How to Wean Off Steroids (MD Strategies)

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Doctor recommended strategies for weaning off of steroid drugs such as prednisone and cortisone that typically induce dependency over time.

My Dad, a Family Physician for over 40 years, once told me that “once you get on steroids, you rarely get off”.

While this was certainly a bit of an exaggerated statement to emphasize a point, the truth of the underlying message rang true, and I never forgot it!

It is very easy to get heavily reliant upon the amazing…even miraculous anti-inflammatory effects of steroid drugs.

From inhalers for asthma, prednisone for rheumatoid arthritis, cortisone enemas for colitis and topical steroid creams for rashes, the list goes on and on for the many uses of these drugs to keep autoimmune diseases in check.

My Dad used to talk about some of his colleagues who built their practice primarily around the repeat business of steroid shots and related prescriptions!

And, it is likely that in most of these situations, the patient will never get off the steroid merry-go-round necessitating ever increasing dosages to achieve the same symptom-suppressing effect.

This creeps up slowly along with dangerous side effects such as diabetes, osteoporosis, facial swelling, mood swings, and stomach ulcers among numerous others. (1)

For those willing to make the necessary, sometimes life-altering adjustments, what is required to wean off prednisone and other steroid drugs?

The answer is strengthening of the adrenal glands.

If the symptoms of a condition are mitigated by taking steroids, then the foundational causation of the illness is adrenal weakness first and foremost.


Cholesterol is the precursor for all the hormones produced by the adrenal cortex.

These hormones are the ones allow us to productively deal with stress, trauma and even inflammation. They are vital to healing.

The sad fact is that many people misguidedly avoid the very foods that contain the natural cholesterol they need to get off steroids. These foods are eggs, butter, cream, whole milk and yogurt, and meats.

Please note that the rancid cholesterol in processed foods is not part of this conversation. Only the natural, healing cholesterol in traditional foods!

As Dr. Cowan puts, it,

…adrenal insufficiency (lack of adrenal cortical hormones) is a fat deficiency. So the first step is simple and logical: eat more fat, especially cholesterol-rich animal fat. One of these fats should be cod liver oil to supply vitamin A. The adrenal cortex cannot make adrenal hormones out of cholesterol without vitamin A. (1)

Quality Sleep

Decent sleep is imperative if you want to ditch those steroid meds.

Uninterrupted sleep cycles are absolutely crucial for normalizing adrenal hormones according to Dr. Bruce Rind MD. (2)

It’s not only the amount of sleep but when you sleep that is important. For example, your gall bladder flushes between 11 pm and 1 am each night.

If you are not sleeping during this time, the toxin release/elimination does not happen which can cause a backup in your liver. This can further destabilize your hormones.

As an Ayurvedic MD once strongly recommended to me, get to bed no later than 10:30 pm if you want healthy hormones that keep inflammation at bay.


Cutting back on caffeine is usually necessary to get the best sleep.

Most people realize that caffeine keeps you alert and awake, however, what they might not know is that this effect occurs via the production of adrenaline by the adrenal medulla.

To come down off this adrenaline high, the adrenal cortex must then work extra hard to produce the relaxation, anti-inflammatory cortisoid hormones.

Regular use of caffeine risks wearing out the adrenal cortex so that these important cortisoid hormones are no longer adequately produced. This renders a dependency on steroid drugs extremely difficult to unwind.

Mattress Hygiene

Most people do not realize how much of an effect mattress and pillow quality can have on deep sleep.

Note that a toxic bed environment can harm the quality of your slumber as well.

Check my resources page for mattress, pillow and bedding brands that are safe and nontoxic to encourage deep sleep that helps restore hormone balance.

Additional information to help with poor sleep includes this article on how to resolve sleeplessness naturally and this article which details how to use herbs to deepen sleep.

Limit Sugar and Refined Carbs

Like caffeine, excessive sugar and refined carbohydrates in the diet can stress the adrenal cortex by making it work overtime.

The hormones produced by the adrenal cortex not only control inflammation. They also regulate sugar balance! (1)

Thus, see-sawing blood sugar overly stresses the adrenal glands. On the other hand, steady blood sugar rests them and facilitates strengthening.

For those who wish to get off steroid drugs for good, ending sugar addiction and minimizing grain-based refined carbs so common in the Western diet are absolutely crucial.

Moderate Exercise ONLY

Regular movement is, of course, important for overall health which would include the adrenal sufficiency necessary to ditch steroids.

Here’s the key, though.

The exercise can’t be too strenuous! For example, running a marathon (or even just training for one) is a no-no. That goes for half-marathons and triathlons too.

Yoga, brisk walking, light weights and other forms of moderate exercise that gets the blood moving without too much adrenal stress works well.

Once you are off the steroids, you can go for the more strenuous stuff!

Mineral Rich Sea Salt

According to endocrine specialist Dr. Bruce Rind MD, the adrenal glands need plenty of salt to function properly. (2)

Not sodium or refined white salt, however.

Mineral-rich sea salt is what is needed for optimal adrenal health that doesn’t require steroids as a crutch.

This type of salt contains dozens of trace nutrients missing from our depleted soils is crucial to seek out and use to taste on your home-cooked meals.

This is the sea salt I use at the recent recommendation of our practitioner. We switched to this brand about a year go.

It is the highest mineral salt in the world, tested to be free of toxins and microplastic contamination.

Necessary Nutrients

According to Dr. Cowan, three major nutrients are necessary for the adrenal cortex to function optimally:

  1. Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
  2. Real Vitamin A (NOT beta carotene).
  3. Whole food Vitamin C (suggested brands)

Ideally, these vitamins are best obtained from food or whole food supplements.

Clean, pastured raw milk contains all of them in abundance. This is perhaps why raw milk fasts have successfully treated many cortisone-related illnesses in the past.

Virgin cod liver oil and grassfed desiccated liver are two other sources with these nutrients in abundance.

Dr. Cowan also suggests Drenamin from Standard Process as a supplement that contains the bovine adrenal protomorphogen to help stimulate organ rebuilding. The initial dosage is 3 tablets 3 times per day. (1)

When Diet and Supplements Alone Don’t Work

When diet and lifestyle interventions do not work to wean a person off steroids, look to unresolved stress as a primary reason.

Dr. Cowan defines stress as follows:

I define stress as anything that forces us to live contrary to what our inner guide is telling us is right for us. I want to emphasize that we need to follow our inner guide–not our parents, not the church, not our culture, not government nor anyone or anything else. So many people with adrenal illnesses live a life of “should.” To me, that is stress. In our comprehensive approach to illness this aspect of our health must be considered as vitally important. (1)

In this age of brutal, frequently involuntary change and upheaval, perhaps the shining silver lining is that this is the best time of all to make the hard choices that can align our lives with that inner guide as much as possible!


(1) Steroid Drugs, Ask the Doctor

(2) Dr. Bruce Rind MD Center for Health and Healing

How to Wean Off Steroids (MD Strategies) is written by Sarah Pope for


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