You may have heard the term inflammation used in many contexts. Mostly it’s seen as something that needs to be stopped. And it’s usually related to lifestyle changes and diet. It’s a process that is closely related to diseases like diabetes and cancer. Before we talk about anti-inflammatory drugs, let’s understand why they’re prescribed.
What Is Inflammation And Why Do We Need To Stop It?
Our immune systems are designed to stop invaders from entering our body and doing it harm. This causes a process called inflammation. You can see it in action when you get a throat infection and it starts to swell and hurt. That’s your body trying to get rid of the invading infection. Inflammation is great for our body’s defenses but the problem occurs when it happens too much. That’s when it can lead to problems like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.1
Our body needs corticosteroids to help prevent inflammation. But, now medical experts have formulated a man-made version of these hormones to help prevent inflammation. Mostly, they are available as oral tablets. Some examples include prednisone, cortisone, and hydrocortisone.2 While they are effective, many complain of strange side effects that do turn serious on rare occasions. In some cases, they can be fatal.
Risks Of Oral Corticosteroids
- Elevated pressure in the eyes (glaucoma)
- Fluid retention, often causing swelling in your lower legs
- Problems with mood, memory, behavior and other psychological effects
- Weight gain, with fat deposits in the abdomen, face and the back of the neck
Other more serious effects include dying of bone tissue which means that the blood flow to the bone is eventually stopped. It is called avascular necrosis. This can lead to the collapse of the bone.5 Another serious but rare side effect is contracting the varicella zoster virus which causes a type of herpes in humans. In some cases, it can be fatal.6
These medications adversely affect our immunity in an attempt to decrease inflammation. This makes us vulnerable to infections. Studies show that those suffering from bronchial asthma who were given oral corticosteroids showed suppressed immunity. This made them more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections.7
How To Reduce Risk From Corticosteroids
1. Lower Your Dosage
Ask your doctor if you could take these drugs intermittently at the lowest possible dosage. For example, take them every other day instead of daily.
2. Switch To Non-Oral Forms
Using something a method like inhalation for asthma, makes sure that the medication reaches your lungs directly rather than affecting other parts of the body in the process.
3. Make Healthy Choices
To minimize the side effects, try to eat healthily and get a good amount of physical activity to maintain a healthy weight and strengthen your muscles and bones.
Foods That Cause Inflammation
Here are the foods you should avoid.8
1. Simple Carbohydrates
Carbs such as white bread and pastries have been shown to cause inflammation. While this will definitely have health benefits, some recommend cutting out gluten completely. The logic is that you may be sensitive to gluten without realizing it, which is why your body experiences inflammation.
2. Fried Foods
Most fried foods increase the activity of free radicals within the body. Free radicals are substances that cause and encourage
Sugar is known to increase inflammation. So make sure to cut out sodas, sweetened beverages, as well as processed sugar snacks. Sugar can be difficult to avoid so make sure you recognize it in all of its forms, especially in food labels that give you nutritional information. Most words ending in “-ose” such as fructose, dextrose, maltose, etc, are some form of sugar. Stay away from these.
Other foods also include red meat, processed meat, and things like lard, margarine, and shortening. These are mostly saturated fats which directly contribute to weight gain. Weight gain is a major factor that promotes inflammation. And inflammation is directly related to the development of diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Foods That Reduce Inflammation
Here are some great examples to add into your diet to reduce inflammation. 9
- olive oil
- green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
- nuts like almonds and walnuts
- fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
If you are prescribed corticosteroids for any condition, talk to your doctor about the risks involved and see if you can look for alternatives while trying to make important changes to your lifestyle and diet.
|↑1, ↑8||Foods that fight inflammation. Harvard Health Publications|
|↑2||Medications that Weaken Your Immune System and Fungal Infections. Center For Disease Control And Prevention|
|↑3||Walsh, L. J., C. A. Wong, J. Oborne, S. Cooper, S. A. Lewis, M. Pringle, R. Hubbard, and A. E. Tattersfield. “Adverse effects of oral corticosteroids in relation to dose in patients with lung disease.” Thorax 56, no. 4 (2001): 279-284.|
|↑4||Brown, E. Sherwood, and Patricia A. Chandler. “Mood and cognitive changes during systemic corticosteroid therapy.” Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry 3, no. 1 (2001): 17.|
|↑5, ↑6||Richards, Robert N. “Side effects of short-term oral corticosteroids.” Journal of cutaneous medicine and surgery 12, no. 2 (2008): 77-81.|
|↑7||Oehling, AG1, C. A. Akdis, A. Schapowal, K. Blaser, M. Schmitz, and H‐U. Simon. “Suppression of the immune system by oral glucocorticoid therapy in bronchial asthma.” Allergy 52, no. 2 (1997): 144-154.|
|↑9||Foods that fight inflammation. Harvard Health Publications|