What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic disease of the autoimmune system in which the body is attacked by its own immune system. It is characterized by severe widespread inflammation that can affect almost the entire body including the joints, brain, heart and other organs.
People with lupus may experience only a few mild symptoms while others are affected by far more symptoms which can be much more severe. Symptoms typically come and go with flare ups broken up by remission periods.
The early symptoms of lupus are similar to numerous other conditions meaning that lupus is often very difficult to diagnose. It also means that if you have any of these symptoms, you do not necessarily have lupus.
What Causes Lupus?
Systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or lupus for short is a chronic inflammatory condition. Various triggers cause the body’s immune system to attack its own healthy tissues. As is the case with the majority of autoimmune disorders, the precise causes of SLE remain unclear. However, experts do agree that lifestyle choices and genetics play a major role in triggering the inflammation.
Potential triggers include viruses, allergic reactions, emotional stress, exposure to UV rays, estrogen disruption during pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, metal toxicity and poor digestive health.
There are also a number of potential risk factors including :
- Gender : around 90% of all people with lupus are female.
- Genetics : having a family history of either lupus of another autoimmune disorder.
- Age : women are far more likely to develop lupus in their childbearing years from 15 to 45.
- Ethnicity : People of African, Native American or Asian decent are up to three times more at risk of developing lupus than caucasians.
- Diet : people who eat poorly or have nutrient deficiencies are more at risk.
- People with food allergies.
- People exposed to toxins.
- People with gastrointestinal conditions like leaky gut syndrome.
Symptoms of Lupus
The early signs and symptoms of lupus include the following:
- Fatigue which affects some 90% of people with lupus.
- Fever especially recurrent and unexplained fever.
- Skin Lesions and Rashes. One of the most common signs is a butterfly shaped rash around the cheeks and nose. It affects up to 50% of people with lupus.
- Hair Loss caused by inflammation of the scalp and the skin.
- Lung Inflammation. The lungs and the blood vessels can become inflamed as well as the diaphragm leading to chest pain when breathing.
- Kidney Inflammation known as nephritis is caused by the inflammation which inhibits the ability of the kidneys to eliminate toxins from the bloodstream.
- Joint Pain and Swelling especially first thing in the morning may be an early indicator.
- Muscle pain is also an indicator.
- Gastrointestinal Difficulties like heartburn and indigestion are common in people with lupus.
- Anxiety and Depression are potential symptoms but like so many of the symptoms of lupus, they could be unrelated.
- Anemia is a less common symptom.
- Thyroid Issues are often experienced by people who have lupus leading to further complications.
- Dry eyes and Mouth caused by another autoimmune condition known as Sjogren’s syndrome.
Conventional Treatments for Lupus
Once lupus is diagnosed, the disease is usually treated by a specialist rheumatologist. They typically prescribe a combination of prescription medications as well as certain lifestyle changes to get the condition under control. There is often a certain amount of trial and error involved with patients being prescribed a number of different medications until they hit in the best treatment. Unfortunately, many of these medications come with a number of unwanted side effects and the risk of dependency.
Medications commonly prescribed for patients with lupus include :
NSAIDs : This class of drugs are used to treat joint and muscle pain, headaches, swelling and tenderness. They can become addictive and cause a number of adverse side effects.
Steroids: Prednisone is the steroid most commonly prescribed for people with lupus. They are very effective in reducing inflammation and relieving the pain and skin rashes symptomatic of people with lupus. Again, there are a number of unwanted side effects including weight gain, hormonal changes, mood swings, agitation, depression and insomnia.
Anti-rheumatic medication: Hydroxychloroquine is commonly used to treat patients with lupus as well as rheumatoid arthritis patients to keep symptoms under control.
Immunosuppressive medications : This class of drugs are used to control an overactive immune response and to reduce pain and inflammation. They can also cause a number of side effects, some of which are potentially serious. They also put you at a greater risk of illness by reducing the body’s effectiveness in fighting off bacterial and viral infections Side effects include kidney and bladder issues, lung damage, hair loss and increased sensitivity to the sun.
Natural Remedies for Lupus
As we have already mentioned, once a person has been diagnosed with lupus, the condition is usually treated medically by a combination of lifestyle changes and prescription medications. Many people take multiple prescription drugs in an effort to control their symptoms and yet these medications can come with a high price.
There is a great risk of adverse side effects and drug dependency. The natural remedies given here focus on lifestyle and dietary changes which can hopefully get your symptoms in check but they are not intended to totally replace medical advice.
A healthy diet is a very important factor in controlling the symptoms of lupus as well as ensuring overall good health. Making the necessary dietary adjustments should prove very fruitful.
Eat a Healthy Anti-inflammatory diet
A healthy diet consisting of unprocessed foods is an important first step in managing lupus. A good diet can control inflammation which stems from poor digestive health and also helps reduce the risk of complications from disease. A good diet will also give you a boost in energy and help build up your strength.
The best food for lupus include the following:
- Organic raw vegetables which help reduce inflammation and digestion.
