What To Know About Lupus and Sugar Cravings | MyLupusTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About MyLupusTeam
Powered By

What To Know About Lupus and Sugar Cravings

Posted on July 26, 2023

Living with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common type of lupus, can take a toll on your body. MyLupusTeam members have discussed symptoms such as food cravings and dietary changes that developed following their diagnosis of this chronic autoimmune disease. One member wrote, “I crave sugar, sugar, and more sugar! My body is begging for energy!”

What might be causing your lupus sugar cravings — the disease itself, the medications, or something else? And what can you do when you are experiencing a craving? In this article, we’ll explore these and other common questions.

Lupus and Sugar Cravings

A loss of appetite is a common symptom of SLE, often experienced by MyLupusTeam members during a flare-up. “When I have a flare, I don’t want anything. I usually am so exhausted and in pain I can barely eat,” one member wrote.

Not eating much throughout the day can leave you energy depleted and in need of a quick pick-me-up. Simple carbohydrates, the kind found in desserts or listed in high amounts of “added sugars” on food labels, are easy to digest and can give you a quick — but temporary — energy boost. This energy is quickly used up and spikes your insulin levels, lowering your blood sugar even more and leaving you hungry again within a few hours.

The desire for a quick burst of energy may be why so many MyLupusTeam members have noticed that their cravings line up with their lupus flares: “I’m having a bad flare-up with joint pain, and these last couple days all I want are sweets!” Research has yet to explore why people with lupus experience specific food cravings, including an interest in consuming sugar.

Can Medications Make You Crave Sweets?

One MyLupusTeam member said, “I used to crave sugary cakes, cookies, anything super sweet. I found out my cravings were due to one of my medications. I was distraught, actually, and asked my meds to be switched for that reason!”

Many medications can cause an increase in appetite. Certain mood-stabilizing drugs and antipsychotic medications, for example, are commonly known to increase eating and body weight. Most notably for people living with lupus, corticosteroids can affect your metabolism and increase your appetite, leading to weight gain and changes in fat deposits in your body.

Some MyLupusTeam members have shared that their corticosteroid treatment caused intense cravings. “When they put me on high doses of prednisone for a flare, I got really hungry and had cravings for certain foods,” one wrote.

Another member agreed: “When I’m on steroids, then I will eat until I pop.”

If you’ve experienced these side effects while on steroids, you’re not alone. It’s especially important during these times to eat filling, nutritious foods when you’re hungry and maintain an active lifestyle, as much as your condition allows. Speak with your doctor if your appetite, cravings, or weight changes are harming your quality of life. You and your medical team can work together to find a lupus treatment plan that works best for you.

Other Reasons for Sugar Cravings

Researchers have suggested many reasons for sugar cravings. From a psychological standpoint, some believe that sugar cravings may help quell depressive or anxious feelings by producing serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood. Many people with lupus and other chronic diseases are also living with depression. If you feel that your appetite changes are linked to mental health concerns, speak to your primary care provider or rheumatologist to get linked with counseling, psychiatric services, or medical therapies that can help improve your mental well-being.

What To Do if You’re Experiencing a Craving

The first step to managing a craving is to look for its root cause. That may take a trip to your rheumatologist, a registered dietitian, or a mental health counselor to begin to unpack the reason you’re experiencing an unbearable sweet tooth or other craving.

Try to satisfy a sweet tooth with healthy options. “Fresh fruit: pineapple, strawberries, bananas, grapes, and watermelon,” one member said. Additionally, opting for fiber, whole grains, and other forms of complex carbohydrates can provide you with longer-lasting energy than you’d get from simple sugars in processed foods.

Overall, it’s important to eat everything in moderation, especially added or simple sugars. One study on people with lupus found an association between eating excess sugar and an increased risk of inflammation and lupus complications such as heart disease.

However, being overly restrictive when you have a craving can backfire and set off a binge later. You can easily incorporate a serving of your favorite dessert into an overall nutritious diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, which provides plenty of protein and healthy fats.

Overall, there are many reasons you may experience sugar cravings while living with lupus. Speak with your health care provider for personalized medical advice to help manage this and other lupus symptoms.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyLupusTeam is the social network for people with lupus and their loved ones. On MyLupusTeam, more than 223,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lupus.

Do you experience cravings for sugar or other foods while living with lupus? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on July 26, 2023
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

Become a Subscriber

Get the latest articles about lupus sent to your inbox.

Kathryn Shohara, MS, RDN, LDN, CNSC is a clinical dietitian for adults at Baylor Scott & White Hospitals. Learn more about her here
Scarlett Bergam, M.P.H. is a medical student at George Washington University and a former Fulbright research scholar in Durban, South Africa. Learn more about her here

Related Articles

When you’ve been diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), seeking the best care for you...

Lupus Appointment Guide: 8 Tips for Visiting a Rheumatologist

When you’ve been diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), seeking the best care for you...
Living with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common type of lupus, can be expensive. ...

6 Ways To Save Money With Lupus: Insurance, Medication, Housing, and More

Living with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common type of lupus, can be expensive. ...
Race and other factors, including sex and age, can affect the health outcomes of people in the Un...

Is Lupus More Common in Certain Races? 3 Risk Factors To Know

Race and other factors, including sex and age, can affect the health outcomes of people in the Un...
In a recent survey of MyLupusTeam members, respondents shared how lupus interferes with their dai...

Survey: 91 Percent of MyLupusTeam Members Say Lupus Interferes With Quality of Life

In a recent survey of MyLupusTeam members, respondents shared how lupus interferes with their dai...
If your favorite salsa, curry, or other spicy dish suddenly starts mouth pain, burning sensations...

Lupus and Spicy Food: 3 Things To Know

If your favorite salsa, curry, or other spicy dish suddenly starts mouth pain, burning sensations...
This is a short guided meditation by Dr. Christiane Wolf on self-kindness, which gives you more s...

Self-Kindness When Struggling: 6-Minute Guided Meditation

This is a short guided meditation by Dr. Christiane Wolf on self-kindness, which gives you more s...

Recent Articles

Welcome to MyLupusTeam — the place to connect with others living with lupus. This video will wal...

Getting Started on MyLupusTeam (VIDEO)

Welcome to MyLupusTeam — the place to connect with others living with lupus. This video will wal...
“I seem to get swelling in my lower lip with lupus flares,” wrote one member of MyLupusTeam. “We’...

Is Lip Swelling a Symptom of Lupus?

“I seem to get swelling in my lower lip with lupus flares,” wrote one member of MyLupusTeam. “We’...
Mouth sores and nose sores, sometimes called ulcers, are common symptoms of systemic lupus erythe...

Mouth and Nose Sores in Lupus: Causes and Treatments

Mouth sores and nose sores, sometimes called ulcers, are common symptoms of systemic lupus erythe...
Shannon Boxx is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a World Cup champion with the U.S. Women’...

Lupus Fatigue: 3 Tips for Energy From Soccer Pro Shannon Boxx (VIDEO)

Shannon Boxx is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a World Cup champion with the U.S. Women’...
Lupus activist Seda Bryant is an overcomer — a mother, writer, and designer who is using her gif...

How I Advocate for Myself and My Lupus Treatments (VIDEO)

Lupus activist Seda Bryant is an overcomer — a mother, writer, and designer who is using her gif...
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and...

4 Interesting Facts About SLE: Symptoms, Treatments, and More

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and...
MyLupusTeam My lupus Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close