Lupus is not caused or cured by any specific food; however, a healthy diet is vital in the treatment of this disease. A balanced diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, poultry and fatty fish. A healthy diet strengthens bones and muscles, helps fight medication side effects, reduces inflammation, reduces the risk of heart disease and helps with weight loss or maintenance.
Lupus is an inflammatory disease, so foods that fight inflammation could help reduce lupus symptoms while foods that fuel inflammation could worsen them, although it has not been medically proven. Fruits and vegetables contain anti-inflammatory powers as they contain antioxidants. Fish, nuts, canola and olive oil may also help fight inflammation, since they contain omega-3 fatty acids. Saturated fats, such as fried foods, commercially baked goods, red meat, animal fat and fatty dairy products, though, may increase inflammation, so should be limited or avoided. Alfalfa sprouts can cause lupus flares or symptoms including fatigue, muscle pain and kidney problems. An amino acid in alfalfa seeds and sprouts and garlic can activate the immune system and increase inflammation in lupus sufferers.
A nutritious diet is essential for strong bones and muscles, as noted earlier. People with lupus should specifically be careful with bone health since lupus medications, called corticosteroids, can increase osteoporosis risk, a condition involving the bones weakening and breaking easily. High calcium foods and Vitamin D improve bone health and can be found in dark green vegetables and dairy products, preferably low-fat or fat-free. Soy, almond and lactose free milk, as well as juices fortified in calcium and Vitamin D are also available. A calcium supplement can also be taken if additional calcium is needed in your diet.
A healthy diet can also combat other drug side effects. For example, a low-sodium diet can help reduce fluid retention and lower blood pressure, which can be elevated with corticosteroid use. A diet high in folic acid, such as leafy green vegetables, fruits, and fortified breads and cereals, or a folic acid supplement is important if you are taking methotrexate (Rheumatrex). If corticosteroid or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs cause stomach pain, it can be helpful taking them with meals.
Lupus and unhealthy weight loss or weight gain are often interconnected, so eating to achieve a health weight is imperative. Loss of appetite and weight loss are concomitant with people recently diagnosed with lupus. Weight gain can occur from inactivity or by the corticosteroid used to control the disease. Speak to a doctor or nurse if these issues are pertinent to you; they can assess your diet and exercise regimen, or may refer you to a dietitian.
Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease
People with lupus have higher risk of heart disease compared to the general population, which makes a heart-healthy diet all the more essential.
Risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol can be assisted by a low-fat diet and exercise. A low-sodium diet may be prescribed by your doctor if high blood pressure is prevalent.