Pharmacist Doug Weighs in on Antihistamines

Antihistamines are very useful and are designed to be used on a very temporary basis for people suffering from allergies to pollen, dust, animal dander, etc..In the pharmacy. I will often briefly remind patients of typical side effects, i.e. drowsiness, dry mouth, trouble urinating, blurred vision, restlessness or moodiness just to name a few. But, there is a side effect we don't usually spend too much time on- weight gain. In fact, there is one antihistamine (cyproheptadine) that is used to promote weight gain. 

THE RESEARCH: There are a couple of publications, (NHANES-2005-2006 and Yale University 2010) one survey and one study, that shows a strong association with antihistamine use and obesity and heavier weighing persons as compared to people who didn't take antihistamines at all. Effects were more pronounced in male subjects. 

The Yale researchers theorize that histamines can reduce the appetite so if you block or counter histamines with an antihistamine, then hunger is increased (according to studies done in mice). Another possible theory is that antihistamines aggressively dry your mouth and thirst is often mistaken for hunger possibly leading to overeating. 

Alternatives: H2O, Vitamin C complex (the combo of vitamin C in its natural food environment with bioflavonoids and photo-nutrients like hesperidin, quercetin and rutin). There are some supplements made in this way as well. Also, some homeopathic preparations help with desensitizing your body to the things you are allergic to. This works like allergy shots or vaccinations.

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