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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: 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.
To do this, we refer to some basic physiology. First, we are dealing with the adrenal cortex, not the medulla (which makes adrenaline). The hormones that the adrenal cortex makes are all derived from our best friend–cholesterol. Yes, cholesterol is the precursor to all the valuable adrenal hormones that help us deal with stress, inflamation and trauma, and that help our body to heal. Therefore adrenal insufficiency (lack of adrenal cortical hormones) is a fat deficiency. So the first step is simple and logical: eat more fat, especially cholesterol-rich animal fat. One of these fats should be cod liver oil to supply vitamin A. The adrenal cortex cannot make adrenal hormones out of cholesterol without vitamin A.
Second, adrenal cortical hormones that control inflammation and other metabolic events are in the class of chemicals called glucocorticoids; their primary function is to regulate sugar balance. You will make their job much much easier if you don’t eat any simple sugar and limit your total daily carbohydrate consumption to 75 grams per day. (Read Life Without Bread by Wolfgang Lutz for more information on this.)
Third, cut back on caffeine and caffeine-related substances (such as the bromine in tea) as much as possible. Caffeine works by stimulating the adrenal medulla to produce adrenaline. Then the adrenal cortex must work doubly hard to produce the “chill out” cortisoid hormones.
Fourth, the three major nutrients the adrenal cortex needs to do its job are vitamin B6, vitamin A and vitamin C. These should be obtained from food sources or whole food supplements. One good source of all three of these vital nutrients is raw milk, which is probably why raw milk fasts have successfully treated many cortisone-related illnesses. Drenamin from Standard Process Laboratories combines these nutrients along with the adrenal protomorphogen to help stimulate the rebuilding of the organ. The beginning dose is 3 tablets 3 times per day.
With many patients, even with hard work on diet and supplements it is still difficult to wean off the prednisone, especially the last 2-5 mg. In these cases I do use an adrenal cortex extract from American Biologics For some, it is the only thing that works. Usually 2-3 drops per day is enough, but often we need to double this amount. I usually keep this going for 6 weeks after the prednisone has been stopped to avoid relapses. All the time during this treatment the diet and Standard Process supplements should continue.
A final word. The adrenal gland is the processor of stress in our bodies. It is there to help us adapt. When we become exhausted by life, on a mental or physical level, our adrenal glands often fail to keep up, and illness ensues.
I define stress as anything that forces us to live contrary to what our inner guide is telling us is right for us. I want to emphasize that we need to follow our inner guide–not our parents, not the church, not our culture, not government nor anyone or anything else. So many people with adrenal illnesses live a life of “should.” To me, that is stress. In our comprehensive approach to illness this aspect of our health must be considered as vitally important.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2003.🖨️ Print post
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Dona Leiper says
This article about prednisone and adrenal connection was invaluable to me, especially since it provided direction about what to do about the adrenal insufficiency that was caused by the prednisone directly.
I have cancer, polymyalgia rheumatica, and giant cell arteritis (which can cause blindness) and have done many hours/days of research and never knew about the prednisone-adrenal gland relationship.
Thank you, thank you,
Bob Atkins says
I was first “treated” with steroids for an allergic reaction to a topical OTC remedy. Gained 25 lbs. in about a month. Really… . 6 years later, give large dose of steroids for inflammation on brain revealed during CAT scan. Spinal tap for meningitis showed blood in the fluid. Gained 35 lbs in next 1 1/2 months. Plus enlarged breasts, which on a man just really sucks.
I’ve only recently achieved a 45# weight loss from 235,
Ali Cohoe says
I am recently diagnosed with VKH, a rare neurological eye disease, where I fall into the categories perfectly. It began with my change in vision, CAT Scans, MRI, MRV, countless blood tests, Spinal Tap and the rest is history. I am now on week 3 of 150 mg of Prednisone and have began the taper now down to 110 mg. Since I’ve been on the steroid its been stress on my overall health function. I’m physically tired and yet mentally motivated and yet can’t do much. I want to sleep but I can’t and I want to eat everything in sight and can’t get enough water. This whole debacle is gruesome. I am a lab-rat to all my physicians and feel I have more answered questions than anything else. I know i need to change my diet and this material is informative. However, if there is more insight on this issue of VKH that would be great. Currently, there is no clear set treatment and my physicians are not promising anything. I hope to continue to find more answers to assist with my health disease.
Tammy Georgine says
I’m on 10mg of Hydrocortisone and 0.1 of Fludrocortisone….I’ve been on for 6 years?? I’m on disability now because I have so many issues with fatigue but it was my own hunch that the steroids were now making my symptoms worse….I supposedly have P.O.T.S., dysautonomia, neurocardiogenic syncope…lymes disease, epstein barr, and removed old implants last july and never reimplanted thank the lord. I want so badly to restore my life but am afraid I am too weak now…I already get dizzy and can’t be up all day and now blood sugar issues! And I said all of this…its the steroids..Is there maybe hope for me???I’m 43, and my 9 year old only has me. I can see I’m getting worse.
