When Solu-Medrol Causes Weight Gain

Ways to Trim Your Risk of Putting On Pounds With This MS Drug

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If you have one of the relapsing-remitting forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), you may have needed to to be treated with a medication called Solu-Medrol (methylprednisolone). This is a corticosteroid that's given through a vein to treat symptoms of a relapse.

Solu-Medrol can be almost miraculously and swiftly effective. But for some people this relief comes at a price, in the form of side effects including anxiety, acne, and increases in blood sugar levels, to name a few. Most of these go away pretty soon after the drug clears from the body—with one exception. Some folks tend to gain weight while on Solu-Medrol, extra pounds that tend to linger after the treatment is long over.

Why Solu-Medrol Causes Weight Gain

Although there've been plenty of anecdotal complaints about weight gain from people who've been treated with Solu-Medrol , there isn't enough scientific data to report it as a significant side effect. The lack of data is just a reflection of the fact that putting on weight is more a bothersome problem than a serious medical one, and so scientists studying the drug haven't focused on it.

There are some theories about why Solu-Medrol may cause some people to plump up though. Because the drug is a corticosteroid, one possibility is it stimulates the appetite—and the hungrier you feel, the more you're more likely to eat. Another hypothesis is that stomach pain sometimes caused by Solu-Medrol triggers people to eat more in an effort to ease discomfort. Extra weight from Solu-Medrol also may be caused by water retention.

In rare cases, corticosteroids have been known to cause some people to develop a rare hormonal disorder called Cushing's syndrome. This condition leads to deposits of fat in the upper body and abdomen and can make the face look plump and rounded. This is more likely to happen to someone who takes small doses of corticosteroids over an extended period—oral prednisone to treat asthma, for example—than for someone with MS who has to take large infrequent doses given for relapses.

How to Avoid Putting on Pounds

Gaining weight should be the least of your worries while being treated with Solu-Medrol, so just in case you're one the folks who might be prone to it while taking steroids, following these commonsense tips may help you avoid having to cope with any major changes on the scale.

  • Steer clear of sodium. Salty items like pizza, bread, lunch meats, soups, and processed foods can contribute to fluid retention and bloating.
  • If you feel you need to nosh more than usual, reach for low-calories snacks. That way you may be able to eat a bit more to satisfy the cravings without tipping the scale.
  • Eat small, frequent meals.
  • Don't skimp on protein and enjoy small amounts of healthy fats, like avocados and nuts. These types of food will help you feel full longer and help curb your appetite.
  • Keep moving: Just an extra half hour or so of walking each day burns calories—and provides s mental boost as well.
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Article Sources

  • Chrousos GA, Kattah JC, Beck RW & Cleary PA. Side effects of glucocorticoid treatment. Experience of the Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial. JAMA. 1993 Apr 28;269(16):2110-2.
  • Lyons PR, Newman PK, Saunders M. Methylprednisolone therapy in multiple sclerosis: a profile of adverse effects. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1988;51:285-287.