ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: STEROIDS

The human body makes its own steroids. These may be anabolic or catabolic . The body maintains an intricate balance of these chemicals and different types are produced for different functions, accurately and rhythmically. Steroids that encourage repair are produced through the night when we are sleeping and those that stimulate activity are produced in abundance in the early hours of the morning. Conversely, those involved in the breakdown of unwanted products and elimination have their set times to be produced at high or low levels. This delicate balance is maintained by command hormones produced in the pituitary gland and adrenal glands and, provided that we maintain good health, this balance is undisturbed. Steroids have an immunosuppressive action. In the same way that they balance the body’s blood flow, they also prevent overstimulation of the body’s immune system.

As one can see, steroids have many effects but one of their main methods of action is by constricting blood vessels, thereby decreasing blood flow. If a body part is injured the nervous control and histamine release cause arteries to open up to carry the blood into the area, thus bringing in vitamins and other nutrients – white blood cells to kill invaders and scar tissue-forming cells to heal damage. The action of steroids is to keep this in balance.

The use of steroids, whether topical or systemic , is damaging from five points of view:

The delicate balance of healing is disturbed.

The control mechanisms are blocked.

The natural healing process is inhibited.

The steroids themselves are shrouded with side effects, some of them lethal.

The immunosuppressive action of steroids can lead to recurrent or persistent infections.

The most common steroids in use in Western medicine are hydrocortisone and prednisolone. In the East many plant extracts contain steroids that are equally potent, equally suppressive and make a mockery of the concept that natural medicine is safe if injudiciously used or over-prescribed. Self-medication with herbs is often dangerous because of this steroid effect.

The orthodox world concerns itself with removing discomfort, often at any price, and with little concern for the underlying cause. For instance, the use of steroids in asthma removes the inflammation in the bronchial tree thereby opening the passages. In life-threatening conditions this is invaluable but it does not profess to be a cure. The use of steroids in less severe cases of asthma is, undoubtedly, relieving and often necessary. However, without a complementary medical view steroids may have to be used in perpetuity or until the body repairs itself regardless of the medication.

When a steroid is prescribed by a physician it must not be stopped except under medical supervision. The inhibition created by steroids on the control mechanisms in the body may stop natural steroid production. Ceasing medication may leave the body without steroids and this can be fatal. Anyone taking or who has been recommended to take steroids should review the situation with a complementary medical practitioner and under medically qualified supervision either withdraw or assess the efficacy of not taking them. The pharmaceutical industry would have us believe that topical steroids are poorly absorbed through the skin and therefore have little if any effect. They do thin the skin if used persistently, they reduce the immunity in the area and, without any doubt, are absorbed in quantities that can affect the system as a whole. One must be particularly wary if using a steroid cream on an area of skin that is weeping or bleeding.

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