• drjulierowin

What can I eat to avoid prednisone side-effects?

Concerns arise regarding the many possible side-effects of prednisone. People want to know how to avoid the weight gain, hypertension, high triglycerides, insulin resistance, diabetes and bone loss that can be associated with chronic prednisone use. In my experience, there are nutritional and lifestyle interventions that can definitely help to avoid these side-effects.


Most of the immune system resides in the digestive tract. That means that what we eat has a direct impact on how our bodies are able to cope with autoimmune disease. Certain foods fight inflammation and balance immunity and certain foods increase the inflammatory response. For example, excess sugar drives up inflammation and may interfere with a healthy immune response. You don’t need to worry about the small about of natural sweetness in fruit. This is about cookies, cakes, white flour, white rice and the hidden sugar in processed and prepared foods. Refined sugar is also likely to displace essential nutrients that help to balance our immune system.


There are many facets to the best nutritional plan to follow while on prednisone, but probably the number one tactic is to completely avoid refined/processed sugar, simple carbohydrates and other sweeteners. Do not be fooled by the marketing of healthy sounding names like natural cane sugar or brown rice syrup, etc. It is still processed sugar. Because sugar is habit forming, the transition off sugar can be tough. So, hang in there! The fact that added sugar and simple carbohydrates are generally detrimental to health is backed by plentiful scientific evidence. Evidence links sugar intake to obesity, hypertension, high triglycerides, insulin resistance, diabetes and possibly bone loss. Notice that this is the same as the list of prednisone side effects!


Avoid all sweeteners including artificial sweeteners. Both sugar and artificial sweeteners send “hunger” signals to the brain. They decrease the chemical dopamine in the brain, reducing the reward from eating, and signaling the brain to eat more. If you don’t want to gain weight, avoid sugar!


My advice is to limit your food to whole foods: Vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, meat and a limited amount of whole fresh fruits, healthy fats (such as avocado, olive oil), plain yogurt, kefir and cheeses and whole grains like oats (unsweetened oatmeal) and quinoa. Make sure you are pairing carbohydrates such as oats, quinoa and starchy vegetables with a healthy fat such as avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds to lower their glycemic impact.


What do you snack on? Try hummus with veggies, nuts and seeds, an apple with nut butter, green smoothies, a piece of whole fruit such as an orange or plain full-fat yogurt with berries.


This nutritional approach will reduce your risk of diabetes, weight gain and other prednisone related side-effects.