Steroid use medication is used to treat inflammation and is often used as pills, syrup, or steroid injection. Many types of steroids are used for medical conditions such as asthma, chronic and acute pain, hay fever, and skin conditions like eczema and multiple sclerosis. How long the immune system recovers from steroids depends on the dosage, steroid application, and an array of other aspects that are discussed in this post.
Why Does the Body Produce Cortisol?
The adrenal gland produces cortisol to help the body manage high-stress situations. For example, cortisol may boost the body energy to combat lethargy. Cortisol is also necessary for metabolic regulation, immune and inflammation response.
The adrenal glands naturally produce the hormone cortisol but only in minimum doses, which isn’t always enough to treat severe conditions. The manmade or synthetic version of cortisol is corticosteroids found in medical drugs like anti-inflammatories.
Types of Steroids
Inhaled corticosteroids are used to treat asthma and come in the form of inhalers. Some inhaled steroids are also available as nasal sprays to treat hay fever and nasal congestion.
Steroid injections may be seen as more aggressive as they are directly injected into a muscle, a vein, the spine, or a joint. The use of steroid injections is often given in severe pain situations. For instance, when treating inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and sclerosis.
Taking oral corticosteroids or taking a pill form is often the case for treating pain such as muscle pain, period pain or joint pain and allergies.
Topically,d applied steroids are needed to treat eczema, lupus, psoriasis, and other skin conditions or irritations. They are often available as creams, ointments, or gels.
The next step is understanding how the body is compromised after steroids and which corticosteroids remain longer in the system after taking them. But before we get into the how, let’s quickly discuss the side effects of some oral and non-oral corticosteroid medications.
Side Effects of Steroids
While steroid production is good, taking too many steroids has side effects. The immune system is compromised after steroids because it affects various body systems like the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the musculoskeletal system, and the reproductive system, to name a few. The steroid type can also influence how the side effect occurs and how long medication remains in the system.
Side effects include but are not limited to the following:
- Hoarse throat
- Oral thrush
- Sore mouth and throat
Inhaled steroids may include Fluticasone, Budesonide, Beclomethasone, and Mometasone.
- Discomfort and pain at the site of the injection
- Flushed skin
- Bruising or temporary pooling of blood under the skin at the site of the injection
- Increase in blood pressure
- Infection that requires medical attention
- Reduced fat at the injection site
Triamcinolone and methylprednisolone are examples of steroid injection types.
- Mood changes
- Increased blood sugar levels
- Fluid retention
- Higher risk of infection
- Appetite changes (often increased)
- Behavioral changes
- Decrease bone density
- Eye problems (glaucoma, cataracts)
Oral steroids may include Hydrocortisone, Deflazacort, Dexamethasone, Methylprednisolone and Betamethasone.
- Bandage pads
Topical steroids include but are not limited to Cobetasone, Hydrocortisone cream, Mometasone, and Fluticasone.
Use corticosteroids with care
Corticosteroids should be used with caution for people with existing medical conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure), or health conditions like glaucoma, diabetes, epilepsy, stomach ulcers, osteoporosis, and heart failure. The immune system compromised after steroids makes it very risky in patients at higher medical risk.
How Long Does it Take for the Immune System to Return to Normal After Steroid use?
How long is immune system affected differs from one person to the next. Factors like sex, age, and gender can also influence how long the steroids remain.
Steroids also have a half-life period in which they last, depending on how quickly they take to work in your system. For example, asthma inhalers, including brands like Proair (albuterol sulfate), can work within six minutes of use. Advair Diskus (fluticasone salmeterol) work within 12 hours, depending on the frequency of dose and use. Oral corticosteroids Prednisone can take up to 22 hours to be out of the body’s system.
The immune system is compromised after steroids but will begin to function better and recover as soon as the steroids have worked out the system.
What Factors Affect Speed of System Recovery After Steroids?
We know now that steroids generally boost the body’s various systems in a way that they perform at a better rate. For instance, if a skin rash or other skin condition occurs, using steroidal cream or ointments improves the body’s ability to heal the skin. The topical steroid application also reduces the inflammation associated with the condition.
When steroids are out of the system, the body may take longer to heal or may find it harder to manage pain. This could be the result of the medication initiating the work by synthetically producing the cortisol-like hormonal function.
Generally, if a person struggles with hay fever and is no longer using a medication, the body will still be able to work through the seasonal allergy. However, it may not be as efficient in doing so at the same fast pace by itself or without the meds.
What Dietary Changes and Exercise is Beneficial to Aid Immune System Recovery from Corticosteroid Use?
It’s about balance when it comes to being healthy and able to combat the medical conditions requiring artificial steroids to cope. It is recommended to do the following in your journey to steroid recovery.
Eat a balanced, healthy diet
Dietary changes are vital when learning to manage without steroidal medication. For instance, certain foods may increase the effects of hay fever, as do factors like high-stress levels.
It’s recommended to eat foods that are not processed and do not contain artificial colourants and preservatives. These types of ingredients can increase allergic reactions and inflammation within the body. Eating nutritious and balanced meals is important when recovering from steroid types of medication.
Healthy foods to consider include:
- Rich green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and kale.
- Eat seeds and or nuts and other grains and legumes to get a natural source of fibre
- Have dairy products for calcium (if your diet allows it). Tofu is another food source rich in calcium and protein.
- Get your protein in, whether it be plant-based or animal protein.
- Eat lots of fruit for natural sugar intake that won’t spike your blood sugar levels the way simple carbohydrates (white rice, white bread, white pasta) do.
- Limit alcohol intake and if you do enjoy alcohol, have it in moderation. A glass of red wine is recommended in the Mediterranean diet.
- Drink lots of water.
- Enjoy herbal teas.
- Limit caffeinated and sugary drinks.
Another vital aspect to remember is to keep your body moving. Exercising helps the body produce chemicals that lower stress hormones, for instance, cortisol and adrenaline increase serotonin and dopamine, which also helps improve mood and sleep.
- Aerobic exercises (running, cycling, swimming, walking)
- Strength exercise (weightlifting, resistance bands, body weight workouts)
- Stretching (static stretches, active, dynamic, etc)
Rest and relax
Stress is a big culprit that accelerates inflammation and low mood. Chronic stress and inflammation can lead to many health problems. Finding ways to cope with stress is critical to help your immune system, mind, and body recover from steroids.
Get enough rest because the body recovers and recoups when you sleep. A good sleep routine allows your body to wind down and relax.
Practice things like:
- Breathing exercise
- Qi gong
- Tai chi
Benefits of Natural Supplements for Recovery Supporting Immune System Recovery
Eating a nutritious and balanced diet, packed with vitamins and minerals is a good way to get all the nutrition your immune system needs to function and recover. Still, going with natural supplements is an alternative when you cannot get all the nutrition needed due to dietary limitations or health conditions.
Supplements can help to bolster your immune system by adding those missing micro and macro nutrients your body might be lacking.
Having probiotics is also highly beneficial to your immune system. Research has shown that gut health is linked to the immune system. Maintaining your gut health by boosting the good bacteria and nourishing it will benefit your immunity too.
Finding balance is one of the most important things to practice in life. Work-life balance will go a long way in helping to improve your overall health on many levels. Allow your body the chance to adapt to a new and healthy lifestyle and remember to set realistic goals as you progress on recovering your immune system from steroidal medication.