Like everyone else, people with lupus feel their best when they consistently eat a healthy, balanced diet. Most physicians who specialize in lupus recommend the same low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-fiber diet recommended by the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association. Some researchers have suggested links between certain nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids and decreased inflammation in people with lupus. In addition, those with lupus often suffer from deficiencies in certain nutrients. Eating foods that contain an abundance of these substances is a good way to maintain good health and prevent complications.
It is also proven that some lupus symptoms are made worse by certain foods; if you avoid them, these symptoms may improve.
In addition, a healthy diet can prevent obesity or help you lose weight. Obesity exacerbates many of the symptoms of lupus, can speed progression of disability, and can lead to developing diabetes and other related conditions.
Due to the unpredictable nature of lupus, it is difficult to measure the impact of diet over other factors. There is no scientific evidence that any diet can cure lupus or reverse its symptoms. There are many misleading claims that one diet or another can effectively treat lupus. Most of these claims are based on personal narratives and not on controlled scientific trials. These individuals may have experienced spontaneous improvement in their condition, but it could be related to other factors apart from diet.
Some popular diets may contain toxic levels of some nutrients or dangerously low levels of others. No diet is ever a good substitute for clinically proven lupus drug therapies.
What does it involve?
Always consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, including Vitamin C. Antioxidants are nutrients that may help reduce inflammation. Foods such as cantaloupe, citrus, tomatoes, broccoli, mango, pineapple and berries are especially rich in Vitamin C. Fresh produce is also often high in fiber, vitamins and minerals and lower in calories. Eat as many of these foods as possible. If you can, forgo dip or dressing in order to cut calories and reduce your risk of becoming overweight, a common side effect of corticosteroids such as Prednisone[LINK].
Some types of fat raise cholesterol and may contribute to inflammation, while other types may help reduce inflammation. Researchers have tied saturated fats to increased inflammation. Saturated fats come from high-fat animal products (including full-fat dairy), fried foods, and baked goods made with tropical oils. Reduce your saturated fat intake by limiting your consumption of foods such as fatty beef, pork, chicken with skin, lard, cream, butter, cheese, full-fat or 2 percent milk or yogurt. Instead, choose skim milk, fat-free yogurt, and skin-free chicken or fish. Always check labels on baked goods and avoid those made with palm oil, palm kernel oil or coconut oil.
Conversely, the type of fat found in walnuts, pecans, flaxseed, canola and olive oil, and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, lake trout and sardines may help fight inflammation as well as heart disease. These foods are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Dietary fiber keeps your heart healthy and your bowels working properly. You can eat more high-fiber foods including vegetables, dried or fresh fruits, legumes such as peas or beans, some nuts including almonds and pistachios, and whole-grain products. Making the switch from white bread to whole-grain, from white rice to brown rice, or from regular pasta to whole-grain pasta will also add fiber to your diet. Always check labels to make sure products are whole-grain.
Certain foods have been shown to exacerbate lupus symptoms. These include garlic, which may strengthen the immune system, and alfalfa sprouts, which contain a protein that my promote inflammation. If, like most people, you take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen[LINK] or Naproxen[LINK], drinking alcohol may increase your risk for gastrointestinal problems such as bleeding or ulcers. Alcohol can also interfere with the effects of certain drugs, including Warfarin[LINK] and Methotrexate[LINK]. It is also wise to limit your salt intake. High blood pressure is a common side effect of corticosteroids, and eating salt exacerbates that problem. A high-sodium diet can raise your blood pressure, increasing your risk for heart disease. Experiment with using lemon juice or different spices such as pepper or curry powder as a way of enhancing the taste of food.
People with lupus often require more of certain nutrients than people without lupus. For instance, corticosteroids can thin your bones and cause osteoporosis. Therefore, those with lupus should increase their intake of high-calcium foods such as skim milk, fat-free yogurt, dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and leafy greens, and juice or soy milk fortified with calcium. Fat-free dairy and the fortified drinks listed above are also good sources of Vitamin D. Since people with lupus must limit their exposure to sunlight, it is important to consume foods rich in Vitamin D in order to ensure you receive enough. If you are taking Methotrexate, you may require more folic acid. Foods rich in folic acid include fruit, leafy green vegetables, and fortified grain products (check labels).
You may have food allergies, lactose intolerance or other reactions to certain foods that exacerbate your lupus symptoms or medication side effects whenever you eat them. If you suspect you have problems with certain foods, begin keeping a food journal that tracks what you eat and how you feel each day. You can also ask your doctor for an allergy test.
Optimizing your nutrition will help you feel your personal best. A diet low in saturated fat and high in nutrients such as fiber, calcium and Vitamin D can help you maintain a healthy heart, bones, blood pressure and weight. Eating right and getting plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids may help your body fight inflammation associated with lupus.
The effect of diet on lupus symptoms is a relatively new field of study.
In 2012, researchers completed a review of nutritional factors and their effects on lupus. Results showed that a diet with moderate amounts of protein and calories and rich in unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals, especially antioxidants, can improve the quality of life of those with lupus.
A 2003 study of 216 women with inactive lupus over four years found that Vitamin C was associated with lowered risk for developing active disease.
Side effects of some lupus medications, which can include loss of appetite and mouth sores, may make it difficult to eat regular meals or focus on a healthy diet.
Fatigue or physical disabilities may make it more difficult to find the energy to prepare fresh, healthy meals. Making large batches of food in advance and freezing several portions for the future can help conserve energy.
You may feel disappointed to give up favorite high-fat foods. However, think of diet changes as a chance to explore unfamiliar foods and find new favorites. Many recipe books focus on low-fat, high-fiber cooking and provide a wealth of exciting ideas.
Depending on where you live, it may be harder to get to a grocery store with a good selection of produce and other healthy foods.
Lupus Diet and Nutrition – WebMD
Diet – The Johns Hopkins Lupus Center
Is there a diet that will lower inflammation? – Lupus Foundation of America
Lupus Diet Tips: Know Which Foods to Eat or Avoid – Healthline
Diet and systemic lupus erythematosus: a 4 year prospective study of Japanese patients. – PubMed
Diet and nutritional aspects in systemic lupus erythematosus – Sociedade Brasileira de Reumatologia
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