When Are Steroids Necessary? Steroids Facts And Uses
Steroids have been used and misused by doctors, patients and athletes for a variety of reasons. They can have very powerful effects on different conditions and produce results in timeframes and ways that aren’t easily rivaled by other medications and supplements. In fact, one of the main types of steroids (hydrocortisone) is most relevant to those who have adrenal fatigue. Hydrocortisone steroids facts are so effective they have been deemed an “essential medicine” by the World Health Organization.
Steroids Facts and Uses
In this article we will discuss steroids facts, find out when they are necessary and helpful, and when they are not. That way you have the knowledge and understanding to make an informed choice about a relatively controversial topic. There is good reason to use caution when thinking about taking steroids related to adrenal fatigue and other such conditions.
So, what are steroids in the first place?
Steroids are compounds that are naturally produced by the body, usually in the form of hormones that help the cells and organs do what they need to do. There are also synthetic steroids manufactured by pharmaceutical companies that mimic these naturally produced hormones.
The truth about steroids facts is that they interact and interfere with the body’s delicate hormonal balance. That is both why they work and why they cause problems.
We will study two main types of steroids: anabolic-androgens and corticosteroids.
The first type of steroid is the anabolic-androgen type, sometimes called “anabolics” for short. These are a synthetic form of testosterone.
Androgens, such as testosterone, are male sex hormones. You have probably already heard what this type of steroid is most known and used for: muscle building or bodybuilding. This is actually quite problematic, as most people who use anabolics for these purposes tend to overdo it. They take much higher doses than the recommended in order to quickly increase “bulking” and enhance athletic performance.
This has many negative consequences as they eventually end up reducing the body’s capability of producing its own testosterone.
In men, this can cause a decrease in sperm count, smaller testicle size, and the growth of breast tissue. For women, the high intake of testosterone can cause acne, increase body and facial hair, induce baldness and cause irregular menstruation.
For both men and women, anger and mood swings are also quite common.
The long-term effects can be extremely dangerous. These include causing cardiovascular problems, kidney and liver issues, and even eventually leading to strokes and heart attacks.
Anabolics are ideally used only when they are truly necessary, such as for men with low natural testosterone or for people who are losing muscle mass due to severe health conditions.
The second type of steroid is the corticosteroid type.
Corticosteroids are made to produce the same effects as cortisol, the body’s main anti-stress hormone, which will be discussed more in-depth below.
One of the roles of cortisol is to neutralize inflammation in the body, and that is what corticosteroids are very good at doing. They are used for inflammatory conditions such as eczema and other skin issues (like rashes), autoimmune disorders like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and allergic reactions.
Depending on your condition, you may be given an inhaler, pill, cream, nasal spray, liquid, or a shot.
Hydrocortisone is the main type of man-made corticosteroid used in cases of adrenal fatigue and adrenocortical insufficiency as well as acute asthma and shock. Some of the most famous brands include Cortef, Florinef, Hydrocortone and Cortifoam. They are usually given orally or by injection. Hydrocortisone creams are also used widely for topical applications.
Corticosteroids have many side effects, such as weight gain, nausea, puffiness, mood disturbances and sleep problems. Changes in blood pressure and blood sugar can also occur.
If taken for a long time in higher doses, corticosteroids can wreak havoc on health. They can trigger osteoporosis, increase the risk of diabetes, cause eye problems, and stunt a child’s growth.
Changes in skin and hair are a common side effect of both types of steroids.
As you can see, serious problems can come with prolonged use. This is why being informed about steroids facts is your best chance at using them for the right reasons.
Steroids Facts and Adrenal Fatigue
Steroids are sometimes prescribed to relieve the symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), such as chronic tiredness, frequent allergies, irritable bowels and skin conditions. Although they can help suppress these issues and help give you a temporary push, long-term use can have a very adverse reaction – a weakened or even catabolic state with a breakdown of proteins and organs.
At that point, if you are not under the right medical guidance, you may end up taking more and more in order to relieve the symptoms as they inevitably return or even intensify.
AFS is a state that arises when the body begins to lose its ability to fight stress, usually because the stress has become chronic and severe. In addition to those mentioned above, its many symptoms include: sleep problems, weight gain, brain fog, lowered immunity, low libido, PMS, mild depression, anxiety, heart palpitations and more.
What happens when the body is exposed to stress is that the adrenal glands secrete cortisol to neutralize it. However, when the adrenals are constantly under pressure due to chronic stress – whether physical, emotional or mental – they first begin to increase their output of cortisol until they eventually become exhausted and cannot function properly anymore. At this point, cortisol output drops significantly. This leaves the body to fend for itself against the ravages of stress.
Cortisol is a steroid. It is responsible for so many important functions that its dysregulation can have a cascading negative effect on the body, causing many problems. Some of its actions include: maintaining blood pressure, suppressing the immune system, reducing inflammation caused by immune system reaction, regulating metabolism, and keeping the blood vessels and heart functioning properly.
Although cortisol is secreted by the adrenals (two small glands that rest on top of the kidneys), it is the hypothalamus and pituitary gland that control how much of it is released. The hypothalamus secretes a hormone that signals the pituitary gland to release another hormone that stimulates the adrenals to produce cortisol that is needed.
