Does venlafaxine cause loss of appetite? (+5 tips)
In this article, we will discuss the effects of venlafaxine on appetite. We will look at the mechanism through which venlafaxine impacts the appetite of patients. We will consider some facts that influence the loss of appetite caused by venlafaxine.
Does venlafaxine cause loss of appetite?
Yes, Venlafaxine can cause loss of appetite. Venlafaxine is an SNRI antidepressant that is used in the treatment of depression and anxiety. It is accompanied by some side effects among which loss of appetite is a common side effect.
Loss of appetite by venlafaxine is a common side effect reported by many patients. However, the severity of this side effect may vary from person to person and may affect patients varyingly.
Loss of appetite can be due to venlafaxine-associated gastrointestinal effects. Venlafaxine has an impact on mood regulation and therefore, can alter appetite based on various factors.
What does research suggest?
Based on research studies, it is observed that venlafaxine has a profound effect in reducing appetite in patients. This medication is given to some patients for a reduction in overeating and binge-eating disorders.
One such study claims that venlafaxine was given to overweight and obese patients who were suffering from severe binge-eating disorders. To examine the effectiveness of Venlafaxine 35 overweight patients were included in this research study (1).
Clinical treatment in these 35 patients with venlafaxine displayed that these patients showed exemplary changes. The body mass index, weight, and waist circumference, of these patients were observed which were statistically reduced (1).
Venlafaxine was well-tolerated in these patients with binge-eating disorders and was observed to reduce their symptoms. Therefore, it can be stated that venlafaxine is associated with reducing appetite and has proven to be an effective treatment for obese patients with bing-eating disorders (1).
How does venlafaxine cause loss of appetite?
There may be many possible mechanisms by which venlafaxine causes a reduction in appetite in patients. Based on the mechanism of action of venlafaxine, it inhibits the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, altering the mood of patients and ultimately affecting their appetite (2).
As serotonin and norepinephrine are associated with altering and uplifting the moods of a person and venlafaxine alters the levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain. Hence having a direct effect on the patient’s appetite.
Venlafaxine is also associated with causing various gastrointestinal side effects in patients such as stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting which can contribute to a reduced appetite of the patient taking venlafaxine (2).
Individual patient variation also plays a major role in reducing a patient’s appetite. Some patients may experience a drastic change in their appetite due to their metabolism and response to the medication while others may not experience any such side effects.
What to do if venlafaxine causes loss of appetite?
Contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms of extreme weight loss and reduced appetite after initiating your treatment with venlafaxine.
Your doctor may change your medication dosage or may advise you to change your medication timing. Your doctor may also reduce the drug dosage if it is severely affecting your appetite and weight.
Your doctor may suggest eating healthy meals and keeping track of your nutrients because a reduction in appetite may lead to malnutrition. You must keep yourself well-hydrated and make sure to incorporate healthy meals and nutrient supplements into your diet.
It is important to contact your doctor and visit them for regular follow-ups. In case of any adversities, do not stop taking the medication without consulting your healthcare provider because venlafaxine may cause withdrawal symptoms if discontinued abruptly.
How to avoid unhealthy weight loss while taking venlafaxine?
Below are some tips to avoid unhealthy weight loss due to venlafaxine which may result in an improved appetite.
- Prefer nutrient-dense foods- Always prefer nutrient rich foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables over junk and nutrient-deficient foods.
- Opt for healthy snacking- Choose healthy snacking between meals such as nuts, fruits, yogurt, and fresh fruits. Such snacks are heavy on nutrition and light on stomach.
- Choose liquid calories- Consider taking liquid calories if consuming proper solid foods is difficult. Incorporate protein and fruit shakes into your diet which not only meets the nutritional requirements but also keeps your stomach full.
- Take small and frequent meals- Instead of a few large meals during the day, start taking small yet frequent meals throughout the day as it becomes a lot more manageable to consume the right amount of calories this way.
- Include multivitamin supplements- If nutritional needs are not met with food alone, then you should incorporate multivitamin supplements into your diet.
- Stay well-hydrated- Since consuming calories becomes crucial, you should keep yourself well-hydrated as it helps in improving overall health.
What are the alternatives to venlafaxine if it affects your appetite?
Some alternate antidepressants that can replace venlafaxine if it induces disturbing weight loss are (3):
- Tricyclic antidepressants (Amitriptyline and nortriptyline)- These two drugs have the highest tendency to induce weight gain among other antidepressants.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (Phenelzine)- this drug may adversely increase weight. However, careful monitoring is required if this medication is being used to induce weight gain.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Paroxetine and citalopram)- SSRIs are the safest antidepressant options to switch if venlafaxine is affecting your appetite. However, taking these drugs for weight gain also requires careful monitoring.
- Atypical antidepressant (Mirtazapine)- This medication is also known to induce weight gain in both the long and short term.
These are some alternate antidepressant medications that can be used instead of venlafaxine if it is severely reducing your appetite. However, do not start any of these medications without consulting your doctor.
The above-mentioned drugs all are prescription medications and you need careful monitoring and guidance before starting any of these drugs to improve your appetite.
What are some other common side effects of venlafaxine?
Some other common side effects associated with venlafaxine include (2,4):
- Changes in taste
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Dry mouth
- Hot flashes or flushing
- Sexual problems in males and females
- Night sweating
- Frequent urination
Some adverse effects associated with venlafaxine are (2,4):
- Chest pain
- Rash and itching
- Blurred vision
- Serotonin syndrome
- Abnormal bleeding
- Altered platelet functioning
There is an FDA black box warning with venlafaxine use regarding increased suicidality (2). Therefore, careful monitoring and management is required while taking venlafaxine due to its association with several side effects which could cause harmful consequences.
Based on the discussion in the article above, it can be concluded that venlafaxine does have an impact on the appetite of patients. In my opinion, venlafaxine affects patients differently and can cause changes in appetite in patients as a common side effect.
Therefore, careful monitoring and regular follow-ups are required in patients taking venlafaxine due to its gastrointestinal side effects followed by a reduction in the appetite.
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Malhotra S, King KH, Welge JA, Brusman-Lovins L, McElroy SL. Venlafaxine treatment of binge-eating disorder associated with obesity: a series of 35 patients. J Clin Psychiatry. 2002 Sep;63(9):802-6. doi: 10.4088/jcp.v63n0909. PMID: 12363121. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12363121/
Singh D, Saadabadi A. Venlafaxine. [Updated 2022 Oct 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535363/
Gill, H., Gill, B., El‐Halabi, S., Chen‐Li, D., Lipsitz, O., Rosenblat, J. D., … Mcintyre, R. S. (2020). Antidepressant Medications and Weight Change: A Narrative Review. Obesity. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.22969
AHFS Patient Medication Information [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc.; c2019. Venlafaxine; [updated 2020 Jun 24; reviewed 2018 Jul 5; cited 2020 Jul 1]; [about 5 p.]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a694020.html