I do not want to bring up endlessly all my issues with taking Prednisolone, Prednisone or any other type of steroids every time I am prescribed this medication. I would be tedious for you, and unnecessary for me. I have covered in the past my feelings on the topic, why it is preferred as a chemical treatment for autoimmune illnesses and how it benefits me, having Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus Cerebritis.
What I feel would be more beneficial is to share the strategy I have developed for coping and successfully living a sane, healthy and ‘well’ life whilst taking a higher dose of this medication. In sharing this with you I hope to show that it can be done through willpower, positive thinking and a little extra effort on the consumer’s part.
I want to begin by admitting I know fully how many groans will be had by people as they read this. Not only do you have to take (probably) a preparatory medication to line the stomach and intestines against ulceration and the steroids but I will be recommending some more, pills to your pocket box.
Problem: Steroids increase your appetite. They make you hungry. I always feel like Simba off the Lion King™ whenever I go near The Place Where The Food Is Kept.
Learn about your metabolism. Proteins make you feel full, which is awesome, but remember they can be heavy in fats too so watch your amounts. The rate of your metabolism determines how often you get hungry, faster ones will incur hunger sooner. The way to stave off hunger, according to dietitians and nutritionists is to start the day with protein, snack on small amounts of protein and eat slower. Good, healthy sources of protein for breakfast can range. Bananas, avocados, lentils, beans fish and meats are all great. If you are a vegan of course you may want to start the day with a muesli and almond milk smoothie and add in some banana, vegetarians could branch to boiled or scrambled eggs with sautéed leafy greens and lazy people like me may want a green smoothie. Mushrooms and lentils are super snacks, as are a small handful of nuts and seeds.
I aim for a vanilla protein smoothie with a banana or a bowl of yoghurt and muesli for breakfast each day, with berries. Lunches are salads with (no surprises) dark leafy greens and boiled eggs and lentils or chickpeas. There are some super tasty Western Asian and Middle Eastern recipes that utilise these wonderfully. Dinners can be stuffed eggplants or mushrooms, creamy pastas and anything you can get lots of herbs into.
Appetite suppression. I won’t say too much as this is a dangerous area. Talk to a nutritionist about what is right for you. Explain the situation clearly so they know all the factors and monitor yourself daily and regularly. I do not take anything with Green Tea or Green Tea extract in it, nor do I use products with caffeine as I drink coffee and the effects of the steroids already give me a raging level of energy. I also do not use these for anything lower than a 25mg dose of steroids.
Plan your meals. Prepare the food the day before and put it into containers. Peel carrots, slice cucumbers, capsicum, cube 50g of cheddar cheese, mix almonds, pumpkin seeds, linseed and walnut and set them aside. I love roasted sweet potato and pumpkin but I will only have a small amount of those a day. Try different salads and cheeses. Quinoa and a frozen mixed vegetable pack can be a surprisingly nice little snack if you need. Do not eat standing, do not prepare food as you are hungry, if you can help it and when you feel the urge make a cup of lemon tea or cool glass of water then go for a walk. Often hunger comes from inactivity during these medication doses. Just saying.
Problem: Going to bed and falling asleep can be an issue. You just don’t feel tired. To a point you will subconsciously start to have dinner later, or twice, and stay up watching TV to avoid the horizontal sheet tango you unwittingly engage in with your pillow. I have invested a lot of time to determining what sleep pattern worked best for me. I hope you took some time to muse over my findings because it all comes back into play now. I had removed the need for sound from my sleep. I had drifted away from my incense aromatherapy infuser. I was no longer using sleeping medications of any kind. With steroids, this had to change.
I have established a routine. At 9 o’clock it is bed time. I may have a cup of peppermint tea but often not as this gives me uncomfortable flushes mostly these days. At 9 I stand, make my way to the bedroom and begin my teeth, hair, skin and bed process. I can read once I am there, but no phones or tablet interaction.
I introduced a few remedial techniques. I have a clock with a second hand. I know, groan. But. It works. I count my breaths to the ticks. I use my infuser on a mixture with two drops of lavender, one frankincense and one peppermint. This goes on ten minutes before I go to bed, set at 180 minutes and I guarantee I have never heard it turn off (winning). I always clean my feet and make my bed before I get into it. There is no need to be distracted by the sheets or dirty toes then. I still sleep with my eye mask. This will never change for me, but it is worth mentioning for you.
My naturopath has recommended a new compound for herbal sleep assistance and I am inclined to say it is the best natural formula I have taken to date. The active ingredients are Valeriana, Zizyphus and prunus cerasus with lavender. It is called Sleep Complex by BioCeuticals.
Problem: When you are taking steroids your emotions and moods go haywire. I cannot say exactly why or what it is in each person, but for me, I feel agitated with the extra energy, the overwhelming amount of raw emotion I experience, anxiety over hunger and then weight gain and irritability over sleeplessness.
I have removed all the extra commitments in my life. This happened prior to this year but it is important not to take them up now I feel invincible. So I take on small self-contained tasks, like hand embroidery, colouring in, Sudoku, jigsaws and dot-to-dots. I have written down my tasks for work and study and I complete these in order or importance. I do not add unnecessary tasks to the list, especially at work. This means I am only doing what I should/ can/ must/ need to not things to ‘help people out’ when they could themselves. When someone is talking to me I stop doing my task. I listen. I don’t respond until I have thought in my head “How are they feeling? What are they asking of me? How can I help them? How does this make them feel?
I have allowed myself enough time each day to go for one big walk or two little ones. I take these walks with my music. I don’t think about uni, or people, or work. I don’t text or go on Facebook. I might go to the shop and take pictures. I smile at every person that passes and say hello and thank you to shop assistants. I just take time.
Living with steroids isn’t easy. Yet somehow by following these solutions, and implementing simple strategies, I feel as though I won’t become a monster this time.