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The Dark Side of Using Topical Steroids - What Is Topical Steroid Withdrawal?

The Dark Side of Using Topical Steroids - What Is Topical Steroid Withdrawal?

Topical steroids are creams often prescribed to people with eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and various skin conditions. When used correctly, steroid creams are safe and effective. However, when they are used continually for a long time, they can cause a reaction called Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW), which includes severe rashes, skin shedding, swelling and so on.

What causes Topical Steroid Withdrawal?

Topical Steroid Withdrawal is a reaction triggered by stopping the use of topical steroid creams. The specific cause of TSW is unknown, but it is known to relate to the dependency on the medication over time. 

Topical steroids contain cortisone, an artificial cortisol steroid hormone that your adrenal glands typically produce. They suppress inflammation in your body tissue and control metabolism. When used for an extended period, your body becomes less responsive to its effect, requiring higher doses to achieve the same result. The more your body depends on topical steroids, the less they produce cortisol on their own, leading to inflammation. 

Symptoms of Topical Steroid Withdrawal

TSW symptoms can vary depending from person to person

Common symptoms are…

  • Red and burnt appearance of the skin
  • Intense itching
  • Burning sensation
  • Inflamed skin on arms and legs
  • Crusting/oozing skin
  • Skin hypersensitivity and pain
  • Swelling
  • Lack of sleep due to itching
  • Sensible to touch and temperature change
  • Dry and flaky skin
  • Mental stress and anxiety

How to treat it?

Several options to treat TSW symptoms include an oral medication called monoclonal antibodies, moisturisation and stress management. And there is a diet that can significantly help treat TSW.

Currently, there is no scientifically proven cure for TSW. However, there is an increased trend among people with TSW who have experienced positive changes by switching their diet to organic and anti-inflammatory foods. 

When you have TSW, your immune system is recovering after being suppressed by steroids. Inflammation occurs as the immune system's natural response to threats. So, at the beginning of TSW, you will experience intense inflammation. Your diet is critical in healing or adding inflammation to your skin.  

What are anti-inflammatory foods?

Dr. Frank Hu, a Professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, says, "Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects." 

Avoid eating processed foods, including microwavable foods, instant foods, baked goods, sugary cereals, sauces, chips, packaged cookies, and packaged lunch boxes. These often contain excessive sodium, sugar, and trans-unsaturated fatty acids.

The list of inflammatory foods is…

  • Refined carbohydrates 
  • Sugar
  • Fried foods
  • Red meats and processed meat
  • Dairy products
  • Gluten
  • Vegetable oils

Including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet can effectively help heal your health issues. 

Anti-inflammatory foods

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Fish
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Organic free-range poultry
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Herbs and spices

These foods contain plant chemicals (phytochemicals), antioxidants, and fibre. They help promote gut health, prevent cellular stress, and suppress inflammatory signals from the immune system. It also helps to reduce inflammation of the skin and ease the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. 

Additionally, drinking coffee or green tea has the benefit of reducing inflammation. 

A study found that people who drink coffee and green tea had lower risks of chronic diseases. 

It appears clear that we need more scientific research on TSW symptoms and how an anti-inflammatory diet can help with it. However, our hopes are big.

Thanks to our developed internet culture, we can connect with more people and collect more information. Many people share their stories of recovering from TSW and their anti-inflammatory diet. The power of food is significant to our bodies. Whether you suffer from TSW or not, let’s rethink what we eat for our inner health and skin.

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