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Steroid Dangers and How to Get Off Steroid Drugs

June 16, 2011 · 16 comments

Question:

I am taking prednisone for a health condition but do not like the side effects. What do you think about taking adrenal cortex extract instead and which brand do you recommend?

Answer (by Tom Cowan – this excerpt is from the WestonAPrice.org site):

Let me widen your question a bit to make it more general for our readers. That is, what is the best approach to weaning one’s self from the long-term use of prednisone and other steroid drugs? Interestingly, about 10-20 percent of the new patients who come to see me have this very concern. These can be people with a wide variety of complaints from asthma (steroid inhalers), rheumatoid arthritis (often maintained on long-term prednisone), colitis (usually they are using cortisone enemas), skin rashes (usually long-term topical cortisone preparations), polymyalgia rheumatica, lupus, many kidney diseases, and so on.

The initial reaction of these patients to the use of these medicines was nothing short of miraculous — pains vanish, bloody diarrhea clears up, and difficult skin problems melt away.

Unfortunately, for most people this is the classic Faustian bargain. For within a short time, not only do the original symptoms return, necessitating higher doses, but the side effects of cortisone begin to show up.

The side effects of cortisone, prednisone, and similar drugs are legendary.

They include diabetes, osteoporosis, edema of the face, mood swings, stomach ulcers and, very importantly, adrenal suppression. In other words, your own adrenal glands shut off their production of these valuable hormones. Why not, since they essentially have been “told” by the prednisone that the adrenals are no longer needed. This bargain, then, becomes a nightmare as the effectiveness of the drugs wears off, side effects become more serious and the patient is unable to stop taking the medication. Of all the tragic situations I have dealt with in my practice, this all-too-common occurrence stands at the top of the list. What are we to do? The first answer is to recognize that by definition, if a certain condition will improve with the use of cortisone, then somewhere in its etiology must be an adrenal weakness.

That this fact is denied by the medical profession does not make it less true.

Therefore, for any condition that is treated in normal medicine with steroid drugs like prednisone or cortisone we should instead be strengthening the adrenal glands.

Read the rest of the article to find out how to strengthen the adrenal glands:  Ask the Doctor about Steroid Drugs.

***Have you had to wean yourself off steroid drugs in the past?  Let us know how you did it.

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  • { 16 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Suzy June 16, 2011 at 7:38 am

    This is very interesting. The main thing I’ve noticed in myself since switching over last September to a real food diet–raw milk, grinding grains, grass-fed meat, fermented foods, healthy fats and FCLO, etc.–is that I haven’t coughed more than a few times all winter. The previous 2 winters I was coughing uncontrollably and needed a week of predisone and a month or so of inhalers to stop it. Could it be diet?! (Yes, I believe it is.) I had also significantly reduced my caffeine intake (which was very high).

    Last month after reading “Caffeine Blues”, thanks to your (albeit hesitant!) link, Kelly, I’ve been weaning off tea and coffee altogether. I believe the lack of caffeine is enabling my body not to feel a need for a glass of wine to relax, a habit which was getting out of hand. Very cool! :)

    Reply

    2 Jill June 16, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Interesting article. I like his approach of bolstering the adrenals, but I can’t help but ask the next question: why are the adrenals needing to work so hard anyway? If there is an auto-immune issue in the body the source of THAT is what must be sleuthed out, not just bolstering the body’s stress adaptation system (in other words, getting rid of the source of the stress the body is having to adapt to in the first place). In reading Gut and Psychology Syndrome, I see a lot of evidence of auto-immune issues stemming from dysbiosis in the gut. It may not explain ALL auto-immunity, but it appears to be the source of much of it. I would address the gut, in addition to supporting the adrenals, and see if it makes a difference.

    Reply

    3 Linda June 16, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Kelly, Thank-you so much for this. I am 55 and had never taken steroids as far as I know until I had an allergic reaction to a bee sting a couple of years ago. I was given a large dose (according to the doctor) to save my life. He said I had every allergic reaction ( at once) to the steroid. Even after this length of time if my body is under any kind of stress- heat,cold, small things,I have a flare-up of the allergic reaction again. The doctor says there’s nothing I can do, the steroid will always be in my body. My husband says I’d have been better off with the bee sting!

