If you’re someone who takes prednisone for a medical condition, you may be wondering if it’s safe to take milk thistle as a natural supplement.
After all, milk thistle is known for its liver-protective properties and anti-inflammatory benefits. However, before you start taking milk thistle alongside your prednisone, it’s important to understand the potential risks and interactions involved.
In this article, we’ll explore the science behind milk thistle and prednisone, and help you make an informed decision about whether or not to incorporate milk thistle into your healthcare routine.
Can I Take Milk Thistle With Prednisone?
While milk thistle may seem like a natural and harmless supplement to take alongside prednisone, it’s important to note that there are potential risks and interactions involved.
One of the main concerns is that milk thistle inhibits the liver enzyme CYP3A4, which is responsible for metabolizing prednisone. This means that taking milk thistle alongside prednisone can lead to a dangerous buildup of the drug in your bloodstream, potentially causing toxicity.
In fact, a study conducted by eHealthMe found that there are reported interactions between prednisone and milk thistle, with common side effects including tooth infections and fatigue.
It’s important to note that while milk thistle has been shown to have liver-protective properties, it has not yet been studied in humans treated with prednisone. Therefore, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid taking milk thistle alongside prednisone unless specifically prescribed by your doctor.
What Is Prednisone And How Does It Work?
Prednisone is a synthetic version of glucocorticoid hormones that are naturally secreted by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It is commonly used to reduce inflammation and calm down an overactive immune system. Prednisone has predominantly glucocorticoid activity and low mineralocorticoid activity, which means that it affects the immune response and inflammation rather than affecting the body’s balance of electrolytes and water.
Prednisone works by binding to specific receptors in the body’s cells, which leads to the activation or suppression of certain genes. This results in a decrease in the production of inflammatory chemicals, such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which cause swelling, redness, and pain. By reducing inflammation, prednisone can help alleviate symptoms associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and allergies.
However, prednisone is not without its side effects. Some common side effects include increased appetite, weight gain, mood changes, difficulty sleeping, and increased risk of infection. Long-term use can also lead to more serious side effects such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and cataracts.
It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking prednisone and to only take it as prescribed. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of potential interactions with other supplements or medications, such as milk thistle, and to consult with your doctor before taking any new supplements or making changes to your medication regimen.
What Is Milk Thistle And How Does It Work?
Milk thistle, also known as Silybum marianum, is a flowering herb that has been used for over 2,000 years to treat liver and gallbladder diseases. The active compound found in milk thistle seeds is called silymarin, which is believed to offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Research has shown that milk thistle can be a powerful aid in treating acute liver toxicity caused by ingestion of poisonous substances. It can also help protect the liver against side effects from medications such as anti-inflammatories and steroids.
Milk thistle works by inhibiting the production of free radicals, which can cause damage to cells and tissues. It also helps to stimulate the production of new liver cells, which can aid in the healing process.
While milk thistle is generally considered safe, it’s important to note that it can cause gastrointestinal upset, headache, skin reactions, insomnia, joint pain, cold-like symptoms, and impotence. Milk thistle can also cause an allergic reaction in some people who are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, or daisy.
Potential Interactions Between Prednisone And Milk Thistle
As mentioned earlier, milk thistle inhibits the liver enzyme CYP3A4, which is responsible for metabolizing prednisone. This means that taking milk thistle alongside prednisone can lead to a dangerous buildup of the drug in your bloodstream, potentially causing toxicity.
Additionally, while milk thistle has been shown to have liver-protective properties, it may not be safe to take alongside prednisone due to potential drug interactions. For example, a study conducted by eHealthMe found that there are reported interactions between prednisone and milk thistle, with common side effects including tooth infections and fatigue.
It’s important to note that further studies are needed to determine the full extent of these interactions and their potential risks. Therefore, if you’re considering taking milk thistle alongside prednisone, it’s best to consult with your doctor first to ensure that it’s safe and won’t interfere with your treatment plan. Your doctor can also advise you on the appropriate dosage and frequency of milk thistle intake, if necessary.
Risks And Benefits Of Combining Prednisone And Milk Thistle
While there are potential risks involved in combining prednisone and milk thistle, there may also be some potential benefits.
Milk thistle has been used for thousands of years as an herbal remedy for liver, kidney, and gallbladder problems. Several scientific studies suggest that substances in milk thistle, especially a flavonoid called silymarin, protect the liver from toxins, including certain drugs such as acetaminophen that can cause liver damage in high doses. Silymarin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it may help the liver repair itself by growing new cells.
However, it’s important to note that results in human studies are mixed, and milk thistle’s effects on the liver when taken alongside prednisone have not yet been studied. Additionally, while milk thistle may have liver-protective properties, taking it alongside prednisone can inhibit the metabolizing of prednisone, leading to potential toxicity.
Therefore, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider before considering taking milk thistle alongside prednisone. Your doctor can help you weigh the potential risks and benefits and determine if this combination is safe for you. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health.
Alternatives To Milk Thistle For Liver Support While Taking Prednisone
If you are looking for alternative supplements to support liver health while taking prednisone, there are a few options to consider.
Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been shown to have liver-protective properties in both animal and human studies. A recent pilot study found that people with cirrhosis who took 1,000 milligrams of curcumin a day for three months had decreased disease severity and lower cirrhosis activity scores compared to those who took a placebo.
Vitamin E is another nutrient that works as an antioxidant and may be beneficial for those with chronic hepatitis C. In one small human study, vitamin E supplementation led to decreased enzymes associated with liver damage and hepatitis.
Resveratrol, found naturally in grape vines, berries, and peanuts, has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and decrease insulin resistance and inflammation in people with diabetes. However, more studies are needed to determine its effectiveness for liver support while taking prednisone.
Liver supplements that contain a blend of ingredients such as artichoke, dandelion, wild tam Mexican root, yellow dock root extract, hawthorn berry, or chanca piedra may also be worth considering. However, it’s important to note that well-designed human studies showing the effectiveness of these herbs are still lacking.
It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements while on prednisone or any other medication. They can help you determine the best course of action for your individual needs and ensure that there are no potential interactions or risks involved.