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How to Avoid Weight Gain on Gabapentin

How to Avoid Weight Gain on Gabapentin

Gabapentin and weight gain: not a fun mix. Unfortunately, weight gain is a common side effect of many medications.

From a fluctuation in hormones to water retention to changes in appetite, drugs like gabapentin can cause some unwanted weight gain. That’s why our Palm Springs drug rehab also incorporates healthy and nutritional meals in patients’ treatment plans. If you’ve started taking this medication for a condition, are recovering from an addiction, or will begin this treatment soon, here are some tips on how to avoid weight gain on gabapentin and maintain your health.

Why Does Gabapentin Cause Weight Gain?

Neurontin or gabapentin is a prescription medication used to treat seizures and postherpetic neuralgia, a type of nerve pain that can occur after a shingles attack. Although this medication effectively treats these conditions, like other drugs, gabapentin can also have some unwanted side effects like weight gain.

While weight gain is a rare side effect of gabapentin, it still happens. In fact, weight gain from gabapentin only occurs in around 2% of patients.1 However, weight gain is not to be confused with peripheral edema, which is a swelling in the legs caused by a build-up of fluids. This occurs in around 8% of patients taking gabapentin.1

Gabapentin may cause weight gain by increasing your appetite, causing fluid retention, and inhibiting physical activity by causing fatigue. Because gabapentin is an anticonvulsant, it prevents seizures and nerve pain by reducing nerve activity in the central nervous system. As a result, side effects like sedation, drowsiness, and fatigue may occur, making it difficult to find the energy to exercise.

Tips on How to Avoid Weight Gain on Gabapentin

Whether you want to learn how to lose weight on gabapentin or lose weight after taking gabapentin, below are some practical tips that can help. However, keep in mind weight loss is different for everyone. These are just general tips that can contribute to weight loss, but other factors that may affect this process include age, metabolism rate, and any underlying conditions. Always speak to your doctor about losing weight or making any other changes related to your medication.

Talk to Your Doctor About Switching Medications

If you notice that gabapentin has made it difficult for you to maintain your weight or has caused you to gain weight, one possible solution is switching to a different medication. However, do not do this without speaking to your doctor. If you have an issue with any medications, always go directly to your doctor and discuss other options.

If you can’t switch from gabapentin to another medication, then your doctor may have some tips on how to stay healthy. Our other tips below can also help.

Talk to Your Doctor About Lowering Your Dose

In some cases, it’s also possible to lower the dose of the medication and still feel relief from symptoms. Again, this is not something you should do on a whim. Reducing your doses without consulting a doctor first can cause your symptoms to return or worsen. Like we previously mentioned, be sure to speak to your doctor about making any changes to your medications.

Limit Food Portion Sizes

Like medications like corticosteroids and certain antidepressants, gabapentin stimulates your appetite, making you feel hungry more often. As a result, you may eat more than usual. And if you don’t adjust your eating habits or exercise, you may gain some weight.

As you're taking gabapentin, or even after you’ve stopped taking it or switched to a different medication, a great way to lose and maintain your weight is to limit your food portions. You can also speak to a dietitian about incorporating foods into your diet that will help you feel fuller for longer periods so you can avoid overeating.

Drink Water Before Meals

Sometimes, when we want that midnight snack or to snack on something “just because,” that hunger that we think we feel is actually thirst. If you were hungry, you’d feel a pang in your stomach, or your stomach may gurgle and rumble. But if you’re feeling sluggish, then water can help.

Water can also help you maintain and lose weight when you drink it before eating anything. Again, sometimes our hunger is just thirst, and drinking water before a meal can help prevent overeating. It also fills your stomach up a bit, which can help with portion control.

Avoid Refined Sugars

Refined or added sugars are in so many foods that it can be difficult to manage how much sugar you eat in a day. Added sugars are items (including, but not limited to, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, syrup, or honey) that are added to foods and beverages during preparation to make them taste sweeter.

Although these sugars are chemically indistinguishable from naturally occurring sugars, they aren’t natural, and they’re often excessively added to foods and drinks. As you may be aware, eating too much sugar increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and weight gain.

