Like hair loss during chemotherapy, weight gain while on antidepressants is not, fortunately, inevitable. And like hair loss, gaining weight should not be justification for refusing treatment with these drugs, as they may be very effective for a variety of mental disturbances, fibromyalgia, and even menopausal hot flushes. Unfortunately, for those who find themselves gaining weight within weeks of starting on their antidepressants or mood stabilizers, losing this weight is much harder than growing back hair after its loss from chemotherapy.
News, diet plan tips, recipes and the latest research
to help improve your health, nutrition and well-being.
Serotonin Power Blog
Side effects from medications are common, although usually not severe enough to halt treatment. Anyone who has listened, perhaps unwillingly, to a recital of side effects associated with a television advertisement for a medication is aware of the number of health problems that might arise while taking that particular drug. But unless the side effect is death (the announcer always seems to mumble at this point), one assumes most of these adverse events go away when the medication is no longer taken.
As I was walking past the Vitamin section of CVS, I heard the word serotonin pass between a young man and a saleswoman. “I can’t find any 5HTP on the shelf,” he was telling her, “…You know, the stuff that makes serotonin? I need some for stress!” She peered at the supplement stocked shelves and nodded. “We must be all out,” she responded. “But there is a health food store a few blocks away. Maybe they have some.”
To Sally (not her real name), who wrote to me recently about her 100-pound weight gain after being given antidepressant medications for fibromyalgia, the recent study carried out by a group from the Massachusetts General Hospital will come as a surprise.
If weight-loss programs advertised on television were to be believed, then it is obvious that the best way to get people to lose weight and keep it off is to eat commercially available, calorie-controlled packaged meals and snacks.
Dieting may be the traditional method for losing weight. Yet more and more obese individuals are giving up counting calories and measuring their food and instead are turning to surgery. Advances in bariatric surgery over the past 10 or so years has made possible a relatively short, simple operation to turn the pouch-like stomach into a skinny sleeve that holds no more than 2 to 7 ounces of food.
Good news: By now even mental health care givers know what their patients have known for years. Most drugs taken to relieve the symptoms of mental illness cause weight gain. Bad news: There are probably more places to buy larger size clothing than weight-loss programs specifically designed to remove the pounds the medications added to your body.
My generally friendly and calm neighbor was heard complaining about the number of dogs in our building. His comments seem strange, seeing that he once had a dog himself and was often seen petting the dogs of other owners. “Be tolerant of him,” whispered another neighbor. “He just stopped drinking and has the bad mood that goes along with alcohol withdrawal.”
The woman who came to see me for weight loss, let’s call her Ann, was about 40 pounds overweight and frustrated, in her words, by, “…a lifetime of weight loss followed by weight gain.” Her problem, she thought, was that when she felt hungry she liked to eat protein because it filled her up. But then she still wanted to eat carbohydrates even though she was full from the protein.