Nothing Cushy About Cushing’s Syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome, named after Dr. Harvey Cushing, is a severe disorder. Also called hypercortisolism, persons with Cushing’s Syndrome have high volumes of cortisol in the blood. A constant cortisol level over the expected threshold can have serious consequences. These include excess fat in the face and midsection, hypertension, diabetes, and infertility. Hypercortisolism reduces immune health and even brain function. There is also excess muscle, skin, and bone breakdown, which can lead to other conditions. Doctors diagnose close to 15 million people with the syndrome every year.

center for family medicine Cushings Syndrome What Can I Eat To Reduce Hypercortisolism Symptoms

The benefits and possible risks of cortisol

Cortisol is a naturally-produced, fat-soluble hormone that has some key benefits. The free cortisol found in the blood helps with the circadian rhythm. Cortisol also helps manage blood pressure. The hormone increases in times of stress, producing more glucose while breaking down fats and proteins. More importantly, cortisol helps reduce inflammation and immune system response. For the body to receive the benefits, the body controls cortisol in precise amounts. So too much cortisol can have the opposite effect. But where does this extra cortisol come from?

What causes hypercortisolism?

There are 2 reasons behind Cushing’s syndrome. One comes from excess corticosteroid medication. Corticosteroids are used for allergies, asthma, and arthritis. While the drug helps reduce inflammation, corticosteroids behave similarly to cortisol. The other reason could be a tumor on the pituitary gland or adrenal glands. As a result, the body is unable to regulate the hormone responsible for cortisol levels.

Increase calcium to protect bones

Hypercortisolism can cause a host of conditions that are related to nutrition. By eating the right foods, persons with Cushing’s syndrome can reduce the symptoms. For instance, foods rich in calcium can help with bone breakdown. This prevents the chances of osteoporosis. Green leafy vegetables, milk, nuts, and fortified foods are great calcium sources. Vitamin D can also help with bone and skin health. The sunshine vitamin is packed inside foods like fatty fish, mushrooms, and some cereals.

Manage blood sugar

Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar is a common occurrence. This increases the chances of diabetes. To maintain healthy blood sugar, avoid sweets, and overly processed foods. Eat high-fiber foods like whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, nuts, berries, and sweet potatoes. These foods can keep persons filled while having a low glycemic index.

Slow down with the salt

Excess cortisol from Cushing’s syndrome can increase blood pressure, leading to hypertension. Avoid processed foods packed with sodium, which contributes to high blood pressure. Focus on fruits, vegetables, and reduced-sodium soups, dressing, and spreads.

Maintain muscle with high protein

Muscle wastage is a common side effect of hypercortisolism. Persons may have thinner arms and legs due to reduced muscle mass. Keeping a balanced protein intake can maintain muscle mass, strength, and health. Beans, lean meats, tofu, and cottage cheese are excellent sources. With all foods, keep a healthy portion size to manage overall weight.

Make progress with your diet

Cushing’s syndrome can be a dangerous, debilitating condition. While there are some ways to treat the issue, diet needs to go hand-in-hand. Excess cortisol affects the way the body processes proteins, sugars, and fats. Maintaining healthy vitamins, minerals, and proteins can improve the quality of life. Speak with a doctor for a solid diet plan that can supplement any treatment.