Why Does Prednisone Make You Gain Weight?

Weight gain is a side effect of prednisone.
Weight gain is a side effect of prednisone. (Image: "ClearRx prescription bottles" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: bartificial (Bart) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

If you have a medical condition such as an autoimmune disorder, arthritis or breathing problems, your physician may have prescribed a medication known as prednisone to help relieve your symptoms. Unfortunately, the relief that prednisone has to offer may sometimes be overshadowed by side effects such as weight gain.

What is Prednisone?

Prednisone is a synthetic, prescription medication that has anti-inflammatory properties. According to Drugs.com, prednisone is part of a class of medications known as corticosteroids, which are capable of suppressing the immune system. Prednisone usually is only prescribed for short periods at a time.

Fat Redistribution

A known side effect of prednisone is fat redistribution. Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center reports that this fat-redistribution process often relocates fat to the face, neck, abdomen and the back. When the fat is redistributed to the back of the neck, it can create what is known as a “fat pad.. The fat pad is not dangerous and often subsides when the medication is tapered.

How Much?

Prednisone affects everyone differently, and the amount of weight that can be gained while taking the drug varies. Weight gain is usually dependent on dosage prescribed and the length of time that the prednisone is taken. According to Daily Strength.org, treatment with prednisone can potentially yield between 4.4 and 28.6 pounds of extra weight per year.

The Lowest Dose Possible

Prednisone is actually a manufactured form of the hormone, cortisol, that is found naturally in the body. Excess amounts of cortisol can lead to unwanted side effects that can include appetite stimulation and weight gain. For this reason, Med-Solver.com explains that when administered orally, the lowest dose possible should always be prescribed by a physician.

Better Your Chances of Not Gaining Weight

GiHealth.com reports that there are a few things that you can do to better your chances of not gaining weight. Avoiding the use of excessive amounts of salt is important because prednisone can cause your body to retain water. The addition of potassium-rich foods to your diet can also help to relieve water retention. Lowering your intake of fats, carbohydrates and fast-food is also helpful. You may also want to think about eating smaller meals, more frequently over the course of the day. Doing so can help knock out excess hunger pangs and snack cravings.

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