Cushing’s disease is characterized by increased secretions of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) by the pituitary gland. ACTH plays an important role in the production and release of cortisol, a steroid hormone normally produced in response to low blood sugar. Cushing’s results in hypercortisolism, or abnormally high levels of cortisol in the body.

Because cortisol is essential for metabolic processes, hypercortisolism associated with Cushing’s can significantly affect how the body processes nutrients. The following Cushing’s disease diet changes can help limit or counteract some symptoms:

Reducing sodium intake

Excess sodium can worsen symptom’s of Cushing’s by increasing blood pressure and causing weight gain. Therefore, cut down on sodium by avoiding processed foods and limiting the amount of salt added to food.

Increasing calcium and vitamin D intake

Cushing’s can cause reduced bone density or osteoporosis. Since calcium and vitamin D strengthen bones, doctors recommend a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D for people with Cushing’s. This includes kale, cheese and broccoli, as well as milk and beverages fortified with vitamin D. Multivitamins are also a valuable source of calcium and vitamin D. Adults should aim for a daily intake of about 800 mg of calcium and five to 15 micrograms of vitamin D, with vitamin D intake increasing with age.

Reducing cholesterol

A common symptom of Cushing’s is high cholesterol levels. Avoiding fatty foods and eating more high-fiber foods such as kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes may help offset the effects of higher cholesterol associated with Cushing’s.

Controlling blood sugar

Cortisol stimulates the liver to increase blood sugar levels, so people with Cushing’s — who have perpetually high cortisol levels — may also have elevated blood sugar. This condition, also known as hyperglycemia, is linked to many long-term complications including cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, and bone and joint problems. A doctor can advise how to space out meals during the day to keep blood sugar levels in check.

Reducing or eliminating alcohol and tobacco

Many clinicians recommend reducing alcohol intake and tobacco use. Chronic, heavy drinking can damage the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hormone network, resulting in symptoms nearly identical to those of Cushing’s. So-called pseudo-Cushing syndrome can not only intensify the symptoms of existing Cushing’s disease but also make it more difficult to diagnose and treat.

Tobacco use increases the risk of complications during surgery. If surgery has been identified as a treatment option for Cushing’s, quitting smoking can reduce the risk of surgical complications.

Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.