There is a whistle blower group for topical cortisone cream. It is called itsan.org. I think I was on the same exact topical as you. I used cortisone cream for 14 years. I am 3 years off and almost totally healed. Withdrawal is very hard, but hopefully these suggestions in the article will help. There are thousands in our group and pretty much everyone recovers if they stay off cortisone/steroids.
Hello there, I have been taking steroids for a long time now due to my chronic relapses. I have Minimal Change, Nephrotic syndrome and I am steroid resistant, so that whenever we attempt to wean me off I relapse. I’m now on Rituxan and in the process of going down off the prednisone. But the symptoms are awful with extreme fatigue, concentration challenges, nausea etc. My doctor thinks will be fine to go back to work (I’m on Disability now), but I am constantly battling these symptoms. The information in this article has been helpful.
I have researched the drops from American Biologics and it has been discontinued. Would you use the capsules instead? I am taking 5 milligrams of prednisone for plymyalgia rheumatica. I have been taking this for 7 months and want to get off of it.
Carol Wood says
Hello Nancy. I have just read your post, when reading this article, suggested by 1 of the members of a health forum I read, daily. I have GCA… Giant Cell Arteritis. I think you would benefit from the help and advice, for PMR/GCA on the health forum PMR/GCA@Healthunlocked.Sadly, even after only 7 months of you taking Pred, it will still be awhile. I have been on it for 12 years, but PMR, sometimes takes 2 years, but there are no guarantees. Try it.Best wishes.Carol.
I have severe asthma. I am 49 years old. I had a sinus surgery in 2004 and woke up wheezy – never had asthma before this! Eosinophils in my lungs for no reason. I have been on prednisone since 2004. Not real high doses, but many bursts that start at 100mg. My baseline for the last year has been 10mg a day. However, I started receiving Nucalla injections last fall and started a taper of my pred dosage not long after. As of June 2017, I am steroid free! Amen! However, I am feeling some serious side affects. I have extreme fatigue and joint pain. I felt fortunate that pred has not damaged me in some way for so long – until now. I am an avid runner and kept my weight down. When I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t run. So I would up the dose so I could keep fit. No bone damage or high blood sugar or high blood pressure. I credit this to maintaining a grueling workout schedule. After reading other posts, etc… I feel fortunate (knock on wood)……… I am working thru my adrenal gland issues with docs and I pray that I will recover soon from that as well. Thank you for your posts and let me know if I can help answer any questions of pred use. I have literally taken thousands of milligrams over the years…….
I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis for over 30 years, and been on 5mg prednisolone for the majority of that time. I really would like to come off this, but am unsure how to do it. Spoke to my GP yesterday who agreed I could try, and only advised that I could get 2.5mg tabs so could reduce by 0.5 at a time and gradually taper off slowly. But no more help or information than that. I also spoke to one of the Rheumatologists a couple of months ago, he just said no straight away, and that I had been on it too long and my adrenal gland wasn’t producing what was required now as the steroids had taken over! I’m in UK, and would really appreciate any help on this matter. I have had a stomach ulcer which perforated, I have Osteoporosis, a withered kidney with a cyst in it, which needs an ultrasound And now, I’ve been informed I have a calcified granuloma on my right lung!
Maureen Diaz says
Mandy, we might suggest you find a more holistically-minded practitioner who thoroughly understands the body as a whole. Also, taking hydrocortisone, rather than prednisone, is very affective for RA and in fact replaces the cortisol which your adrenal glands may no longer be producing. Avoiding inflammatory foods such as sugar, starches, grains, vegetable oils (other than pure and unrefined olive, coconut, and palm oils) as well as the nightshade family of vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers) are very effective in preventing the painful swelling of RA. You may find an article I wrote for the Wise Traditions Journal helpful as I mention the protocol which we use for my own husband’s RA.
Dialys Lopez says
Speechless! What an informative, eye opening, and easy to comprehend article.
I suffer from Chronic Asthma since I was 1 year old, and my last resource is Prednisone, after reading and understanding the damage this medication can do on us I will do my best to avoid it.
I would love to hear from what are some natural medicine I can use to treat, or simply prevent an Asthma Attack.
Many thanks 😊
Maureen Diaz says
We are glad that you found this article informative, and stand behind you in your quest to find alternatives to the dangerous steroids prescribed. Over so many years, surely you have incurred much damage, and dependency, by this pointing time.
Many do find great relief simply by eliminating all processed foods and, especially, convention and pasteurized dairy products. Here is an article from Chris Masterjohn, PhD, which you may find helpful. Also, one from Dr. Josh Axe.
Both talk about the benefits of raw milk and anti-oxidant-rich foods and lifestyle changes.
We would also suggest that you consider consulting with a knowledgeable holistic practitioner, such as Dr. Tom Cowan or Pam You may also contact one of our chapter leaders in your area to find out it there are any in your area who might be of help. We have a classified section in the back of our quarterly journal, Wise Traditions, which includes several including nutritionists and dietitians who are very well versed in natural therapies.
Hope this helps you on your search for answers!