Spironolactone, My Personal Story


Spironolactone (Spiro) is a mild diuretic that has been
used for decades, most commonly prescribed in combination with other drugs to elderly patients that have hypertension/edema due to heart disease.


*Click here to read a letter from a blog reader in response to this article

Originally posted 05/03/2009: Unlike the diuretic Lasik which rids the body of potassium, Spiro forces the body to hold on to it by inhibiting the hormone aldosterone (which is secreted by the adrenal glands). This in itself can be quite dangerous and lethal if not properly monitored. Potassium in high levels can cause heart failure; in fact Potassium Chloride is used in chemical executions.

This drug may adversely affect the liver and there are warnings against prescribing it to individuals that have renal dysfunction because there is evidence that Spiro induces renal insufficiency.

In more recent years, it is being prescribed to younger women who are struggling with acne, hirsutism, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and male to female transgendered people resulting in more information about Spiro and it's many side effects. Younger individuals, in general, take less medications and have less disease than their counterparts therefore it's easier to trace adverse reactions to a specific drug like Spironolactone.

Because Spiro obstructs testosterone (androgen) receptors, it can upset hormonal balance causing women to experience irregular periods and men to develop breast tissue. Interestingly, it was recently discovered that there are even androgen receptors located in the inner ear that this drug may target.

Besides the many body systems this drug affects (pituitary-hypothalamic axis), there is also a box warning that taking Spiro (which is actually a synthetic steroid hormone) could cause tumors. Sadly many women don’t realize this drug is added to the hormone concoction known as the birth control pill Yasmin (YAZ) by the pharmaceutical company, Bayer AG.

I’m 40 and have personally used Spiro for at least three years. 100 mg twice daily to control my excessive acne. I really never experienced any problem while on this medication until May 1st, 2008 when I suffered the following symptoms in varying degrees over an 11 month period.

  • Right eyesight dimmed/blurred for 30 seconds, 7 different times
  • Vertigo - Severe spinning sensation
  • Nystagmus - Eyes darting left to right
  • Disconnected and unable to stay focused
  • Mental confusion and struggle with short term memory recall
  • Dizziness lasting for 11 months in various degrees
  • Muscle spasms/twitches
  • Pain feeling like a hot nerve located deep in the left side of my head
  • Heart palpitations/arrhythmia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pain in my left shoulder when I ran.
  • Cholesterol total jumped a 100 points

The second doctor I saw wasn’t familiar with the use of Spiro for acne and recommended that my dose be cut in half (Sept 2008). Around February, 2009 I started to use a transdermal magnesium spray that alleviated many of my symptoms and spurred me on to re-examine why I was having a mineral imbalance. Through my research I discovered other women in my age group experiencing similar symptoms that were taking Spironolactone. I decided to stop taking the magnesium and the Spironolactone to see if my symptoms would vanish.

Within four days, my twitches/spasms, heart arrhythmia and pain in my head stopped. I don’t experience any shoulder pain when I run, in fact I run better and faster now. My blood pressure is back to normal and I’m hoping for even more improvement as my hormones adjust and become balanced.

What happened to me frequently occurs to the elderly. They are placed on a drug and everything seems fine. But slowly the drug causes a deficiency or imbalance that the body can’t continue to compensate for and a symptom appears. The doctor doesn’t realize that the culprit for the new symptom is the original prescription but believes it to be the beginning of a new disease or syndrome. He then gives the patient another prescription and the process starts again.

Be your own advocate; educate yourself and never give up!

As a follow up: After I slowly weaned myself off Spiro, I initially felt an improvement for awhile.
But, that was short lived. I started to experience extreme estrogen dominance (enlargement of breasts and hips along with other mental/emotional symptoms). I finally found a practice that was willing to test my hormones. They were shocked to find that my estrogen was over 400 and should have been between 150-200. I was encouraged to use natural progesterone but I fall into the group of women that has an over reaction to it. So I used supplements to metabolize the estrogen out of my body.

This method has worked for me for over 2 years while still searching for a doctor who would listen and find out the root cause.

Update April 2012: I find myself not feeling well since Feb 2012. I have been using DIM and Calcium D Glucarate (as needed) to keep my estrogen in check but it has stopped working.  I understand that it is possibly due to under methylation but have had no improvement since I have taken DMG and a good amount of B vitamins.  My estrogen symptoms have become more pronounced again. My newest doctor ran a variety of tests and found my estrogen to be at 243 (should be 150). I will be having further testing on my pituitary and ovaries this week to see if I have a tumor.

