Add To Favorites

How Do Steroids Work?

Miami Herald - 9/9/2022

We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links. The newsroom and editorial staff were not involved in the creation of this content.

Steroids are synthetic hormones explicitly made to help with different hormonal needs. Two main types of steroids are used to treat various conditions in the body. This article discusses the different types of steroids, how steroids work, and what they treat.

Types of Steroids

There are two types of steroids, namely:

Corticosteroids: These steroids mimic cortisol, a hormone made in the adrenal gland [1].

Anabolic Steroids: These are manufactured testosterone hormones and are also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids [2].

How Do Steroids Work?

We’ll go over how both corticosteroids and anabolic steroids work.

What Are Corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids treat inflammation by reducing the effects of the immune system response.

Inflammation occurs when the immune system tries to protect the body from intruders like bacteria and viruses, which may enter the body through injury or illness [3]. Some of the symptoms of inflammation are redness, swelling, pain, fever, irritability, sore throat, and headache.

How Do Corticosteroids Work?

Corticosteroids work by preventing the body from synthesizing proteins that cause inflammation. This occurs because corticosteroids activate anti-inflammatory proteins [4].

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids treat diseases arising from testosterone deficiency in men or women. Hypogonadism in men and stopping the release of estrogen to slow down breast cancer in women are some of the uses attributed to anabolic steroids.

How Do Anabolic Steroids Work?

Anabolic steroids work by introducing testosterone into the body. Testosterone effects on the body can be anabolic or androgenic.

Androgenic effects are associated with male characteristics, for example, deep voice, facial hair, and sperm production.

Anabolic effects include increased bone density, muscle growth, and recovery speed in case of injury.

For increased performance, anabolic steroids work by triggering androgen receptorsin the muscles to produce more muscle tissue. This increases protein synthesis by the muscle to produce more energy [5].

>> Try a legal steroid to boost muscle growth such as D-Bal Max

What Do Steroids Treat?

Doctors prescribe steroids to treat several diseases. These are some of the conditions they can treat:


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma


Hay fever

Metastatic breast cancer in women

Hives and eczema

Painful muscles or joints like arthritis

Inflammatory bowel disease – such as Crohn’sCrohn’s disease

Treatment and prevention of muscle wasting


Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Delayed puberty in males

How Do You Take Steroids?

Taking steroids depends on how the drug targets the organ. The drug can target organs locally or systemically.

A steroid is locally targeted when the drug is administered precisely where the problem or muscle is. This happens through injection, eye drops, and skin creams.

When steroids are systemically targeted, the steroid is administered throughout the body. This is done orally or through injection into the bloodstream.

When Are Steroids Prescribed?

Prescription of steroids happens in cases where the body’s immune system starts causing tissue damage. The drugs can also be used as a primary form of therapy in some conditions, such as muscle inflammation.

If the health problems are due to insufficient testosterone production, steroids can be good alternative medications. However, these prescriptions are limited to a period since steroids have serious side effects.

5 Best Alternatives to Steroids

Long-term use of steroids might come with severe or long-term side effects. The following are some of the alternatives available:

Anti-inflammatory diet

Lifestyle changes

Herbs and supplements

Enteral nutrition

Mind-body therapies

1. Anti-inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet consists of foods like green leafy vegetables, fruits, and olive oil. Their properties keep inflammation in check [6].

You need an anti-inflammatory diet if you have an autoimmune disease, asthma, or allergies that cause inflammation. Try to avoid foods such as red meat, fried foods, and sugary beverages because they are known to cause inflammation.

2. Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes regulate both inflammation and testosterone levels in the body. The following are some of the lifestyle changes you can try to improve your overall health:

Regular exercise

Avoid smoking

Healthy diet

Healthy sleeping habits

Managing stress through practices like meditation

3. Herbs and Supplements

Some herbs and supplements help lower inflammation while also increasing the amounts of testosterone and cortisol. Herbs and supplements with these beneficial properties include:

Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)

Green tea


White willow bark



D-aspartic acid (DAA)

Chili pepper



>> Try a legal steroid to boost muscle growth such as D-Bal Max

4. Enteral Nutrition

Enteral nutrition is a liquid-only dietthat is mostly used over steroid treatments. The treatment helps kids when there are concerns that steroids might affect their growth [7].

5. Mind-Body Therapies

Mind-body therapies still show mixed results when it comes to their effectiveness. However, they help improve the general quality of health, especially in reducing stress. This may have a significant impact on inflammation [8].

How Do Steroids Work FAQs

The following are some of the answers to popular questions people have about how steroids function.

What Do Steroids Do to Your Body?

When taken according to a doctor’s prescription, steroids help reduce inflammation and increase testosterone levels. This is because steroids introduce cortisol or testosterone hormones in your system if you have any deficiencies.

Unprescribed or prolonged use of steroids can equally cause adverse side effects. Some of these effects may be permanent or life-threatening. They include liver and kidney damage, enlarged heart, thinning bones, baldness, and muscle weakness.

How Long Does It Take for Steroids to Kick In?

Steroids work in two to six hours,depending on how you have taken the medication and the medical condition in question. However, noticeable effects may occur anywhere between one day and four weeks. Anabolic steroids take longer for results to show than corticosteroids.

How Long Do Steroids Stay In Your System?

Steroids take between 11 hours to one month to stay in your system. Factors such as metabolic rate, age, health, body mass, and how much or long you take the drug significantly determine the duration steroids stay in your system.

Do Steroids Make You Tired?

Steroids make you tired when you have been using the drug for a long time. Fatigue, impaired sleep, and depression are some of the adverse effects of using steroid drugs. These effects generally weaken the body, making you feel tired.

However, steroids relieve some terminal cancer patients from fatigue [9].

How Do You Eat When on Steroids?

Taking steroids increases appetite, which may easily make your eating habits spiral out of control. To stay healthy during this period, the following are some of the things you should eat:

Low carbohydrate and high protein diet

Take carbohydrates from fresh fruits and vegetables

Eat small portions of highly nutritional food frequently

Avoid alcohol

Limit eating cholesterol and fat

Take calcium-rich foods

Adopt anti-inflammatory diet


Steroids are synthetic hormones used to help people struggling with conditions due to a lack of said hormones. The roles of these drugs include reducing inflammation and adding testosterone to the body.

Hormone deficient people can use steroids to increase muscle mass and treat delayed puberty and hypogonadism. Effects of steroids can occur within hours or days depending on the modes of admission and several other factors like age and metabolic rate.

Prolonged use of steroids can cause adverse or permanent side effects. Some of the side effects may be deadly. That is why alternatives such as an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle changes are significant.

Related articles:

Best Legal Steroids


“Corticosteroids.” Cleveland Clinic,

“Anabolic Steroids Drugfacts.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 22 Mar. 2022,

NCBI Bookshelf.

Barnes, Peter J. “How Corticosteroids Control Inflammation: Quintiles Prize Lecture 2005.” British Journal of Pharmacology, Nature Publishing Group, June 2006,

“Introduction.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 3 Aug. 2021,

“Foods That Fight Inflammation.” Harvard Health, 16 Nov. 2021,

“Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic.” Are There Alternatives to Steroids? | IBD Clinic,

Bower, Julienne E, and Michael R Irwin. “Mind-Body Therapies and Control of Inflammatory Biology: A Descriptive Review.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2016,

K;, Matsuo N;Yomiya. “Aggravation of Fatigue by Steroid Therapy in Terminally Ill Patients with Cancer.” The American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care, U.S. National Library of Medicine,

©2022 Miami Herald. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Nationwide News