Natural Remedies for Managing Lupus

Foods, vitamins, and other tips to manage this elusive autoimmune disease
By Deborah Mitchell, www.NaturallySavvy.com
August 11, 2018 Last Updated: August 11, 2018

Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a complex autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself, resulting in a wide range of often debilitating symptoms.

Lupus is characterized by acute and chronic inflammation of various tissues throughout the body. One of the bright spots in the area of treatment is the number of natural remedies for lupus.

Once someone has received a diagnosis, it’s time to explore these natural options and discuss them with a knowledgeable healthcare provider who can help identify which ones may be the most effective.

What is Lupus?

The immune system of individuals who have lupus produces abnormal antibodies in the blood, and these antibodies attack the tissues instead of foreign infectious agents.

Lupus can appear in one of four forms. About 70 percent of cases are systemic lupus, which often afflicts a major organ or tissue like the heart or brain. Approximately 10 percent of cases affect the skin only (cutaneous lupus), while another 10 percent is caused by high doses of certain drugs (drug-induced lupus). A rare form called neonatal lupus can occur in newborns but usually disappears completely within six months.

Approximately 1.5 million Americans have some form of lupus, and the majority of those affected are women of childbearing age. Women of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than are their Caucasian peers.

Symptoms of Lupus

Although symptoms of lupus can vary considerably between individuals and from day to day, those generally recognized as typical include fatigue, pain, and weakness in the joints, headaches, and a facial rash that often extends over the bridge of the nose and the cheeks (aka, a butterfly rash).

Additional symptoms that occur can include fever, anemia, depression, dry mouth, mouth or nose ulcers, hair loss, chest pain, sensitivity to light, Raynaud’s disease (cold fingers and toes that turn blue), weight loss, and swelling of the hands, feet, legs, and/or around the eyes. Symptoms are the same for men and women.

One of the things that makes lupus a challenge to diagnose as well as treat is that symptoms can mimic many other conditions, which is why it is sometimes referred to as “the great imitator.”

A quick review of lupus symptoms reveals that they are also associated with fibromyalgia, diabetes, Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis, blood disorders, and various lung, heart, and muscle diseases. These symptoms also can come and go without warning, and it’s possible to experience one or more symptoms for a single time only. 

Here are 7 natural remedies for managing lupus.

1. Anti-Inflammatory Diet 

Since inflammation is the hallmark of lupus, you want to focus on foods that don’t promote inflammation but can also help prevent it.

That means avoiding processed foods, added sugar, gluten, trans fat, alcohol, caffeine, high-sodium foods, and certain legumes, including alfalfa seeds and sprouts, green beans, peanuts, soybeans, and snow peas. These legumes contain the amino acid L-canavanine that can trigger lupus flare-ups in some people.

Foods in an anti-inflammatory diet include organic, unprocessed foods, foods high in antioxidants (especially raw fruits and vegetables), avocados, coconut oil, raw milk, cucumbers and melons, green and herbal teas, and bone broth.

2. Regular Physical Exercise

Regular exercise alleviates several critical problems created by lupus, including reducing stress, improving sleep, strengthening the heart, reducing joint pain, and improving flexibility and range of motion. Exercise sessions like walking, swimming, yoga, tai chi, cycling, and so on,  should last about 20 to 30 minutes and not result in exhaustion. Proper rest between workout days is essential.

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) in fish oil have been shown to reduce inflammation in scores of studies.

In a clinical trial involving 49 women with SLE, those who took 1080 mg EPA plus 200 mg DHA daily for 12 weeks showed a significant decline in C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker) and evidence of a decline in bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL) and total cholesterol compared with no such benefits in women who were given a placebo.

Another study lasting six months also showed improvement in symptoms and inflammatory markers among patients who took fish oil when compared with placebo.

A suggested daily dose is 2,000 mg EPA/DHA daily. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available in foods such as wild-caught fatty fish (e.g., salmon, tuna, herring), chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds.

4. Vitamin D3

Most people have low to deficient levels of vitamin D, and those who are living with lupus are no exception. It’s a good idea to have vitamin D levels checked before starting supplements so you know the best dose to take.

Generally, 2,000 to 5,000 International Units daily is recommended, but anyone with a significant deficiency will require more. Vitamin D can help enhance immune system function, reduce depression, and facilitate hormone balance.

5. Chlorella and Spirulina

These natural microalgae foods are rich in minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3s and are especially helpful for anyone whose kidneys are affected by lupus. Chlorella, in particular, can assist in eliminating pesticides and heavy metals from the bloodstream.

Both chlorella and spirulina help produce electrolytes that can enhance kidney function. Take these supplements according to package directions. These powders can easily be incorporated into smoothies. Try adding a tablespoon to your next green breakfast drink!

6. MSM

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic sulfur compound shown to possess anti-inflammatory, energy-boosting, and detoxifying properties. Its ability to increase the permeability of cells, for example, allows the body to use less energy to deal with toxin build-up, resulting in more energy being directed toward healing and bodily functions, including digestion.

MSM boosts the absorption of nutrients, which also helps energy production. The anti-inflammatory properties of MSM are associated with its ability to assist with the elimination of waste materials from cells, whose presence causes inflammation.

A recommended dose is 2,000 to 8,000 mg daily. Since MSM is tasteless and odorless, its powdered form can easily be included in smoothies.

7. Turmeric

Be sure to include turmeric (and its active ingredient, curcumin) both as a supplement and a food enhancer to help fight pain and inflammation as well as improve rashes and aid with digestion.

Turmeric is a good source of potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, fiber, and vitamins B6 and C. In a study from the University of Pittsburgh, researchers reported that turmeric has shown promise in reducing the activity of lupus.

A recommended dose of turmeric/curcumin in supplement form is 3,600 mg curcumin, although higher dosages can be used. Consult a knowledgeable healthcare provider. Also, use turmeric/curcumin to add zest and flavor to your diet.

Deborah Mitchell is a freelance health writer. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. This article was originally published on Naturally Savvy.