Update August 2012:  My doctor doesn't believe I have a tumor.  He did discover my hypothalamus is over producing GnRH yet my LH and FSH are normal.  Progesterone levels are normal and I do ovulate based on basal temperatures.  He believes that the GnRH is directly stimulating my ovaries to over-produce estrogen.  This is a very unusual condition and I'm looking for a specialist that is also a passionate researcher to help me figure out the best route to take to improve my health.  I also am hypo-thyroid and insulin resistant which is also being affected by the estrogen. 



51 comments:

  1. Good post, very useful because it's from a personal experience!

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  2. Hope to see more posts from you soon!

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  3. It's nice to know your personal experiences with that drug. Now I know how this drug works.

    online pharmacies reviews

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  4. i enjoyed your post as well, ive been wondering about its safety as it is suppose to cause tumors in lab animals... can it really be safe i thought. i think thinning hair and diet changes to reduce swollen ankles should be my way to go not this drug, now to find out how to ween off of it safely

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  5. @Anonymous, If you have any questions pertaining to other "more natural" thing you can do to take the place of this drug, please don't hesitate to contact me.

    I am a certified Nutritional Supplement Advisor and Health Coach. I lost almost 2 years of my life from this drug but brought myself back to "normal" through lifestyle changes.

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    Replies
    1. I would really like information on a natural way to help with the hormonal cystic acne.

      allicook87@gmail.com

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    2. I would like to get more information from you on hair thinning, increasing DHEA due to my first year in menopause and the replacement for Spironolactone.

      Thank you,
      Rosie Smith
      smithra1026@gmail.com

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    3. Hello I was on spiro for 4 yrs. I stopped it cold turkey due to my lips swelling so big being out in the sun. It was so painful. Its been 2 weeks now & I have already gained 8 pounds. While on spiro I didnt have a weight issue. What can you recommend? Please help.

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    4. I would really like information on a natural way to help with the hormonal cystic acne.

      kmac@katchsupply.com

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    5. I would really like information on reducing hormonal acne without the use of spiranolactone.

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  6. Does Spiro is FDA approved drug? You can try to write your drug review here

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  7. This is a nice web site. Good fresh interface and nice informative articles. I will be coming back soon, thanks for the great article.

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  8. I'm sure many of your symptoms were caused by Spiro, but they could also be caused by several other conditions, including Hypothyroid, Fibromyalgia, and general stress. Hypothyroid and stress (which increases your cortisol production) lead to hormonal imbalances, which can cause the increases in cholesterol, dizziness, feelings of disconnect/haze, memory loss, distraction, etc. I'd recommend having an incredibly open discussion with your GP about this. I'd also recommend seeking out a new dermatologist if he/she refuses to change your Spiro medication.

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  9. Thank you Anonymous for your suggestions.

    I had already had testing to for all of those and results were negative.

    I did my own research and found clinical trials summarizing spiros affect on the pituitary and the hypothalmic axis and adrenals. Through that mechanism it affected my hormones and mineral balance.

    I am now well due to using food and natural supplement to heal myself. It took about a year and a half to do so.

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  10. Sonja, Wow... I am 45 and have been on this medication for acne for 7 months. Around six months ago, I developed severe sinus pressure and inflammation, mostly around the INNER EAR! My dermatologist and my allergist both asserted that Spironolactone could not be the cause of it, even though I'd never experienced anything like this before. I even just underwent a totally ineffective and expensive balloon sinuplasty, and I still have the problem. I went off of the Spironolactone for a week before the surgery, but the condition didn't improve... how long did it take you to get back into balance after discontinuing? I've also started to have heart palpitations, but I am under a tremendous amount of stress, so I just attributed it to that. After reading your blog, I'm starting to reconsider that... I am afraid of being horribly broken out again, but I am more afraid of the long-term ill effects this medication may have on my body.

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  11. Oh Juli, my heart goes out to you!!! Please read another story from a reader. She went through terrible symptoms from the same drug! http://www.actionhealthylife.com/2011/02/found-your-spironolactone-blog-today.html

    It had taken months to totally regain my health back. I've been able to use food and supplements to keep my acne under control. I've even been able to get rid of my melasma!!!

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    Replies
    1. I have been taking spiro since January 2012. What food and supplements do you use for acne?

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    2. I have been taking spiro since January 2012. What food and supplements do you use for acne?

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  12. I just stopped taking it two days ago and was searching for an article on how to stop safely. I just realized that I'm not supposed to stop suddenly. I have now skipped three doses. Any thoughts on that?

    What supplements do you take for acne?

    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Denise, It is always best to wean off medication, but if you have already missed 3 doses and are feeling fine then I would go with that. Please inform your doctor of your decision.