    I am going to try your tips for the adrenals support .
    Thanks,
    Linda

    Reply

    4 Rebecca Miller June 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I just started using a hydrocortsone and acetic acid solution in my ears for a case of exema I have had forever that got out of control. Can anyone tell me if I will have these side effects? I use 3 drops 1 to 4 times a week in each ear.
    Thanks for this post.
    Rebecca

    Reply

    5 Kendra June 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I am on my second round of prednisone for PUPPP rash (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) since giving birth to my son TWO MONTHS ago! If you know anything about this rash, it is EXTREMELY itchy and supposedly childbirth is the only cure and it will go away within a week of delivery. Unfortunately, this is not true for some. Instead of going away when I had my baby, it spread over my entire body. Over the last two months, it has slowly gotten better, but it’s still miserable. My doctor says it probably won’t go away until I quit breastfeeding and allow my hormones to stabilize. I really don’t want to quit breastfeeding, but the itch is making me crazy.

    Anyone have a rash or a hormonal condition that you cured through diet instead of prednisone use? I need to get off this horrible drug!

    Reply

    6 KitchenKop June 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Kendra, I believe the GAPS Diet could help you!

    For now, though, I’ll post this on FB and see what we can find out: http://www.facebook.com/kellythekitchenkop

    Kelly

    Reply

    7 Melissa @ Dyno-mom June 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    I have two children with asthma and one has sever persistant asthma. We found ourselves at a frightening crossroads a few years ago after that child contracted a cold that turned into a viral pneumonia that turned into an opportunitistic secondary bacterial infection . He was hospitalized for five days and came home on oxygen, which he needed for four weeks before he was back to normal. He needed the oxygen and various steroids at the time of the infection and I won’t debate that, but what we realized is that his doctors were more concerned about “fighting fire” than preventing them and that the big guns drugs might have been keeping him weak and susceptable.

    Cholestrol that is NOT high heated and therefor oxidized and transformed into oxysterols (Per Mary Enig’s fabu book “Know Your Fats”) became a critical part of his healing process. Cholestrol is critical for many basic metabolic functions including cell and tissue structure as well as repair and production of hormones. We realized that he was probably cholestrol starved as we had switched recently to a “healthier” diet of eggs whites, skim milk and vegetable oils. No only had this child struggled terribly after this dietary switch but another child developed an anaphylactic reaction to egg whites and was carrying an Epi-pen. We stopped this immediately.

    Then we made sure to incorporate coconut oil in healthy amounts into our diets as a whole and this child in particular. Coconut oil is a good source of lauric acid, a critical factor in the production of lung surfactant which matures the lungs of unborn babies. The results were dramatic and this child starting breathing easier, coughing less and running more. We made an appointments and our skeptical doc started weaning him off twice daily steroid treatments. The steroids had weakened this child’s teeth (oral bacteria on steroids isn’t good for teeth) and he had gained weight and stopped growing in height, all normal results of daily steroid use we were told. Suddenly this child had energy to run and swim, starting slimming down and grew five inches!

    To control his allergies we starting mixing local raw honey into his coconut oil that we added to tea or milk in the mornings. These small daily doses of a tablespoon eased his allergies to the degree that now they are treated with homeopathic Sabadil and honey, nothing else.

    Steroid use is very common but is designed to treat the illness but not resolve the illness and can have the result of weakening the body such that small cuts fail to heal and viruses become debilitating. It’s like throwing a bowling ball at a wall to kill a fly. They fly may be dead but the wall is irreparably damaged and if no one closes the window, there will be only more flies. I would suggest that people look at the causes of their conditions and treat THOSE rather than resort to over-kill drugs with dangerous and even life-threatening side-effects. Anyone on asthma drugs should carefully read the package inserts, they warn that the use of these drugs may actually INCREASE the risk of death!

    Reply

    8 J in VA June 16, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Bee pollen started in small doses and gradually increased is a great non-pharmaceutical treatment for allergies.

    Using it has kept me off my allergy meds (three during peak pollen seaons and at least one the rest of the year) for two years.