- Fruit and vegetables that are high in anti-oxidants like berries, avocados, leafy greens, onions, garlic and asparagus. The high fiber content of these fruit and veg as can well as their high vitamin and mineral content help reduce fatigue and joint pain.
- Wild fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that can help keep inflammation in check. Excellent sources of omega 3 include salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna and sardines.
- Bone broth helps relieve inflammation and is highly recommended for the symptoms of lupus.
- Olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, flax and chia are good sources of omega-3 and they also help to relieve the skin irritation that often occurs with lupus.
- Drink ample amounts of fresh water, green tea and other antioxidant herbal teas.
Food to Avoid
Some food is known to contribute towards lupus and make the symptoms even worse. Food to avoid at all cost includes the following:
Gluten intolerance is very common because it is difficult for some to digest. It can lead to inflammation and trigger flare-ups in lupus sufferers.
Because of the condition’s effects in the kidneys, it is best that people avoid a high sodium diet. This can help limit inflammation, fluid retention and electrolyte imbalance.
- Trans Fats
The trans fats and certain saturated fats found in fried food and processed products can exacerbate inflammation and increase the risk of heart disease. Many lupus patients find it difficult to metabolize these fats and should try to limit them in their diets.
Diets high in sugar can increase symptoms by excessively stimulating the immune system.
- Caffeine and Alcohol
These drinks should be avoided or limited because they are known to cause liver damage, worsen inflammation and pain. They an also increase feelings of anxiety and lead to insomnia.
- Some Legumes
Some lupus patients experience flare-ups as a result of certain legumes including peanuts, alfalfa seeds, green beans and sprouts. This is because of the presence of an amino acid called L-canavanine.
Dietary Supplements for Lupus
As well as eating a healthy anti-inflammatory diet, there are certain supplements that can help relieve inflammation and improve nutrient deficiency.
- Omega-3 oil supplements can help reduce inflammation.
- MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) supplements are a natural way to relieve inflammation and improve digestion. The recommended dose is between 2,000 and 8.000 milligrams a day.
- Vitamin D3 supplements can help reduce depression and feelings of anxiety and help to improve immune system function.
- Turmeric has outstanding natural anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties and is perfectly safe. You can eat it fresh or take it in supplementary form.
Research into lupus shows that emotional stress may trigger lupus itself or bring about its flare-ups by increasing the body’s inflammatory response.
There are a number of natural treatments that work well for stress but not everybody will react to them in the same way.
Sleep and Rest
A great many people with lupus suffer from fatigue as one of its major symptoms. It is therefore essential to get ample daytime est and good quality of sleep at night. Unfortunately sleeping difficulties like insomnia are also a symptom of lupus and are often caused by anxiety or napping too much during the day.
There are several tips for people with lupus to get sufficient sleep and rest including the following:
- Getting to bed early every night and sticking to the schedule as well as possible.
- Sleep in total darkness and avoid late night distractions and electronic lights in bed.
- Cut back on caffeine.
- Eat a good breakfast every day for energy.
- Try to exercise in the mornings.
- Make way in your daily schedule for proper relaxing breaks.
Experts recommend regular exercise for lupus patients. Exercise helps for a variety of reasons. It reduces stress and improves quality of sleep. It also helps relieve painful joints and improves bone and heart strength and gives you more much needed energy. Research has demonstrated that exercise can radically improve the quality of life in those with lupus. (1)
Start off gently especially if you are not used to physical activity. Walking, light jogging and swimming are excellent ways to gently improve your fitness levels.
Skin Protection for Lupus sufferers
Up to 90% of those with lupus will develop a skin rash or lesions because of their condition. As well as the familiar butterfly shaped rash on the cheeks and nose, lupus patients may also experience rashes and itching on other parts of their body and may develop a sensitivity to UV rays.
These skin conditions are caused by the body’s inflammatory response so it is important to protect the skin from known allergens and sunlight.
Here are some tips:
- Wear a non toxic sunscreen during the day and try to avoid direct sunlight during the hottest periods. Cover up with a hat and shades.
- A humidifier in the home will help to keep your skin moist.
- Use natural and organic skin products like coconut, argan or jojoba oil instead of commercial products.
- Shower with lukewarm water.
- Make sure that you get enough Vitamin E through your diet or as a supplement.
- Don’t use chemical lotions, perfumes and deodorants.
Essential oils are a safe and effective way of reducing inflammation and relieving the pain associated with the condition. There are a number of effective essential oils for lupus which can also help boost your immune system.
Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil to a base oil and massage it into your body every evening. Essential oils can also help relieve stress and some essential oils are great for insomnia.
- Lupus or SLE is a chronic inflammatory condition caused by an overactive immune system response.
- It causes a wide range of symptoms including inflammation, joint pain and skin rashes.
- flare ups can come and go and are triggered by a number of factors including allergic reaction and illness.
- It can be a very serious condition so it is always best to seek professional medical help as a first line.
- As well as certain prescription medications, your doctor is likely to recommend certain lifestyle changes.
- Natural treatments aimed at keeping symptoms under control include, exercise, rest, an anti-inflammatory diet and essential oils.