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Diet While Taking Steroids

By Maura Banar ; Updated July 18, 2017

Steroids decrease inflammation and suppress the effect of the immune system. These medications are usually administered to individuals with asthma, arthritis and autoimmune disorders, according to While these medications can be effective in reducing symptoms, they often come with unwanted side effects including weight gain. This can lead to an increased risk of additional chronic illnesses. Check with your doctor before making significant changes to your eating habits or level of activity.


Long term administration of steroid medications like prednisone can lead to weakening of the structure of your bones. According to Seattle Children's Hospital, this effect tends to occur in the hips, knees and shoulders and makes them more prone to sudden fractures. Increasing your consumption of foods that are rich in the mineral calcium can help offset this bone weakening. These foods, which include low- and non-fat diary products, dark leafy green vegetables and calcium-fortified cereals should be combined with a program of regular physical activity to maintain bone strength.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium to maintain bone and muscle integrity. This fat-soluble vitamin is also important if you are taking steroid medications that can deplete vitamin D stores. Vitamin D is added to fortified foods like cereals and milk and is produced by your body in response to exposure to natural sunlight. Too much exposure to sunlight however, can increase your risk of premature aging and skin cancer. If you're using natural light to get your daily dose of vitamin D, the National Institutes of Health recommend either using sunscreen or limit your exposure to between 5 and 30 minutes a day. Additionally, NIH warns that vitamin D supplements can interact with the effectiveness of steroid medications, and should only be administered by a physician.

Low Sodium

Taking steroids for long periods of time can lead to water and sodium retention also known as edema. While this side effect is unavoidable for those susceptible to it, reducing the amount of sodium in your diet can help decrease any additional retention. Check nutritional labels for hidden sodium, which can be added to foods like canned and frozen vegetables and as a preservative in luncheon meats. Avoid the salt shaker and learn to prepare foods using fresh or dehydrated herbs and spices instead.

Complex Carbohydrates

Taking steroid medications can lead to weight gain for many people and can also cause instability in blood sugar levels. This can lead to diabetes and also cause you to eat more often than you normally would, because your blood sugar drops suddenly. Avoiding simple carbohydrate foods such as highly processed white flour products can help you decrease the risk of this instability and help you eat less. Complex carbohydrate foods, which include fruits, vegetables and whole grains, slow your digestive process so you feel fuller for longer and eat fewer calories overall.

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