The cortisol then sends back a signal to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland so that they don’t release more of the stimulatory hormones.
The adrenals are only one part of the body’s overall response to stress. This overall response is called the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response and it is composed of six circuits: cardionomic, inflammatory, detoxification, neuro-affective, metabolic, and hormonal. All of these systems work together in the body’s global fight against stress.
But, just like the adrenals, all the other components of these systems can also become dysregulated if the stress does not abate – causing a multitude of other issues and symptoms.
This is why a holistic and gradual approach to handling the dysregulation is necessary, so as not to trigger further imbalances in the entire ecosystem of the body. This is also why the use of steroids, and any supplements or medications should only be added after careful consideration.
When to Use Steroids Facts
An important factor to consider is that each person is different. What can help you with your adrenal fatigue may hinder someone else, and vice versa. Although some people seem to do well while taking steroids for long periods of time, this is an exception and does not mean that everyone else will benefit.
A shotgun approach to supplementation and medication is always a bad idea and eventually leads to more complications and a longer recovery period. Paradoxical reactions can occur – even though you are taking something that has helped another person with the same condition.
One such paradoxical reaction when on steroids is becoming more fatigued, feeling unwell and anxious, instead of the calmness and energy boost that they are supposed to induce.
On the other hand, among steroids facts, it is known that using a steroid such as hydrocortisone can be beneficial in certain cases of AFS – along with constant medical supervision by an experienced physician. However, it should never become the first go-to or a quick fix.
This is especially true if you are sensitive or have a weak constitution.
Since adrenal fatigue and NEM dysregulation are essentially hormonal imbalances, it is therefore a given that working toward balancing the hormones is what will improve health. Using steroids may help only temporarily then, and they do have a place, but they cannot bring long-term balance. Recovery must happen from the inside out.
That is why it is safer and more sustainable to approach this rebalancing by eating right, supplementing with herbs and vitamins where needed, doing the right kind of exercise, getting lifestyle coaching to help manage stress, resting often and sleeping well. Since this is a more gradual and time-intensive process, patience is the order of the day.
Deeper into the Pros and Cons
The way steroids are used differs depending on the practitioner. There are no set and hard “steroids facts” because everybody is different. Some of the practitioners that tend to be aggressive with the use of steroids may prescribe them early on.
On the other hand, we recommend trying to avoid steroids unless your body really needs them.
A big reason is that, while hydrocortisone and other steroids can have amazing qualities, they can also be very difficult to stop if you’re not careful. Your body can develop both dependency issues as well as withdrawal issues.
In addition, if you’re at the very advanced stages of advanced adrenal fatigue, you may not even be able to tolerate steroids at all, even in small doses.
It is therefore difficult to determine the perfect time to get on steroids. Suffice it to say that if your body is really in a weak state and everything else has failed, steroids may be considered to “prime the hormonal pump”, so to speak, and therefore may be a suitable choice in this situation – if the body is strong enough to handle it.
It is important to underline again that any type of steroid must only be used short-term, and under strict supervision at all times. Even though some people have been on steroids for years – seemingly without much of a problem – there certainly are downfalls even then. In some cases, steroids are very helpful in the beginning but then begin to lose their effectiveness after some time.
If your doctor does recommend them to you, you need to have a solid understanding of steroids facts and have an answer to such questions as: what to use, how often, for how long, the dosage and what to expect.
If you are prescribed steroids and have decided to try them, the key point to remember is that it’s not about starting on a course of steroids and just hoping for the best results – which may or may not come. It’s about knowing if and when to start, and also about how to get off of them with a solid exit plan before even starting. An exit plan should be in place prior to embarking on this compound.
Getting off of steroids has to be gradual. Another one of the steroids facts: you can’t stop steroids abruptly without experiencing some adverse effects such as fatigue, mood swings, restlessness, muscle aches and even depression. You must follow the doctor’s orders and reduce the dosage very slowly. Also know that the symptoms of your condition, whether it is AFS or something else, may return.
Hopefully, by then, you would already be on a holistic recovery plan. You will need to support your body with the right foods for your adrenal health, perhaps through a personalized nutritional coaching plan. You will need to do exercises that suit your current stage, such as adrenal breathing exercises or adrenal yoga exercises. Most importantly, you must manage your stress as it is the root cause of the condition you have.
Have faith in your body’s ability to heal itself with the right kind of support, be sure to seek appropriate medical care, and do not be afraid to ask questions to stay well-informed regarding your health and the medications and supplements you are using. With patience and perseverance, your energy and vitality will return.
Hydrocortisone. Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/ingredient/hydrocortisone.html
Blahd, W. (2015, August 25). Bulk Up Your Steroid Smarts. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-steroids-101
Hydrocortisone Wikipedia page. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrocortisone
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Can Baking Soda (bicarbonate) consumption improve physical performance longevity? What other benefits came from its consumption?
Baking soda has been shown to increase athletic performance, reduce acidity in the body, effective in relieving indigestion, heartburn, and ulcer pain.