The Pulse of Oriental Medicine:
Let me tell you the story of a natural health practitioner, and effexor weight gain.
If you didn't know, effexor is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for depression and anxiety.
Now, I know that your typical so-called 'expert' would just talk about how it works in general, maybe for a patient or something. Retain that sense of objective expertise, being above it all.
But I'm not your typical expert. I like to tell the truth about myself. ;-)
The typical natural health expert would never take such a medication. If they did, they'd be thought of as a failure, perhaps not properly committed to their natural health regimen.
Indeed I resisted the idea. I wasn't depressed- I wasn't anxious... I was just frustrated. Really frustrated. Often.
In retrospect, I think the real question was not 'do you have these symptoms?' but 'is the best solution for your symptoms a drug?'
True, my principles of health are that you should fix your diet, make sure you're exercising, etc. first. Then try herbs and acupuncture. Then if that doesn't work, try medication or surgery or whatever. Start with the sensible, safe options first.
But the real issue was I wanted marital happiness. I didn't want my frustration to make me continue to be argumentative with my wife. I was willing, for the sake of my marriage, to try a psychiatric medication like effexor.
Not only that, but I was genuinely curious whether it might do something for my lifelong struggle with not-exactly-ADD-but-something-like-it... because effexor can affect both serotonin and dopamine levels.
I had good reasons, I thought, and had considered well, I thought, before entering into this effexor experiment.
So, I started taking it, and everything seemed fine. I actually seemed to be a nicer guy, maybe... But I wasn't sure.
Did you know memory is state-dependent?
That means that if you're in the state of Utah... no just kidding.
It means that you may be in one state of mind watching something or talking about something, then when you're in another state of mind later, you may not recall it exactly-
So it was hard to remember how I had felt when I wasn't on effexor. Weird.
We went up to 150mg, just cuz. Just cuz maybe it would work even better.
I became that incredible workaholic. You know, in a capitalist economy, your real value is as a worker, so anything that can increase your work output is good- the government would like to sponsor that, right?
I was doing 16-18 hour days working on my website... made a bunch of money, too, but then I got effexor weight gain. Ouch.
Look, I was 31, 5'6", and I had weighed about 125 lbs for 10 years. I was slim, a rock climber. I played basketball. I was skinny... wiry. I didn't have any fat.
Not anymore! I was craving all kinds of sugar- drinking 5 to 8 cans of Coca-cola per day (in addition to my morning coffee and maybe a Red Bull)- eating Krispy Kreme donuts...
...and darn it if I didn't develop heartburn! Plus I got a belly and love handles.
I knew I was being an idiot. I knew the heartburn came from all the sugar. But I wasn't sure- it could have been an effexor side effect.
But I was concerned about the effexor weight gain. And not just for aesthetic reasons (in fact, being a bit chunky gave me a bit more humility and compassion). Let me explain why.
There are different types of weight gain, some more harmless than others. Some more dangerous than others.
What they call 'truncal weight gain', or weight gain only in the trunk, is typical of diabetes. It's the kind of weight gain that goes along with blood sugar and insulin problems.
And coincidentally, I was imbibing quite a bit of sugar.
This particular effexor side effect seemed a bit ominous- not a lot of diabetes in my family (only my grandma and only in her 80's), but there's more than diabetes involved- it could be Syndrome X, which is insulin-resistance, similar to diabetes. Whatever it was, it wasn't good.
Even weirder, I got some effexor withdrawal symptoms whenever I cut back on my sugar.
You know that weird effexor brain shiver, or brain buzz? It's impossible to describe, because it's like nothing you've ever experienced- it's a little like the vertigo-ish WAHWAH you get when you have a fever and move too fast- it's not too much fun.
Other effexor withdrawal symptoms I got included:
I seemed to be more sensitive to changes in effexor level (like if I took the next dose a few hours late) the more sugar I was imbibing.
Well, I started seeing a new psychiatrist who might have some better answers- and long story short, I'm coming off the effexor now.
For me, the secrets to avoiding effexor withdrawal symptoms have been to cut way back on the sugar (I'm eating higher protein lower carb foods) and take lots of hot baths.
Hot baths always help me ;-) They're one of my primary therapies for fatigue, tension, cold and flu's...
I'm down to 37.5 mg now and going all the way off within a week. It's been a crazy ride.
And already the effexor weight gain is disappearing.
My wife (also an acupuncturist) has had patients on effexor who went off it and lost all their weight once they were totally off. Well, not all their weight- but if you had some mysterious weight gain on effexor and you go off it, there's a good chance it will disappear.
Now- the NECESSARY CAUTION- I'm not saying go off your effexor, because if you need it, the effexor weight gain may be a necessary compromise. Some people who need psychiatric medications badly can become suicidal or go into a 2 week long depression without it.
So do work with a psychiatrist- take their advice.
Also, know that there are many kinds of psychiatrists- some just go by what the DSM-IVR and drug package inserts say- others take a more scientific, neurochemical approach.
You can't totally get rid of the DSM-IVR, because it's the best they have, but a really good psychiatrist is going to look deeper at the neurochemical effects of the drug and at your personal neurochemical profile.
It's still a partnership- so work with a good one that will help you personally, and keep you safe.
Back to me- the fact is, as I've described elsewhere, I'm a wood type- I'm competitive, strategic, focused... I'm going to get frustrated- but I have many non-drug tools I can use to work on that which, quite honestly, I haven't been using.
If I had been totally honest with myself at the outset of the effexor experience, I would have first:
And that's where I'm back to now- sometimes we have problems that can be fixed without drugs- and as is obvious from my experience with effexor side effects, and the experience of countless Americans who are convinced by doctors and TV to try various drugs, medications are not always the answer.
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