Prednisone and Weight Changes

by on April 18, 2012

Among the common side effects of prednisone, weight changes are the most apparent as well as most disturbing. Likewise, long-term use of prednisone can cause a redistribution of fat to the back of the neck, face and abdomen, although these side effects may not be evident in some patients. Generally speaking, the longer the duration of the treatment and the higher the dose, the greater the changes.

Weight gain during prednisone treatment is related to two factors: increased calorie intake due to increased appetite and fluid retention. In some cases, the medical condition of the patient can compound the weight changes.

Rapid weight loss may occur as part of withdrawal symptoms if your discontinue treatment with Prednisone abruptly after long-term use.

How to manage weight gain related to prednisone use?

Watch out your caloric intake

Prednisone can significantly increase the appetite of the patient hence an increase in caloric intake. Because of the chemical changes within the body, controlling this increased appetite is quite difficult. Here are some tips on how to manage the amount of calories that you take:

  • Eat small, frequent meals that are nutritious.
  • Add fibers in your diet and reduce carbohydrate consumption.
  • Choose high quality carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid fatty and cholesterol-rich foods.
  • Include in your diet foods with high calcium content such as sardines, cheese, milk, shrimp and yoghurt. Prednisone affects the body’s ability to absorb and consume calcium.

Prevent fluid retention

Prednisone has a salt-retaining property hence it can cause fluid retention. In order to avoid fluid retention, you must follow a low sodium, high potassium diet (sodium intake must not exceed 2,000 mg per day). This means you should avoid taking too salty foods and foods that are known to have high sodium content.

Here are some foods you should AVOID when taking prednisone:

  • Table salt, baking powder, and baking soda
  • Soy sauce, salad dressings, and other sauces
  • Processed or canned goods
  • Ham, bacon, hot dogs and other cured meats
  • Pizza and burger
  • Salty snacks or corn chips
  • French fries and potato chips
  • Pickled foods

On the other hand, you should ADD potassium-rich foods in your diet such as:

  • Milk
  • Tomato
  • Baked potatoes
  • Dried prunes
  • Apricots
  • Grapefruit
  • Orange juice, oranges
  • Yoghurt
  • Lima beans
  • Raisins
  • Cantaloupe

Increase physical activity

As much as possible, you should maintain your physical activity. Discuss with your healthcare provider what physical exercises you can engage in given your medical condition. Simple daily exercises such as brisk walking, jogging or swimming can help burn excess calorie and prevent weight gain associated with prednisone. Furthermore, daily exercises are beneficial to your overall health and wellbeing.