      Yes, I have been able to get rid of my acne by changing my diet (because I know that certain foods affect our hormones) and through supplementation.

      You can find out more about what I do as a Holistic Health Coach http://actionhealthycoach.com/about-1 I also offer a free consultation http://actionhealthycoach.com/free-consultation

      Along with changes in my food choice, this product has rid me of my acne and melasma http://actionhealthylife.myshaklee.com/us/en/products.php?sku=22911 There are published studies that explain why it works. My dosage did have to be tweaked but I saw improvement within a month.

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  13. I appreciate this article so much, as I have been having some symptoms that I believe are related to taking Spironolactone. I am 36 yrs old and have been taking Spiro since September. I am currently on a 50mg daily dose. I love the effects that it has on my acne, being nearly clear, and after two failed attempts on Accutane. I have battled chronic acne my entire adult life. This is the first/only drug that has ever actually worked. However, a little more than a month ago I started noticing muscle twitching...more than what one might consider normal. And then tingling and sleepiness in my hands. That seems to have lightened up, but I have also now missed two periods. I was concerned because last spring I missed a few periods and it turned out to be caused by an ovarian cyst. I was worried I may need surgery again because that had recurred. Now I am wondering if the missed periods are caused by the Spiro. I have an appointment with my dermatologist in three weeks and an appointment with my gynocologist in a month and I will make sure to discuss it with both of them. I just wish there was something else out there to help with my acne.

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    Replies
    1. Navylime, You sound like your acne is a symptom of PCOS. Which is what I have. I have been able to control my acne with diet and supplements. There are options!

      Yes Spiro is known to cause missed periods.

      If you have further questions please visit my site and contact me through there.
      Cheers,
      Sonja Pauly, HHC

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    2. How do you control it? I have been on spiro for 4 years from hyperandrogenism and acne. My face has been clear the entire time I was on it. I don't want to stay on this medication anymore, I am 27 and just want my hormones to be healthy in case I get pregnant in the future. I eat healthy, mostly veggies not much meat, but if I skip spiro I break out horribly with cystic acne. I exercise and take vitamins. What do you do specifically in your diet and what supplements do you take? Please. Thank you.

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    3. @Witcor85,
      I'd have to have a lot more information on your history to know how to guide you. There are multiple options that I've tried and have had excellent results. My face is very clear, I've balanced my hormones and feel great!

      If you are interested in filling out a health history, I do offer a free consultation: http://actionhealthycoach.com/free-consultation

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  14. Darn... I'm 29 years old and I took 100 mg per day for about 2 months. I suddenly stopped taking it after missing a few. A month later I'm feeling symptoms and I have no idea if they are because I stopped the Spironolactone.

    I've had:
    - Muscle cramps (Mostly neck/upperback/arms/hands)
    - Tightness in fingers + numbness in the tips (for little time)
    - Random nervous like sensation in my hands mostly
    - My period lasted half the time that it normally does (2.5 days)
    - Related or not, but for a week I had nausea, light-headedness, was unable to focus and I was unable to eat. Now I eat but I feel a lot of acid reflux.

    I've been searching allover the net to see if it's because I stopped the medication. I've gone through phases of intense worry, to the point where I thought maybe it was all in my head.

    Do you think it's a plausible scenario? Going off spironolactone suddenly and my body is having a hard time dealing with the Aldosterone levels (high or low) and or odd levels of electrolytes?

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    Replies
    1. I was on Spiro for 4 years and it took me about 1 1/2 years for all my symptoms to go away. If you have further questions please email me at Sonja@actionhealthylife.com

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  15. Listen to Chris kresser podcasts regarding acne. It has much to do with your gut health. After years of adult acne and acne drugs finally been acne free for several weeks now, knock on wood. Turns out I had low stomach acid. It angers me to think that I could have known this all along, sparing me from the scars and depression.

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  16. I had been on spirno for 4 yrs and quit cold turkey the only side effect is the swelling is almost unimaginable. I have gained 10pounds and am starving myself and working out but STILL gaining. will it ever go away???

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    Replies
    1. For what condition were you on Spiro? That will dictate how to best lose your 10lbs.

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  17. I have been on Spironolactone for over 2 years for my adult cystic acne. I am also a 4 year survivor of stage IV melanoma. I have had scant periods, no periods and bleeding in the middle of the month.Last month, my dermo wanted me to lower my dose,so I went from 100mg to 75mg. During that month, I had a full, heavy period every two weeks and my skin broke out again. I am very careful about diet- vegan, wheat free, no chocolate or peanuts. I went back up in dose and skin cleared up. Some bleeding between periods, but not as heavy. Feel nervous about continuing, but my acne is very challenging and I am not a candidate for acutane because of my cancer history. Not sure what to do.

