Health Magazine

Hormone Therapy, Weight Gain, Diet Products

Posted on the 01 February 2015 by Jean Campbell


As a two-time taker of hormone therapies to prevent a recurrence of breast cancer, I can attest to the fact that weight gain on these medications is an issue for many of us. I gained over 30 pounds during the five years I took Tamoxifen and 12 pounds in the six months I was on Arimidex before having to come off it. I saw a nutritionist, watched and measured everything I put in my mouth, and still gained weight. I also walked two miles every day, rain or shine.

I never had a weight problem prior to breast cancer; dieting was a new and unpleasant experience for me.

It is hard not to get discouraged as you watch yourself grow out of your favorite clothes, especially if you are trying to cope with some of the other side effects of taking hormone therapies.

Some of us, while on a hormone therapy, are tempted to reach for weight loss products to help in losing weight; not a good idea. First, and foremost, if you are on a hormone therapy, you need to be followed by a medical oncologist. This is the person you need to run all your medications by, including supplements. The oncologist needs to sign off on what you are taking to insure there is no conflict with what you are taking as a hormone therapy.

You also need to consider what the Federal Drug Administration has to say about these products.

The FDA has found hundreds of products that are marketed as dietary supplements but actually contain hidden active ingredients (components that make a medicine effective against a specific illness) contained in prescription drugs, unsafe ingredients that were in drugs that have been removed from the market, or compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans.

For example, FDA has found weight-loss products tainted with the prescription drug ingredient sibutramine. This ingredient was in an FDA-approved drug called Meridia, which was removed from the market in October 2010 because it caused heart problems and strokes.

Most recently, FDA has found a number of products marketed as dietary supplements containing fluoxetine, the active ingredient found in Prozac, a prescription drug marketed for the treatment of depression and other conditions. Another product contained triamterene, a powerful diuretic (sometimes known as “water pills”) that can have serious side-effects and should only be used under the supervision of a health care professional.

Many of these tainted products are imported, sold online, and heavily promoted on social media sites. Some can also be found on store shelves.

And if you’re about to take what you think of as “natural” dietary supplements, such as bee pollen or Garcinia cambogia, you should be aware that FDA has found some of these products also contain hidden active ingredients contained in prescription drugs.

The FDA has issued over 30 public notifications and recalled 7 tainted weight loss products in 2014. The agency also has issued warning letters, seized products, and criminally prosecuted people responsible for marketing these illegal diet products. In addition, FDA maintains an online list of tainted weight-loss products.

Unfortunately, some of us will continue to carry more weight during our time on hormone therapy; however, working with a nutritionist and working out regularly will help to keep the weight gain manageable. After five years on Tamoxifen, I went on a diet and took off 20 of the 30 lbs. I gained.

As my oncologist so aptly put it when I complained about the weight gain I was experiencing in my early days on hormone therapy, “Would you rather be chubby and here, or skinny and dead?” His statement put the situation in perspective.


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