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The Dangers Of Steroid Medications & How They Affect Thyroid Health

Although my focus is to attempt to use natural treatment methods whenever possible, I realize there is a time and place for prescription drugs, as well as surgery, and other medical procedures. The problem is that most medical doctors become too reliant on conventional medical treatments, and many times these doctors don’t do anything to determine the actual cause of a problem. Sure, sometimes the medication they prescribe has minimal side effects, even if taken long term. On the other hand, other drugs they recommend to their patients can have severe implications if taken long term.

Corticosteroids, such as Prednisone, fall under the latter category. In fact, even when taken for a short period of time these drugs put a major strain on our bodies. And when taken over a period of many months or years, the consequences can be detrimental. Corticosteroids can affect many of the bodily systems, including the thyroid gland and adrenals.

Corticosteroids Can Cause Or Worsen Hypothyroidism

The way that corticosteroids can cause the development of hypothyroidism, or worsen it in individuals who already have this condition, is by reducing or stopping the secretion of TSH. This in turn will result in a reduction of thyroid hormone in the body. So if someone is taking a drug such as Prednisone for a long period of time, it is possible this can lead to the development of hypothyroidism. This is why fully evaluating each patient on an individual basis is important, as any good doctor needs to know which prescription drugs each of their patients are taking, as they can provide a lot of useful information as to why someone is experiencing certain symptoms.

This of course isn’t to suggest that taking corticosteroids is the cause of most cases of hypothyroidism, as this obviously isn’t the reason why most people develop hypothyroid conditions.  But because these drugs can potentially lead to hypothyroidism, as well as other conditions, it is extremely important to find out if someone is taking these drugs, as well as other medications which can affect the thyroid gland and endocrine system in general.  This is why it is important for any medical doctor to find out all of the medications, as well as any nutritional supplements and herbs their patients are taking.

Corticosteroids Can Also Affect The Health Of The Adrenal Glands

In addition to affecting the thyroid gland, corticosteroids also can affect the health of the adrenal glands.  The reason for this is because the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, which of course is a natural steroid hormone of the body.  When someone takes corticosteroids, which are artificial steroid hormones, they compete with the natural steroid hormone cortisol, and therefore this suppresses the adrenal glands.  The problem is that the artificial steroid hormones don’t function the same way as natural cortisol, and in fact have some potentially harmful side effects. 

As I’ve mentioned in numerous posts and articles in the past, compromised adrenal glands in turn can impact thyroid health.  Weakened adrenal glands can also lead to a compromised immune system, leading to an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

Other Consequences Of Taking Corticosteroids

I’m not going to talk about all of the different conditions that long term use of corticosteroids can lead to.  Since this is a site that focuses on endocrine disorders, I mainly wanted to make you aware of the impact this drug can have on some of the main endocrine glands of the body.  And if all corticosteroids did was affect the thyroid and adrenal glands, this alone would be enough to justify avoiding these drugs whenever possible.  But in addition to causing problems with the endocrine system, taking synthetic steroid hormones such as Prednisone can cause many other side effects, and lead to other conditions in the future.  It can cause loss of calcium of the bone, leading to the development of osteoporosis, can cause menstrual problems, cataracts, can worsen diabetes, and can cause many other problems.

Once again, I realize that there are times when taking corticosteroids is necessary.  But it’s frustrating that many medical doctors frequently prescribe these drugs as if the side effects were minimal.  Granted, if someone has a severe allergy, or is getting an organ transplant, then I can understand recommending corticosteroids.  So in emergency situations, or if the person is having severe symptoms, then using corticosteroids for a short period of time is perfectly fine.  But in most cases you want to avoid long term use of corticosteroids in order to avoid developing the side effects and conditions mentioned above.

In summary, steroid medication has some benefits, but there are also many risks involved, especially when taken over a long period of time.  So if you are prescribed corticosteroids for a condition that is non life-threatening and/or doesn’t involve severe symptoms, you might want to think twice about taking these powerful drugs, and perhaps look into some natural alternatives instead.  I’m not telling you to stop taking corticosteroids if you’re currently taking them, as this is only a decision that you can make on your own.  As usual, my goal is to simply let you know about some of the potential risks involved, so that you can make an informed decision.


 

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