Cushing's syndrome, which occurs when the body produces too much cortisol or is exposed to high levels of this substance, can cause fatigue, weight gain, skin changes, depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and diabetes. Although there isn't any set diet for people with Cushing's syndrome, making certain dietary changes may help limit your risk for some of these adverse effects.
Consider Increasing Calcium Consumption
Cushing's syndrome increases your risk for osteoporosis. Get at least the recommended dietary allowance for calcium of 1,000 milligrams each day to help maintain your bone mass, recommends the National Institutes of Health. Good sources include low-fat dairy products, sardines with bones, fortified nondairy milks and juices, tofu made with calcium sulfate, calcium-fortified cereals and green leafy vegetables, such as kale and turnip greens.
Watch Sodium Intake
A high sodium intake can increase your risk for high blood pressure, which is already a concern for those with Cushing's syndrome. Processed foods tend to be particularly high in sodium, especially soups, cheese, snack foods, breads, deli meats and pizza. Help protect your heart health by limiting your sodium intake and eating lots of high-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as sources of healthy unsaturated fats like nuts and salmon, recommends Drugs.com.
Don't Get Too Many Calories
Help control the potential weight gain that can be a side effect of Cushing's syndrome by eating plenty of foods that are low in energy density, or calories per gram, which will allow you to eat a greater volume of food while staying within your recommended daily calories. Foods high in fiber or with a high water content, such as fruits and vegetables, tend to be low in energy density, while those high in fat or sugar tend to be high in energy density.
Control Your Blood Sugar
Cushing's syndrome can cause increases in blood sugar, which can lead to diabetes. Choosing carbohydrate-containing foods with a low glycemic index and glycemic load may help with this because these foods tend to have less of an effect on your blood sugar levels. Some examples include pumpernickel bread, 100 percent whole-grain bread, couscous, grapefruit, apples, oranges, pears, peaches, beans, nuts, carrots, peas and nonstarchy vegetables.
A typical breakfast could be a hard-cooked egg with half of a grapefruit, a slice of whole-wheat bread with a small amount of peanut butter and a glass of skim milk. For lunch, try a low-sodium, broth-based soup along with a salad made from spinach and other nonstarchy vegetables topped with chickpeas, a small amount of oil and vinegar dressing, low-fat cheese and unsalted sunflower seeds. Dinner could be a source of lean protein, such as skinless chicken breast or fish, along with a serving of whole-wheat couscous and a nonstarchy vegetable, like broccoli. Add a glass of milk and a piece low-GI fruit, such as an orange or an apple, to finish off your meal.
- University of Michigan Health System: Cushing's Syndrome
- National Institutes of Health: Nutrition for Patients with Cushing Syndrome
- Drugs.com: Cushing Syndrome
- University of Illinois Extension: What Is the Glycemic Load and Glycemic Index?
- Harvard Medical School: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sodium: The Facts