: Prednisone usually covers up the actual response your body is having, meaning the root problem is still going undiagnosed. To help combat inflammation, try eliminating sugar and gluten from your diet. Then, add in omega-3 fats and vitamin D. These simple changes will go a long way towards helping you!

You can also work with a natural healthcare doctor to determine what’s actually going on and resolve the root problem.

How to counteract the weight gain: If you must remain on prednisone, there’s really no way to stop that insane appetite you experience while taking the drug. The best you can do is exercise if you’re able to combat the extra calories. Exercise may also help your inflammation!

6. Thorazine: Anti-Psychotic Drug

How it causes you to gain weight: Thorazine can increase your appetite which may cause weight gain. This medication is used to treat schizophrenia, depression, and behavioral problems.

How worried you should be: Thorazine can increase risk of death in users of this medication who suffer from dementia [18]. It also affects hormones and can cause production of breast milk, loss of interest in sex, and difficulty sleeping. Thorazine has long been known to cause injury to the liver, especially with long term use, and 40% of patients experience abnormalities in their liver tests [19].

More options to consider: Vitamin C, omega-3s, vegetables, limited sugars and grains, and exercise are all natural alternatives that can greatly help [20]. You’d be surprised just how much omega-3s impact your brain!

How to counteract the weight gain: If you have to stay on Thorazine, know the risks. Get your liver function tested at regular intervals. And stop weight gain by being conscious of whether or not you’re actually hungry as opposed to just having a large appetite. Drinking more water (or herbal tea) can help you feel full as well as eating more fiber.

7. Allegra: Anti-Histamine Drug

How it causes you to gain weight: You’re surprised to see this drug on here, I know. Interestingly enough, blocking histamine production in the body can actually inhibit an enzyme in the brain that helps regulate how hungry you are. This means you may eat more than you actually need while on this drug.

How worried you should be: You don’t need to be too worried about this drug, although you should be aware of the side effects, which include headaches, fever, chills, and body aches [21].

More options to consider: There are a ton of natural anti-histamines that you can try that are usually pretty effective. I have experience using a few, including stinging nettle, bromelain (think pineapples!), vitamin C, and evening primrose oil [22].

How to counteract the weight gain: If you have to take Allegra, regulate your hunger by consuming more vegetables and drinking more water. Other practices you can do include exercising and eating fiber-rich foods like chia seeds!

8. Insulase: Diabetes Drug

How it causes you to gain weight: Both insulin and Insulase can cause weight gain by lowering your blood sugar, which will spark your appetite and encourage you to eat more. You may also experience some fluid retention after just starting to take insulin [23].

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How worried you should be: Although widely considered safe, insulin and Insulase are not without their risks. Some research finds an increased risk of some health complications such as heart attack and cancer while taking these medications [24].

More options to consider: Some hefty diet changes are in order to naturally reverse your diabetes and balance your blood sugar. You can begin making changes now! It’ll be difficult in the beginning, but absolutely worth it in the end [25].

How to counteract the weight gain: You can try to eat less, but eating smaller, more frequent meals is going to be the key here. This will also help you to better balance your blood sugar. Exercising is great as well!

9. Tenormin: Blood Pressure Drug

How it causes you to gain weight: Beta blockers such as this one are used to treat many different conditions. They cause you to gain weight by slowing metabolism and creating fatigue. The first few months are the most common for people to put on the pounds.

How worried you should be: Liver failure with this drug is rare [26], but you should still be aware of the side effects, which can include depression, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and chronic heart failure [27].

More options to consider: There are many natural, effective steps you can take to lower blood pressure. They include reducing sodium intake, upping your omega-3 intake, eating garlic, exercising, and taking magnesium [28]. Give some of them a try!

How to counteract the weight gain: Drink more water, eat more vegetables, exercise, and as always, monitor your weight and notify your physician of any rapid weight gain, as this could be indicative of fluid buildup in your body.

10. Seroquel: Anti-Psychotic Drug

How it causes you to gain weight: This drug is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, and anxiety. There are a number of ways this drug causes weight gain. It increases your appetite, impacts hormones and fat storage, and slows metabolism [29].

How worried you should be: Liver test abnormalities occur in up to 30% of patients [30], with long-term use affecting both the liver and kidneys. Stroke, blood clots, hallucinations, suicidal tendencies, and inflammation of the heart tissue are just a few of the side effects this medication causes [31].

More options to consider: Herbal medicine, nutrition, exercise, and homeopathic medicine are all things to consider trying [32].

How to counteract the weight gain: If you have worked with your doctor and determined you should remain on Seroquel, there’s little you can do that would stop the metabolic impact of taking this medication. Incorporating healthy lifestyle practices into your life such as drinking more water, eating more vegetables, and exercising most days of the week are important.

Conclusion

So there you have it, a list of the top 10 medications that cause weight gain. Weight loss is a struggle for millions of people around the world—could your prescription medication be the reason you haven’t been able to lose those extra pounds? Work with your doctor to determine the right medication and dose you should be on, and don’t be afraid to ask questions for alternatives that may suit your body composition better. 

Consider addressing the root cause of your symptoms rather than the symptoms themselves with natural methods and an additional support. You may just be able to get off the medication and experience a normal and healthy lifestyle without becoming vulnerable to the side-effects of drugs.

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to replace the advice or care of your doctor. Never stop taking a medication without first talking to your doctor.

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Jenn Ryan
Health Expert
Jenn Ryan is a freelance writer and editor who's passionate about natural health, fitness, gluten-free, and animals. She loves running, reading, and playing with her four rescued rabbits.
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