Steroid Drugs: Double-Edged Sword

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/18/2024

When dealing with conditions like asthma or rheumatoid arthritis, people are often prescribed steroids. Unfortunately, after taking steroid medications for an extended period of time, side effects may begin to appear that worsen your condition.

Learn about steroid drugs, how they affect your body, and what alternatives you may be able to employ instead.

Understanding Steroid Drugs and Their Uses

Steroids, particularly corticosteroids, play a significant role in treating inflammation-related conditions. These include ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, vasculitis, asthma, hay fever allergies, and more. But what are these substances we rely on so heavily?

The Role of Cortisol in the Body

Cortisol is our body's natural steroid hormone. The adrenal glands above your kidneys produce cortisol, which helps regulate your immune response and control inflammation.

It suppresses overactive parts of our immune system that could cause harm through excessive inflammation.

That's why steroids like corticosteroids mimic cortisol, they help keep this inflammatory response under check when your body isn't making enough naturally due to chronic autoimmune conditions such as MS (Multiple Sclerosis) or IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease).

The Downside of Prolonged Steroid Use

Steroids can become less effective when used for a long time. This is due to the body's tendency to adapt and build resistance against substances it frequently encounters. But there's more than just reduced effectiveness that should worry us.

Increased Susceptibility to Infections

Steroids have a significant impact on our immune system, they suppress it. While this may be beneficial in controlling inflammatory conditions, it leaves your body open to infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB).

About 25% of people carry latent TB, which remains dormant until activated by specific triggers such as prolonged steroid use. Besides increased infection risk, chronic steroid use can lead to adrenal shutdown, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when you try quitting them abruptly.

Some of the possible consequences of long-term steroid use may include brittle bones, stomach ulcers, diabetes, weight increase, clouded vision, and skin issues.

We must tread carefully with steroids, considering the potential risks associated with their prolonged usage.

Cost of Steroid Use

Many folks know of the advantages steroids can give, particularly in reducing inflammation and managing autoimmune issues. But there's a dark side to these drugs that often goes unnoticed until it's too late - their impact on our adrenal system.

Steroids work by mimicking cortisol, a hormone produced by our adrenal glands. This tricks the body into thinking it has enough cortisol, causing the adrenals to slow down or even stop producing this essential hormone.

Over time, this can lead to what is known as adrenal shutdown. When someone decides to stop taking steroids after long-term use, withdrawal symptoms may surface due to insufficient natural cortisol production in the body.

These could range from severe infections and ulcers right through osteoporosis and diabetes.

Prolonged steroid usage also leads to weight gain along with skin problems such as acne or thinning skin, eventually leading to cataracts.

Alternatives to Steroids for Managing Inflammation

If you're searching for alternatives to steroids, let's start with a couple of natural substances: curcumin and Boswellia. These are two potent anti-inflammatory agents that work wonders in managing inflammation.

Curcumin and Boswellia

Curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric, has shown significant anti-inflammatory properties. It works by blocking NF-kB, a molecule that turns on inflammation-related genes.

Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, is another excellent choice. Studies have demonstrated its ability to suppress inflammation and support immune function effectively.

Green Tea and Vitamin D

Green tea is rich in antioxidants like EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate), which helps reduce inflammation. Vitamin D is also crucial in controlling the inflammatory response of the body.

Fasting as a Remedy

Fasting has emerged as a promising strategy for combating inflammation in the body. By abstaining from food for a designated period, fasting triggers a cascade of physiological responses that can help reduce inflammation.

One key mechanism is the activation of autophagy, a cellular process that removes damaged or dysfunctional components, including inflammatory molecules. Additionally, fasting has been shown to downregulate pro-inflammatory cytokines and inhibit the production of inflammatory mediators.

Moreover, fasting promotes the secretion of anti-inflammatory molecules, such as adiponectin, which helps regulate insulin sensitivity and inflammation. Intermittent fasting, in particular, has gained attention for its potential anti-inflammatory effects, as it alternates between periods of eating and fasting.

Overall, fasting offers a natural and accessible approach to modulating inflammation and promoting overall health.

Osteoporosis illustration

Osteoporosis and Steroid

Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakened and brittle bones, is a concern for individuals using steroids for various medical reasons. Long-term use of steroids, such as corticosteroids, can lead to bone loss and increase the risk of osteoporosis.

It's important to consider interventions like osteoporosis vitamin K2 supplementation to mitigate this risk. Vitamin K2, known for its role in calcium metabolism and bone health, can help counteract the adverse effects of steroids on bone density.

By incorporating vitamin K2 into their regimen, individuals taking steroids can work towards maintaining more robust bones and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Consulting with a healthcare provider for personalized guidance on vitamin K2 supplementation is advisable for those on long-term steroid therapy.


In the realm of managing inflammatory conditions like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, steroid medications are often a first-line treatment.

However, prolonged use of steroids can lead to various side effects that may exacerbate the underlying condition. These include increased susceptibility to infections, adrenal shutdown, weight gain, osteoporosis, and other adverse effects. Thus, it's crucial to explore alternatives to steroids for managing inflammation effectively.

Natural substances like curcumin and Boswellia, along with lifestyle interventions such as fasting, offer promising avenues for reducing inflammation without the risks associated with long-term steroid use. Additionally, interventions like vitamin K2 supplementation can help mitigate the risk of osteoporosis in individuals on long-term steroid therapy.

By considering these alternatives, you can better manage your conditions while minimizing the potential for adverse effects associated with steroid use.

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