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  18. Wow, I'm so glad I came across this post. I'm a 36 year old female that visited a dermatologist within the last month due to my acne. Since I'm getting married in 5 weeks, doc decided that I should take Sprio, along with Tazorac topical cream to 'attach the acne' aggressively. I'm a bit hesitant in taking the Spiro after reading all of these posts. More importantly, I want to try to begin conceiving for a baby this summer,and am concerned Sprio may throw off my cycle and delay conception.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous, There are other options in handling your Acne! I am contacted through email weekly by women who have suffered the same symptoms as me from Spiro. I only posted on letter because it was so eloquently written and even spoke with her on the phone. Please feel free to schedule a consultation: http://actionhealthycoach.com/schedule.

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  19. I have been taking Spironlactone now for about three years for adult acne. My periods stopped altogether a few months after starting it. I always thought it was because of my age (48), but now I'm not so sure about that. I also have chronic tightness in my shoulders and neck, and have alot of numbness and tingling in my hands when I am sleeping. Could these all be a result of taking spironlactone?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, the symptoms you mention could be from spiro. I was taking spiro in my thirties and it stopped my period also. I use to also have an ache/tightness in my right shoulder when I ran. Once I stopped spiro, I never experienced that again. There are many things you can do naturally to control acne. I've changed my diet, take certain supplements and I rarely have breakouts. My breakouts had been so bad before spiro that I wouldn't leave the house at times. As a certified holistic health coach, I look at your over-all diet, lifestyle, other conditions you have and work with you in achieving your health goals. You can schedule a free consultation which will allow you to learn more about what I do. http://actionhealthycoach.com/schedule

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  20. I am glad to find your post. I am 36 years old and have been on spironolactone for 3 years now to control acne. It has worked wonders for my skin. I get my potassium levels tested once a year, and so far so good. However, I also suffer from migraines (have for a long time), and a new doctor has recommended I take a supplement called MigreLief. I ordered a bottle online and was going to start taking it, but the pamphlet with it reads "MigreLief should not be taken by anyone taking potassium-sparing diuretics..."

    I had such high hopes for this supplement, but now can't take it because of the Spiro. I don't know what to do. Reading your experience makes me want to get off Spiro (can it be stopped cold turkey, or do you need to wean?), but at the same time, I do not want to break out again, and know that I will if off it.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sharon,
      Definitely do not take the supplement MigreLief while on Spiro. I am surprised your doctor would have even recommended that supplement knowing what your prescription history is.

      There are natural ways through food and supplements to rid yourself of acne. Wellness is not a one size fits all; but has to be done individually. As a Holistic Health Coach, I help my clients to learn about their body and how to improve their health. If you'd like to find out more you may visit my HHC website: http://www.actionhealthycoach.com/

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  21. Good on you for highlighting these side effects. I very nearly went down the Spiro road myself. However, I have found ways of controlling my acne with stricter carbohydrate control and increased vitamin D intake.

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  22. Have you ever considered taking zinc to help with your estrogen dominance? From what I've been reading, estrogen dominance is sometimes caused by too much copper in the body which would mean that you may have lower than normal levels of zinc.

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    Replies
    1. I recently found out that my estrogen dominance is due to my hypothalmus (which I believe caused by Spiro)producing high amounts of GnRh that stimulate my ovaries directly (not via fsh or lh).

      As far as zinc and copper. Yes zinc is associated with progesterone and testosterone whereas copper is a companion to estrogen. There are many other nutrients in the body that contribute to one hormone over another. Adding a couple usually isn't enough, you have to include many other elements that all work together in synergy

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  23. After reasonable these post i'm not sure what to do I been on spironolactone for four months but didn't get my prescription filled and now have to wait three days to get it filled was seeing if not taking it will hurt me i'm also taking metforman and a atenolol and lipitor plus celexa for depression is was giving to me for pcos I have a family history of kidney decease heart decease high blood pressure and now i'm scared to pieces about all the side effects I've been having chest pains tingling of my hands feet falling asleep on me major sweat breakouts and confusion not to mention under slot.of stress due to another death in my family my hair seems to be growing back plus i'm on yaz but facial hair still there please tell me more about Spiro and now confused on if I should take it plus i'm hoping I have no side effects for not having any for four.days

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    Replies
    1. I can tell you that I have used nutrition and supplementation to control every "condition" that doctors wanted to medicate. I lost 70lbs through food choice alone. I use to have cholesterol over 300 which is now below 200. My hypothalmus was affected by spiro and now over produces GnRH. My doctor can't find anyone that can help with this...even Cleveland Clinic. But I found a supplement that has given me my life back.

