Immune System Recovery After Steroids

How steroids affect the immune system

Prednisone and other forms of steroids have several effects that suppress the immune system, suppressing its abilities. They come in many forms: steroid injections, steroid inhalers, steroid tablets, oral steroids, etc. 

Systemic steroids are prescribed for their strong anti-inflammatory effects and are synthetic products of your body’s natural steroid, cortisol.1 Corticosteroids and anabolic steroids are certain examples of systemic steroids that have massive medical effects. Corticosteroids function much like prednisone, they fight inflammation and work for immunosuppression. Anabolic steroids are known as substitutes for the male hormone, testosterone, and are used for diseases that are caused by the lack of this. It is, however, greatly misused in athletic settings, and can cause problems like fluid retention, smaller testicles, infertility, fits of anger or “roid rage”, male-pattern baldness in women, and breast growth among other things.

They block the expansion of t cells, and impair t lymphocyte activation. Since the immune system is the body’s natural defense against foreign pathogens that cause illness, disease, or infection, a suppressed immune system means a weaker innate defense against these pathogens.3,4 According to the NHS,5 these drugs are given at low doses for a short span of time and are used to treat a number of diseases including:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Hay fever
  • Hives and eczema
  • Painful joints or muscles (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Pain due to irritation or the trapping of nerves (e.g. sciatica)
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Medically, steroids are used as a form of immunotherapy, and for their anti-inflammatory effect,4 but just as any drug, there are side effects to chronic use of steroids. Recovery comes with the risk of withdrawal, among other things.

Guidance for immune system recovery after steroids

Recovering from steroids requires time, as it has always been a natural healer. Over time, your body’s physical response to stress would’ve been altered.6 Since steroids inhibit a lot of t cell activity and kill almost all of your eosinophils,3,7 your body’s recuperation not only means your hormones are learning to regulate itself, but a complete regeneration of your immune cells, and these cells take time to grow.7

Caution is advised until you’ve recovered. In recent times it is of utmost importance, with asymptotic COVID-19 patients, and a number of viruses going around, a compromised immune system is not ideal. So if you’re wondering about guidance, consult your personal healthcare provider, they’ll know better for you and your situation than anyone else.

Other things to consider for immune system recovery

As mentioned, the doctor knows best, and withdrawal symptoms can pose a gigantic hurdle to stopping. You might experience nausea, lightheadedness, fatigue, stomach pain, and body aches. If any of these relate to you, call your professional.8

Here are other things you need to consider:

  • Do not stop taking steroid medication until you’ve been advised to by your doctor, and do not stray from the gradual stopping schedule likely to have been prepared for you.8
  • Do not take extraneous medicine whilst quitting to deal with the symptoms unless prescribed by your doctor.8
  • Some people purchase a bracelet that presents medical information in the unfortunate case that a patient becomes unconscious, consider letting healthcare workers know you were on steroids.8


How long does it take for the immune system to recover after steroids

Doctors usually know your dosage schedule better than anyone and would know the rate at which one should stop. The time at which immune suppression remains, according to Dr. Hrishikep Naik,9 is variable from around 2 weeks to 3 months.

What foods are high in steroids

There are a lot of food sources that either naturally occur steroids or boost hormone levels in your body, some of the best include,10,11

  • Quinoa
  • Spinach
  • Celery
  • Eggs
  • Bananas
  • Avocadoes
  • Asparagus
  • Fava Beans
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
  • Foods rich in vitamins A, C, D, Zinc, and Magnesium


The process of healing after long-term immunosuppression from steroids may take time, and a lot of planning by your medical team, but rest assured you’ll be fine. So long as you consider the things outlined in this article, and the treatment of your healthcare provider to the very last detail.

Though it might be daunting to think about, and a certain level of caution is needed to transition from a weak immune system to a strong one (especially with severe covid 19 around), the gradual changes in your lifestyle will heal you, it’s only a matter of time!


  1. The Australian College of Dermatologists. (2020, July 15). ACD A-Z of skin - systemic steroids. ACD. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from 
  2. WebMD. (2021, July 30). Steroids overview: Corticosteroids vs anabolic steroids, side effects, how to take them short and long-term, weaning off them. WebMD. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from Medically reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD
  3. Della Corte, C. M., & Morgillo, F. (2019). Early use of steroids affects immune cells and impairs immunotherapy efficacy. ESMO open, 4(1), e000477.
  4. Coutinho, A. E., & Chapman, K. E. (2011). The anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects of glucocorticoids, recent developments and mechanistic insights. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 335(1), 2–13.
  5. NHS. (2022). Steroids. NHS choices. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from 
  6. Jackson, T. (2020, January 22). How to recover from the side effects of prednisone and other corticosteroids. GreenSmoothieGirl. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from 
  7. Barredo, C. (2021, June 28). Prednisone: When will my immune system recover? Dr. Megan. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from 
  8. How to stop steroid medicines safely. (2020, June 16). Retrieved December 2, 2022, from 
  9. Naik, H. D. (2021, May 21). Immunosuppressive action of steroids - how long does the immune: Practo Consult. Immunosuppressive Action Of Steroids - How Long Does The Immune | Practo Consult. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from 
  10. How to naturally produce steroids: Trifocus Fitness Academy. How To Naturally Produce Steroids | Trifocus Fitness Academy. (2022, August 18). Retrieved December 2, 2022, from 
  11. Clarke, K. (2022, May 20). 7 powerful natural steroids that are testosterone boosting. JLL Fitness Blog. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ivan Bernardo

Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences (Hons.) - BSc, University of Chester, England

I am a Published Contributing Writer for HealthCare.PH with a strong domain knowledge in the Life Sciences. I received an award from the University of Chester's Medical School for my dissertation related to Estrogen, with a foundation in endocrinology.

I'm experienced in corporate diversity work, international translation and transcription, the service industry, and medical or health communications/writing.

I am currently taking an online Astronomy course under distinguished Professor Chris Impey at the University of Stanford in a venture to be an all-around scientific mind.

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