    You start with a few granules a couple of times a day and work up to about 1 tsp once-twice a day during your allergy season Just pretend you are increasing the dose of the allergy shots you will no longer need. :)

    J in VA

    Reply

    9 Roxanne - TheHolisticMama June 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Very interesting, will definitely pass this info along

    Reply

    10 Myra June 17, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Prednisone is harmful to the immune system and is addictive. My husband was put on that medication and he used it for a couple of weeks before he realized all the side effects. He quit immediately, even though that it is seriously discouraged. The doctor had words to say about that!
    The sudden stop did not cause him any problems, but I am not suggesting that you do it that way.
    It usually is best to do a gradual decrease in a med like that, replacing it with your alternative of choice.
    Dong Quai is an excellent alternative to prednisone. It is used and arthritis type problems and for headaches. Dong Quai provides natural anti-inflammatory properties and immunological boosting nutrients. It has antispasmodic properties. Pregnant and/or breast-feeding women should not use this herb. It is available online.
    http://www.naturessunshine.com/us/general/search/?q=domg%20quai
    For more information about Dong Quai visit: healthylivingtodayandtomorrow.blogspot.com

    Reply

    11 Amy June 18, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Kelly, I’m a bit late to this discussion and not sure if you’re checking these comments anymore, but this is exactly the basis of Matt Stone’s argument against low-carb diets. They raise the levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, just like the steroids. That’s why they seem so great at first and seem to clear up issues like asthma, RA, etc. But then, the problems return, and people tend to need to go progressively lower carb to continue the initial effects, and side effects start to develop. If they go back to eating carbs, the problems seem far worse. In the end, they are much worse off for having done the diet (this can take a few years). Low-carb diets are a treatment for symptoms but do not treat the root cause of the issues, and end up making things worse in the long run. This is a really interesting topic, and Matt has a lot of evidence to back it up. I would urge you to look into it since I know we’ve gone back and forth on the low-carb diet issue. This is the crux of the argument.

    Reply

    12 KitchenKop June 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    The problem is, it seems that Matt is the only one saying some of these things. (Have you ever read Dr. Eades?) Personally I fall on the side of whatever works for each person. I’d say that for some lowering carbs can clear up many issues, for others there are more things going on and they need something like the GAPS Diet that takes the healing further.

    Kelly

    Reply

    13 Amy June 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I have read Dr. Eades, but I don’t agree with his approach on carbs, and I noticed even he has trouble sticking with it and has had issues with weight gain, etc. on the diet. I don’t think he’s aged that well either.

    Matt definitely is not the only person saying these things. A lot of other bloggers are aware of these issues. But, in the WAPF world, he is pretty much alone (although several others are starting to realize the need for carbs from what I hear).

    In my mind, there needs to be an awareness that the clearing up of issues on low-carb may be a temporary thing. Here’s a great example of that: http://180degreehealth.blogspot.com/2011/06/paleo-fail.html
    A lot of Matt’s commenters have been through similar things and did great on low carb at first but then did very poorly long-term. I totally agree it’s an individual thing, but it’s that short-term fix that can be very misleading for people. If people go in eyes wide open, then that’s fine. But they should be on the lookout for problems.

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    14 KitchenKop June 21, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I’ve probably told you this before, but it’s comments like these that make my blog better because they help people THINK before blindly following anyone, so they can know all sides before figuring out what is best for them. Thank you!
    Kelly

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    15 Amy June 22, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Thanks, Kelly! I like that you encourage multiple opinions! It’s reasons like that that I follow your blog.

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    16 Joey December 12, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Kendra, I am going through steroid creme and prednisone withdrawals and in my 9th month now. I belong to a group of steroid creme former addicts who are now withdrawing from them. It is a rough process and you cannot just go cold turkey off prednisone, but you can taper down off it. You will see some skin reactions, but they eventually clear up as the body is out from under the steroid suppression. Our support group can give you advice in this and you can find it on my website listed here. It is a Google support group called “Cure Eczema by Stopping Steroids” I also have a Facebook Page about the addiction dangers of using steroid cremes longer that 5 days. It is called “Steroid Red Skin Snydrome and Skin Remedies.” You can stop steroid creme cold turkey and that is the best way as it reacts the same either way. God bless~Joey

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