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Lupus

Lupus is an ongoing autoimmune disease that is the result of inflammation that has been misdirected to healthy tissues in the body.  The immune system is meant to defend against infections; however in lupus the immune system attacks different parts of the body. 

Typically, lupus affects the skin, joints and organs like the heart, brain, blood vessels and kidneys - but it can really affect any part of the body and rarely only affects one area.  The ongoing inflammation caused by lupus damages these tissues.

There are actually 4 different types of lupus:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); this is the most common type
  • Cutaneous lupus; affects the skin only
  • Drug-induced lupus - results for a reaction to prescription drugs
  • Neonatal lupus; affects newborn babies.

Women are affected by lupus far more than men - 9 out of 10 people with lupus are women.  Lupus can also run in families.

Like other autoimmune diseases, there is no clear-cut cause.  Researchers do know that the hormone estrogen plays a role since females (ages 15-44) are most often affected.  Another theory is that certain infections mimic proteins in the body and the immune system confuses the two.  Still, the exact reasons aren’t understood. 

Diagnosing lupus takes time - it's difficult to differentiate it from other autoimmune diseases because they share many of the same symptoms.

Common Signs & Symptoms of Lupus

  • Painful and swollen joints
  • Fevers without an infection
  • Rashes, especially the characteristic “butterfly” shaped rash over the nose and checks
  • Hair loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Kidney problems
  • Abdominal pain, digestive upset
  • Ulcers in the mouth and nose
  • Sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity)

Conventional treatment for lupus typically includes steroid medications (prednisone, etc.), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, aspirin, etc), immunosuppressive drugs and ant-malarial drugs (hydroxychloroquine aka Plaquenil) - all of which are used to decrease pain, fever, inflammation and suppress the immune system.  Preventing and managing flare ups are the main focus of prescription medications.

Other ways to prevent lupus flare ups include staying out of direct, strong sunlight (which can trigger skin flares), taking birth control pills (extra estrogen isn’t helpful) and avoiding certain antibiotics (sulfonamides and penicillins) which are more likely to cause allergic reactions and aggravate lupus.

A Different Approach to Lupus

Because lupus and other autoimmune conditions are serious diseases, a comprehensive treatment plan is important to consider.  Diet, lifestyle and supplementation all have important roles in keeping the immune system as balanced and healthy as possible.

Lifestyle:

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes lean meats and fish, healthy oils from unprocessed, fresh nuts and seeds, avocados and olive oil, plenty of brightly-colored foods rich in antioxidants like dark green leafies, carrots, berries, etc)
  • Avoid junk foods, high sugar, processed, white flour refined foods
  • Stay hydrated with water, herbal teas and limited caffeinated beverages.  Drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces, very roughly, each day.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes daily; do a mix of strength and cardio training.

Supplementation

  • Fish oil/Omega-3 fats
    Fish oil is the richest source of omega three oils. Omega-3s are some of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatories available.  Of course, eating a diet rich in cold-water fish is an important part of a healthy diet and will provide some omega-3 - but to get the full effect supplementation is important.   Watch out for the wrong type of fish oil!
  • Vitamin D fulfills an important role in immune health; vitamin D receptors are found on a number of immune cells, supporting healthy immune cell balance in autoimmune conditions like lupus.
  • DHEA is a type of hormone that has been shown to benefit lupus in clinical studies.  While it can be helpful in lupus, it’s something to be avoided if you have a history of certain cancers  You can measure your DHEA levels easily, at home using this kit.
  • Turmeric (Curcumin) is another powerful anti-inflammatory botanical medicine.  It shuts down inflammation, naturally, and without negative side effects like NSAIDs.  We recommend that nearly everyone supplement with curcumin due to its powerful anti-inflammatory effects.

Food Sensitivity Testing

Testing for food sensitivities is important in any autoimmune condition.  Eating certain foods that the body is sensitive (reactive) to, is just one more way that the immune system can become imbalanced and tip towards autoimmunity.  Food sensitivities can be responsible for a number of symptoms. You can test for them easily, at home using this kit.

A Last Word on Immune-Boosting Supplements

Oftentimes people will try to assist their immune system by taking “immune boosting” herbs and supplements. However this is NOT the approach to take in lupus (or any other autoimmune condition).  The immune system is already “boosted” in autoimmunity, and it’s being driven to fight against the body.  Taking immune boosters will certainly aggravate lupus as they can drive the immune system into more activity.

 

Lupus is a serious autoimmune condition that can damage several areas of the body, as the immune system attacks it.  Conventional medications can control flares, but a whole-health lifestyle of nutritious diet, regular exercise, stress management and appropriate natural anti-inflammatory supplementation can help keep the immune system in balance and minimize flares and the damage they cause.

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DHEA
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