Eating too many refined sugars causes weight gain for a variety of reasons. For one, they’re empty calories, meaning they are neither nutritional nor satisfying enough to keep you full for long periods. As a result, you may eat larger portions and more frequently than what is healthy.

Added sugars also spike your blood sugar levels. Constant, elevated blood sugar levels can cause a condition called hyperglycemia, which contributes to weight gain by promoting insulin resistance. When insulin resistance occurs, your cells become resistant to its effects and instead store the sugar as fat, causing weight gain.

If you want to cut down on added sugars to lose weight, some foods to avoid include candy, pastries, sodas, juices, and sugary cereals. While having a treat every once in a while isn’t horrible, constantly eating too much sugar is unhealthy.

Exercise Regularly

Because gabapentin relaxes the nervous system, people taking it may feel tired often. This can make it difficult to find the energy and motivation needed to be active and exercise. However, exercise can contribute to weight loss through fat-burning and increasing your metabolism; it also alleviates stress and improves mood by releasing endorphins.

If you’re looking to lose weight during or after taking gabapentin, try to exercise for at least 30 to 40 minutes every day or at least four times a week. Be sure to pick an enjoyable activity, so you’re more likely to maintain the habit. This can include anything from daily walks around your neighborhood to yoga to spinning classes.

Avoid Alcohol

Most medications aren’t safe to take with alcohol, and mixing gabapentin and alcohol is not an exception. However, even if it is safe to take with alcohol, most alcoholic drinks contain a lot of carbohydrates and empty calories that can increase your appetite, spike your blood sugar levels, and cause weight gain. So, to stay safe, avoid alcohol while taking gabapentin.

Eat More Protein

Having a healthy amount of protein in your diet helps you lose weight, maintain it, and it helps you develop a healthier relationship with food. Protein boosts metabolism, reduces your appetite, keeps you fuller longer, and regulates hormones that play a role in weight regulation.

Your weight is regulated by the hypothalamus, a brain region that coordinates the autonomic nervous system and the pituitary gland. Specifically, it plays a role in functions like hunger, thirst, and body temperature.

Hormones also play a big role in our hunger and satiation from eating. Eating more protein increases appetite-reducing hormones (GLP-1, peptide YY, and cholecystokinin) while reducing the levels of ghrelin, a hormone that contributes to the feeling of hunger.2

Protein also helps you burn more calories, even during sleeping. It boosts your metabolism, enabling it to burn more calories for longer periods. One study even found that eating a high protein diet increased calories burned by 260 per day, making weight loss easier.3


Lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain for a variety of reasons. Maybe you tend to rely more on sweet lattes to get yourself through the day. Or maybe you’re too tired to exercise or cook dinner, causing you to order take-out and then go to bed later because you’re too full.

Scientifically, a lack of sleep also inhibits the brain's frontal lobe from working properly, affecting our decision-making and impulse control. So basically, a lack of sleep increases our chances of making poor decisions, like ordering out instead of making a healthy dinner at home.

Additionally, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body spikes your cortisol levels. This is a stress hormone that tells your body to conserve energy. When your cortisol levels are spiked, this also means that you’re more likely to hold onto fat.

Speak to a Therapist

Finally, many people don’t consider the emotional ties that we often have to food. When we eat something delicious that brings us joy, it activates the release of dopamine. This makes the brain think, “Hey, we should keep doing that,” encouraging this repeated behavior.

An emotional attachment to food can also contribute to weight gain and unhealthy eating patterns. So, another great tip would be to speak to a therapist or dietician about your eating habits, why you eat certain things, and how to create healthier habits.

Gabapentin Addiction Treatment

Gabapentin, while not as addictive as other drugs, does have the potential for abuse and dependence. What’s more, weight gain can also occur due to chronic gabapentin abuse, adding to the list of other possible dangers.

As a Palm Springs, California drug rehab that offers prescription drug addiction treatment, we’re familiar with all the challenges associated with recovery. From medically monitored detox to healthy meals, our specialists are trained to administer the most effective form of addiction care possible.

If you’ve become addicted to gabapentin or any other drug or alcohol, Banyan Treatment Centers can help. Call us today at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our California drug treatment programs and the amenities offered at our facility.

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Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
How to Avoid Weight Gain on Gabapentin
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