When taking any medication, it is important to be aware of its potential nutrition interactions. For example, the nutritional concerns for those taking the immunosuppressive medication prednisone include high blood pressure, blood sugar dysregulation, increased appetite and weight gain. Avoiding certain foods may mitigate some of these unpleasant effects.
Because prednisone works by mimicking an otherwise naturally occurring and very important hormone called cortisol, it makes sense that it would have an impact on bodily functions, such as metabolism. Prednisone can lead to a redistribution of fat to undesirable places, such as the back of the neck, the abdomen and the face. Weight gain manifests differently in each patient. Despite the fact that prednisone increases appetite, take care to avoid overeating and make sure to get plenty of exercise to burn calories that would otherwise be stored as fat.
Prednisone is also notorious for inducing fluid retention and high blood pressure by causing the body to retain sodium. Therefore, it is important to be cautious about your salt intake while taking prednisone. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day if you have high blood pressure. You can avoid excess salt by eating fresh foods rather than fast food or processed and canned items. Also, foods high in potassium, such as baked potatoes, apricots, bananas, dairy, citrus fruits and spinach, are recommended to establish a healthy sodium/potassium balance.
Prednisone-induced diabetes is a condition that sometimes occurs with prolonged steroid use. Paying attention to carbohydrate intake is critical for controlling this response and keeping blood sugar levels within normal limits. Avoid foods high in simple carbohydrates like sugar and follow a carbohydrate-controlled diet. The American Diabetes Association recommends 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per meal. According to the Exchange List System for Diabetic Meal Planning, 15 grams of carbohydrate is equal to either one slice of bread or a half cup of cereal or pasta. One-half cup of fruit or juice or one-fourth cup of dried fruit also contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate. You can use these handy conversions to plan your diet.
A Smart First Step
Avoiding refined carbohydrates, excess salt and excess calories may help to prevent some of the side effects of prednisone. A smart first step is to avoid packaged foods and fast food, since they contain large amounts sugar, salt and calories. Also, make sure to discuss nutritional concerns with your doctor or a registered dietitian if you need more detailed assistance planning your diet.
- Hospital for Special Surgery: Steroid Side Effects: How to Reduce Corticosteroid Side Effects
- University of California San Francisco Medical Center; ILD Nutrition Manual: Prednisone and Weight Gain
- University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: The Exchange List System for Diabetic Meal Planning
- United States Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- American Diabetes Association: Carbohydrate Counting
- The European Journal of Internal Medicine: The Effect of Prednisolone on Serum Sodium Concentration