Pain Can Add Pounds!

Published: September 17, 2012

Manage Your Pain and Take Off Unwanted Weight Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, tells how in his new book Pain Free 1-2-3!


ANNAPOLIS, MD, Spring 2006 – As if living with chronic pain weren’t hard enough, one common yet unexpected side effect is major weight gain. According to a recent study on the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, patients with the disease gained an average of thirty-two unwanted pounds.

“For a person in constant pain, the weight gain adds insult to injury—it’s like kicking them while they’re down,” says board certified internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, lead author of the research study and a new book Pain Free 1-2-3: A Proven Program for Eliminating Chronic Pain Now! (McGraw-Hill, April 2006). “The major culprit causing the fat infusion is stress—both physical and emotional—that’s connected to the pain condition. Pain can set off a metabolic chain reaction that results in weight gain, and the growing imbalances in the body feed back and further aggravate the pain. While it seems unfair, there’s a cure.”

Dr. Teitelbaum, Director of the Center for Effective Fibromyalgia/CFIDS Therapies, has treated patients with Fibromyalgia (FMS) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for over 28 years. “These patients experience such a stress overload that the major circuit breaker in their brain, the hypothalamus, goes haywire . We have learned valuable lessons from these seriously ill patients for normalizing weight in other pain patients and in the overall population,” says Dr. Teitelbaum.

According to Dr. Teitelbaum, key factors contributing to weight gain are summarized in the acronym S.H.I.N., viz., Lack of Sleep, Hormonal Imbalances, Chronic Infections and Improper Nutrition.

  1. Lack of sleep. Deep sleep is a cornerstone of healing and a major trigger for growth hormone production. Growth hormone stimulates production of muscle (which burns fat) and improves insulin sensitivity (which decreases the tendency to make fat). Most people need a good eight or nine hours of sleep each night, but pain patients are usually deficient in restful slumber. Missing deep sleep is a serious contributor to chronic pain, fatigue, poor vitality and obesity. Dr. Teitelbaum recommends Ambien as the best all-purpose prescription sleep med, and others like Klonopin, which may be useful for serious pain and restless leg syndrome. Natural remedies, which may be safer, include Revitalizing Sleep Formula especially when used in combination with End Pain; and calcium, magnesium, 5-HTP, and/or melatonin may do the trick.
  2. Not enough exercise (or sex). The other two main triggers for growth hormone production are exercise and sex. Optimal results come from exercise routines implemented three or four times a week. (Along these lines, a study showed that people who have sex at least three times a week look ten years younger than those who don’t.) While exercise may be difficult for people with pain, even a short walk and stretching during the day can have a beneficial effect.
  3. Hypothyroidism. In November 2002, the American Academy of Clinical Endocrinology redefined the normal range for the TSH blood test and consequently 13 million more Americans qualified as having hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, even with this update, our current blood tests still miss millions of Americans who suffer with hypothyroidism. Research shows that over 75% of hypothyroid patients are undiagnosed or getting inadequate treatment! In addition, the most common medication used to treat hypothyroidism (Synthroid) is ineffective or inadequately effective in a large percentage of patients. As long as thyroid function is inadequate, it will be nearly impossible to keep weight down. Low thyroid is quite often accompanied by chronic fatigue, aches and pains. Dr. Teitelbaum recommends natural thyroid hormone preparations, such as Armour Thyroid, which contain active T3 and T4.
  4. Adrenal exhaustion. The adrenal gland is the body’s stress handler and was meant to release cortisol and adrenaline in times of rare dire stress—e.g., in the days of the caveman, in response to a saber tooth tiger. Today, however, we set off the “fight or flight” reaction dozens if not hundreds of times a day. This can result in exhaustion of the adrenal gland. Since the adrenal gland also maintains blood sugar levels in the time of stress, adrenal exhaustion can precipitate episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If you have periods where you feel like somebody better feed you NOW or you’re going to kill them, you are likely hypoglycemic and would benefit from adrenal support. Other symptoms of inadequate adrenal function include emotionally and physically crashing during stress, low blood pressure, and dizziness when first standing. Unfortunately, people crave sugar and eat more than they normally would when they are hypoglycemic. This leads to further weight gain.
  5. Yeast overgrowth. Clinical experience has shown that fungal overgrowth (also known as Candida or yeast) contributes to both sugar cravings and weight gain. Although we do not know the mechanism for this, we have repeatedly seen that excess weight drops off once this overgrowth is treated and eliminated. The main causes of fungal overgrowth are excess sugar intake and antibiotic use. Yeast grows by fermenting sugar and requires an area that is warm, dark, and moist. This means that your gut is an ideal environment for fungal overgrowth. As the standard American diet is high in processed foods and fats, and includes approximately 150 pounds of sugar per person per year, it is easy to see why this is a problem. The main symptoms of yeast overgrowth are chronic sinusitis and spastic colon (gas, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation). The good news is that treating this condition will not just help you lose weight but can also eliminate your spastic colon and sinusitis.

“Today we have the knowledge to treat pain and stem the stress factors that can contribute to unwanted weight gain,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “The recommendations above don’t just apply to pain sufferers, but to everyone seeking better health, vitality and lasting youthfulness.”

About Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD is a board certified internist and Director of the Center for Effective Fibromyalgia/CFIDS Therapies. Having suffered with and overcome these illnesses in 1975, he spent the next 28 years developing, researching, and teaching about effective therapies. He sees CFIDS/Fibromyalgia/chronic pain patients from all over the world at his Annapolis clinic and lectures internationally. Dr. Teitelbaum is also the author of the perennial best-seller From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery Penguin Putnam) and the newly published Pain Free 1-2-3—A Proven Program for Eliminating Chronic Pain Now! (McGraw-Hill, April 2006).

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. His newest book (June 10, 2024) is You Can Heal From Long COVID. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

e-mail icon
Facebook icon
Twitter icon
Google icon
LinkedIn icon