Allergy, Eczema, Asthma | March 27, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Corticosteroids are a class of the steroid hormone group that function mainly to regulate physiological functions such as stress, immune and inflammatory responses, the metabolism of carbohydrates, the regulation of blood electrolytes, the catabolism of steroids, among other important functions. Organically, these hormones are produced by the outer part of the adrenal gland known as the cortex.
For people with conditions that have a disruption in the production, secretion or regulation of corticosteroids, there are synthetic drug forms of the hormone available.
Even though steroids can be a very effective treatment for various inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, synthetic steroid hormones are known to cause gastrointestinal and immune system side effects. The degree to which these side effects occur may vary from one individual to another, depending on various factors such as the dose and/or the period of time for which the drugs are being taken.
In order to treat autoimmune diseases, steroids work to suppress the immune system. Long term, this can affect the protective role of the immune system which can increase the chances of bacterial and/or viral infections. Corticosteroids can even reduce the efficacy of some vaccines and antibiotics.
Steroids interfere with the production of protective mucous layer produced in the stomach.
Even though steroids can be prescribed to treat some gastrointestinal symptoms such as Crohn’s disease, these have shown to increase the risk of developing duodenal ulcers, stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. The risks for these side effects are especially increased if steroids are taken along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); examples of these include ibuprofen and aspirin.
Natural therapies aim to reduce or eliminate the side effects of corticosteroid drugs by taking a holistic approach which includes lifestyle, dietary, nutritional and herbal suggestions.
The immune system is the body’s cornerstone for health and wellbeing, when it is compromised, pathogenic disease can take over.
Being that 70% of the immune system resides in the digestive tract, it would seem obvious to make gut health a priority. The health of the gut is directly proportional to the health of the entire body, immune system and digestion. To maintain good digestive health, the body needs tens of thousands of good bacteria. Including yogurt, sauerkraut, soft cheeses, kefir, sourdough bread, sour pickles, tempeh and apple cider vinegar in the diet may help. Since it is almost impossible to source the required number of probiotics through diet alone, especially to make up for the effects of corticosteroids, it may be beneficial to take probiotic supplements.
According to an Albert Einstein College of Medicine research report published in the online edition of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, it has been found that people taking oral steroids are twice as likely as the general population to develop a severe vitamin D deficiency. Besides calcium malabsorption, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to some cases of inflammatory bowel diseases as well as higher rates of colon cancer.
It is becoming more apparent that vitamin D may have a very significant role in anti-inflammatory and immune modulating effects.
A more realistic source would be a vitamin D supplement.
Micronutrients such as essential fatty acids, vitamins A, B6, C, E, folate, iron and especially zinc are easily depleted by corticosteroids use. Studies in animals have found this alters immune responses. Although the same has not been positively proven for humans as yet, the results are concerning. In case of dietary restrictions, taking supplements such as multivitamins can help to ensure that the body’s immune system gets all the vital nutrients that may seem miscellaneous but can actually make a huge impact on overall health and immunity.
Food is a very important element when treating or managing gastrointestinal and immune system health, especially when on corticosteroids. These drugs are known to cause weight gain, possibly due to the fact that they can cause an increase in appetite.
The diet is also a vital as steroids deplete essential nutrients in the body.
A balanced, healthy diet to support the immune system and overall gut health would include the following:
Light to moderate exercise that gets the heart rate elevated and the metabolic processes active are important to build immunity and stamina.Yoga, meditation and massage therapy can help with stress and relaxation - essential elements for immunity and gut health.
Some herbs are particularly good for supporting the body’s immunity and gastrointestinal health and helping to treat and manage gastrointestinal and immune system symptoms caused by corticosteroids.
Since corticosteroids tend to interfere with the secretion processes in the gastrointestinal system, bitter herbs are suggested. This can help to prevent ulcers by ensuring that the gut has sufficient mucous to protection against its own acids. Carminative and other gastrointestinal herbs can help with soothe and heal. Recommended herbs include:
The body’s overall immune system, including the lymphatic system, can be boosted using a variety of herbs that have special properties. These herbs can help to rebalance the adrenal glands as corticosteroids may disrupt the normal functioning of these vital structures. The best herbs include:
Although corticosteroids can have these and other side effects, it is often the result of long term use of these drugs that has been especially noted to cause problems. Many people do in fact go on to use corticosteroids without experiencing any problems. The use of corticosteroids should not be stopped suddenly as this can also cause corticosteroid withdrawal symptoms, especially if not so instructed by a doctor or medical professional.