      My point is there is hope!!! For me to take on your case, you'd have to be one of my clients. For further information: http://actionhealthycoach.com/schedule

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  24. its really very informative stuff u have shared with u done done really very better job by sharing your personal experiences.

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  25. After Reading the posts about muscle tightness i immediately knew I wasn't going crazy. I have been stressed out many times before and never experienced such bad neck pain. Spiro never worked amazing for my hormonal acne but it did improve my appearance. But is it worth me crying from neck pain? Hecks no!! I am weaning myself off the drug starting today.

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  26. After reading about the post about muscle tightness I knew I wasn't going crazy. Starting today I am immediately weaning myself off of this drug. Spiro has never worked amazing for my acne. But it did improve my skin. But it is not worth the stiff neck, sorry.

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  27. I just had a class about hormone balancing by an arbonne.director. I was searching online on how to wean of spiro as i am going to try the more natural route.a cancer runs in my.family i found your post and wanted to.suggest you look into "proleif" the woman.who ran the class had a lot of research and resources. If you are interested I can get you her contract information. Best of luck.

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  28. I highly recommend Dr Mark Hyman's practice. Google his name to go to his website. They do very sophisticated testing (insurance wont cover all of it). Well worth it.

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  29. Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this blog post. It was helpful. Keep on posting!

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  30. Lasik is eye surgery. Lasix is the diuretic.

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  31. Hi Sonja,

    Thank you for sharing. I took 150 mg of Spiro for five years to help with hair loss. I tried to slowly wean myself off about 2 years ago, since it made me stop having a period, to 50 mg. Last month, I decreased the dosage to 25 mg. I am 47 years old and I suspect that I now have estrogen dominance. I concluded based on tests that it was just because I have entered the perimenopause stage not thinking that the spiro could have caused it. I swim 50 laps every other day and bike 30 miles a week and weight lift twice a week. I eat very well. The worst part is that overnight I became chronically bloated and gained 10 lbs of water. Tests have ALL come back negative. I do not want to take hormones or drugs of any kind. What supplements did you take to reduce your estrogen? Thank you again.

    Sincerely,

    Catherine

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  32. Hi Sonja,

    Thank you for sharing. I took 150 mg of Spiro for five years to help with hair loss. I tried to slowly wean myself off about 2 years ago, since it made me stop having a period, to 50 mg. Last month, I decreased the dosage to 25 mg. I am 47 years old and I suspect that I now have estrogen dominance. I concluded based on tests that it was just because I have entered the perimenopause stage not thinking that the spiro could have caused it. I swim 50 laps every other day and bike 30 miles a week and weight lift twice a week. I eat very well. The worst part is that overnight I became chronically bloated and gained 10 lbs of water. Tests have ALL come back negative. I do not want to take hormones or drugs of any kind. What supplements did you take to reduce your estrogen? Thank you again.

    Sincerely,

    Catherine

    ReplyDelete
  33. My issues with Spiro started about 6 months ago after being on it for a couple of years because of cystic acne. I had actually tried getting off of it once before but because my cystic acne came back with a vengance a couple months after I started back on it. This time I had to stop it because of gastritis and severe GERD. I don't think that the Spiro alone caused it. I also blame it on an anti inflamatory and a 3 month course of Antibiotic I was on. I just woke up one day in the middle of the night with a horrible pain in my mid upper stomach and a burning sensation on my chest and throat. I stopped all prescription medicine right away but my stomach issues are just now resolving. I have changed my diet completely and after many tests and visits to doctors and ER my gastroenterologist told me Spiro can cause gastritis and it can irritate the esophogus. My dermetologist who prescribed this medication to me never mentioned this or ever checked any type of blood work while I was taking it. I loved having no breakouts while I was in it and as everyone who has suffered with horrible acne when you find something that works it is devastating once it stops working or for whatever reason you have to stop it. Right now my skin is completely covered with acne and although i have a very good friend who is an esthetician and knowledgable in Ayurvedic medicine guiding and helping me it is still devastating to see my skin this way. I am turning 40 in a few weeks which to me makes it that much worse to stillbe going through this. I am trying to clear my skin naturally this time but it is just so hard and there are moments when I wish I didnt have those issues and I could still take that "magic" pill. Thank you so much for posting your story and knowledge.

    ReplyDelete