Summary of Post
This article outlines my regimen and steps I took to wean off steroids after nearly 9 years on steroids. A 'no carb' Atkin's type diet and strict management of all forms of stress (physical, emotional, pollutants, etc) were central to my successful tapering off steroids (following the Pulse and Stretch Protocol) and full recovery. Today, I remain in full remission from Henoch Schonlein Purpura.
An Important Disclaimer
I am not a medical doctor.
My PhD is in Entomology, all my operations have been on insects, and I have a 0% survival rate (all my subjects expired). No wait. That’s not very reassuring.
Ok, take two.
I am intelligent, and a very persistent researcher.
I am good about pulling together information from many sources and putting it down in plain English.
I know what is like to be sick and desperate for a cure. (Read about my disease here).
Best of all, I am an ex-patient! In fact I am training for my first triathlon this year!
I testify that YES it is possible to reactivate ‘dormant’ adrenal glands and wean off long term steroid dependency.
Use it or Lose it: Your Adrenal Glands
If you have been on steroids for many years, the adrenal glands – your body’s own producer of steroids – will likely not be working well. Your adrenals’ duty is to produce cortisol to counter stress in your life, so eating synthetic versions of this hormone (such as prednisone, hydrocortisone, dexamethosone and etc) signals your adrenals to “Stop making cortisol!” because there’s plenty floating around in your blood. Over years taking steroids daily, the adrenals atrophy from not being called on to produce cortisol (‘use it or lose it’). This is why your doctor warns you not to stop taking steroids abruptly. He is absolutely right. If you stop suddenly, your weakened adrenals won’t be able to produce the cortisol needed to keep you alive and you will have an adrenal crisis. Don’t even think about it.
The Key to Reviving Adrenal Glands
The answer is simple. NO STRESS. In this, I don’t mean ‘don’t get stressed out’, or ‘hey no worries matey’. Think about every sort of stress your body could be exposed to in addition to ‘stressing out’. Death of a loved one, a divorce or breakup probably come to mind as stressful, but not getting enough sleep, eating junk foods, smoking, drinking and polluted work/living conditions are also stressful. (Read more on how stress does a number on your adrenals in my upcoming posts). To support adrenal functioning is important for every person, and even more if you are trying to wean off steroid dependency. You will need to reduce the ‘overhead’ stress in your life, big time.
My Personal Regimen
All of what I did is based on my understanding of how the HPA-axis (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis) works and natural cortisol production. I’ll go in depth in a future post but right now I’m going to lay out my life for you to pick apart!
Sleep. Getting enough sleep and at the right times was very important. I would be in bed by 10 pm, and asleep by 11 pm. I would stay in bed as long as I needed to, at least until 8 am. Total hours of sleep: 10 hours a night.
Diet. I ate no sugar and no carbohydrates. ‘What? No pasta, rice, bread, candy, cakes, pastries…?’ Yep. Nope. Yep. Cortisol is used in metabolizing sugars, and eating sugar and carbs (which end up as sugars) stresses out the adrenals by making them work harder to produce cortisol. Instead, I ate organic protein foods, good fats and veggies. Breakfast would be four Omega-3 DHA eggs scrambled in 2 T of extra virgin organic olive oil. Lunch would be free range organic chicken with a salad (Recipe HERE), and same with dinner. Raw unrefined sea salt made everything taste delicious. I have a gazillion recipes that I will save for future posts!
Living environment. Fortunately I lived right next to a forest and had fresh unpolluted air. This was extremely important. My body didn’t have to deal with the added stress of detoxifying pollutants, while on this regimen to kick-start the adrenals. I also used organic and natural body care and household cleaning products. The regular products contain petrochemicals (artificial fragrances), preservatives and other additives that add to the toxic ‘overhead’ the body is exposed to. Don’t need any of that.
Exercise. Uh oh. Did I say exercise? Don’t worry, it’s not anything hardcore. Actually it would be a bad idea to physically stress yourself too much anyway – stress is a Bad Word at this point. Now wasn’t that just what you wanted to hear? Vigorous daily walks that get the blood flowing did me lots of good during the tapering. Toxins get flushed out by sweating and deep breathing!
That’s it! My personal regimen was pretty straightforward. I did all that while I tapered off the steroids (gradually reduced my dosage). I started the regimen in Nov 2007 and was completely steroid free in 6 months. In the years after, whenever I relapsed due to extra-stressful times, I have used this protocol (and variations of it) to wean off the steroids.
Ever heard of the Pulse and Stretch Protocol? It’s a detailed step-by-step guide on how to wean off the steroids and provides information on how fast to wean, how much to reduce the dose by, and what to expect while tapering. I have slaved over countless drafts of it while all of you waited so patiently and I am so glad to announce that it is finally here! (Read more about the Protocol HERE).
(Update: Folks who are serious about weaning off steroids, the best and most helpful book I've read is Dr James Wilson's Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome (my Review HERE). It would have spared me years of guinea-pigging myself if I woulda just read it first, no kidding! One of the best $10 I ever spent.)