If you’ve ever taken a course of steroids, you may have fond memories of how wonderful they made you feel. Just a few days ago, our own president Trump remarked on how he felt better than he did 20 years ago while on treatment for the Corona virus. Although he didn’t directly attribute his statement to steroids, according to his doctor he is taking Dexamethasone. I suspected right away that this was the reason for his euphoria. I have chronic asthma and have been prescribed Prednisone on a few occasions when my breathing was not improving with my usual treatment, and the wonderful feeling I experience as a result has made me question Dinner Table Doctor on more than one occasion- Why can’t I just take steroids all the time? His answer: You would be dancing all the way to the morgue.
We recently had this discussion again over a delicious and easy meal of pasta with mushrooms and pancetta. I’ll include the recipe at the end of the post, in case you’re interested. (I’m going to try and include some recipes to highlight the dinner aspects of Dinner Table Doctor so the medical information isn’t as overwhelming.)
What are steroids? According to WebMD, they are “chemicals, often hormones, that our body makes naturally to help our organs, tissues, and cells do their jobs.” Dexamethasone, which has been in the news a lot lately because of its use in treating patients with Covid, is a man-made steroid similar to a natural hormone produced by your adrenal glands. Like Prednisone, it is a corticosteroid which has anti-inflammatory effects. It is completely different from anabolic steroids, which are the kind body builders use to bulk up.
Corticosteroids are used to treat conditions such as arthritis, lupus, asthma, allergies, and to help suppress the immune system, which can help control conditions in which your immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues.
Many people like myself and apparently Trump, feel great when taking corticosteroids. You literally have more energy and far less aches and pains. A feeling of euphoria is an actual side effect. I love it! Unfortunately, according to DTD, long-term or cumulative use of steroids can be very dangerous and cause multiple unwanted side effects.
Some possible side effects are relatively minor, like heartburn and nausea or swelling in your extremities and an increase in appetite. A few people also might have a change in mood, particularly irritability and even mania or psychosis. I wondered aloud if that was the real reason DTD doesn’t want me taking steroids regularly, but he insisted he never saw those side effects in me! 😊
The really concerning possible side effects after taking corticosteroids either for a long period or even for several shorter periods throughout your life, are heart issues such as premature atherosclerosis, problems with vision or loss of bone density, increased blood sugar, or a GI bleed. To me, perhaps the scariest of possible side effects is the increased risk of infection. Considering we’re living in a pandemic, no one wants to increase their risk of infection unnecessarily. Washing hands frequently and avoiding large crowds are both among the many recommendations for patients on corticosteroids.
Personally, when I stop my course of Prednisone, it’s a big let down. I know some people who get debilitating migraines when they stop the treatment. This is why in a typical course, a doctor will have you slowly taper off the drug. Some people have life-long conditions where steroids are a necessary part of their treatment, but these patients should be closely monitored by a doctor.
In my case, with extremely serious yet infrequent bouts of asthma, I guess I can’t continuously depend on that elation I feel in the short-term use of corticosteroids. I certainly don’t want to visit the morgue prematurely, even if I’m feeling well enough to dance there! I guess I’ll stick with the other thing in my life which gives me the same feelings of exhilaration and ecstasy – a really good plate of pasta! This also comes with side effects, as you read in my old post “White Bread is the Devil’s Spawn,” but to me it’s worth the risk.
To learn a whole lot more about steroids, try these links:
Pasta with Mushrooms and Pancetta
In a large frying pan, melt 3T butter and add 1/2 finely chopped onions and 2 cups roughly chopped mushrooms (I used baby portobello). Also add 2 cloves chopped garlic and 1/3 cup chopped pancetta. A dash of salt is good too, but go light because the pancetta is salty. When the pancetta is crispy, mix everything with about 1 lb. cooked spaghetti (I used whole wheat because I at least try to listen to DTD) and top of with a drizzle of good olive oil. Serve with a salad and some crusty Italian bread. I also highly recommend pairing it with a bottle of Gavi di Gavi, an un-oaked, crisp and medium bodied northern Italian white varietal. (See link below) Buon appetito!