What is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system mistakes the body's own tissues as foreign invaders and attacks them. Your body attacks itself. There are two types of Lupus.
- Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) - This is the Lupus that attacks the skin and usually leaves the inside of the body alone. It often causes extreme sun sensitivity leading to sores and lesions on the body.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) - While DLE is not fun, and can make life rough, SLE has a completely different attack. SLE can attack all of the body's major organs including the heart, kidneys, lungs, brain, and blood vessels. The body's joints also usually come under attack. People with SLE often also end up with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Raynaud’s disease, and Connective Tissue Disease.
Lupus can impact each person differently. In years past it was very common for those who were diagnosed with Lupus to die from one of the associated illnesses before they made it to old age. Thankfully in the age of the internet, better medicinal options, and doctors being everywhere most people do not die from lupus before reaching the average age of death.
Lupus Diet - Foods To Avoid Eating
Just like with any diet for any purpose there are many things that simply are not good for you. You will want to eliminate those foods first. Focus on getting as close to natural as possible as the first step to feeling better.
- Processed foods and Drinks - If it comes in a box, frozen for "convenience", or contains things you either can't buy or can't pronounce you need to remove it from your diet. As much as you may hate getting rid of the easy microwavable meal, or the quick and easy snack, it will be so worth it. Even if it helps your lupus NONE, it will help you in other ways. So why not at least try giving up the toxic processed foods?
- Alcohol - Everything in moderation right? Well maybe. Since lupus attacks your kidneys and alcohol is processed in the kidneys, drinking alcohol very well may cause flares and more damage to the kidneys. So while a drink here and there may not bother you now, it may be causing damage that you will feel later on when your kidneys are being attacked by the lupus. So refrain from drinking as much as possible.
- Alfalfa Seeds and Sprouts - There have been known reactions to Alfalfa in people with Lupus. These reactions are believed to be caused by the amino acid L-canavanine, which is in alfalfa seeds and sprouts (but not in the leaves). So you might want to avoid these at all costs just to be safe.
- Red Meat - Sorry for all you lovers of steak and burgers, but unfortunately for those of us with lupus some things are almost guaranteed to happen, and one of those things will be kidney related and heart related issues. When the kidneys have large amounts of protein to process it can be more than they can handle. Also red meat increases cholesterol levels. While some cholesterol is good, some is bad and can lead to heart disease which is something we lupies already have to worry about. So find your protein in lean meats instead of red meat.
Should You Avoid Nightshade Foods? There are a lot of different opinions on this one with ZERO actual proof. So this might be something to try to see if the elimination helps you. Personally I tried it and did not find it effective. I was also miserable because quite honestly a meal is not complete without hot sauce or peppers. So if you would like to attempt it remove all potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant from your diet.
Lupus Diet - Best Foods to Eat and Drink if You Have Lupus
Again, as with any diet these foods are probably best for you, but with lupus they may have some added benefits to reduce flares.
- Fish - Particularly Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, and Sardines which are high in Omega 3. This is one of the few things that actually has studies related to lupus. In 2007, and since, there have been studies that show those who took 3 grams of omega-3 polyunsaturated fish oil supplements daily for six months showed improvements in the symptoms of their disease. So if the supplements aren't your thing, or you don't want to add another pill to the pharmacy you are starting in your bathroom, stick with eating more fish.
- Water - I can not say this one enough. DRINK WATER!! No one needs to tell me it is tasteless or tastes bad because no one hates drinking water more than I do. I have never liked water and I will NEVER enjoy drinking it. However I will enjoy the benefits of it daily. Water helps every part of the body. It really helps the joints and skin, which lets all be honest, that will be one of the biggest early downfalls to lupus. So drink it water, 8 glasses a day, and no coffee does not count as water!
- Tumeric - This is a great spice with Anti Inflammatory properties. Try to include it in your dishes to help with joint pain.
- Green Leafy Vegetables - Green leafy veggies are high in iron. Most of us lupies suffer from anemia at some point in time so any opportunity to give a boost to the amount of iron in our bodies. Don't overcook these though and if you can eat them raw or just lightly steamed.
- Citrus Fruits - Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. It is also great for the body. By eating plenty of Oranges or apricots, for example, your body will more easily absorb iron to help you if anemia is an issue for you.
What Have Doctors Said About Lupus Diets?
Lets get to the real point! Will changing your diet really change how lupus is impacting you? Well sorry to say everyone there are very few real answers to this. Some people swear cutting all refined sugars and processed foods helped their lupus greatly. Others have found little to no help. As for real studies, sadly there are not enough to give us any accurate unbiased information on what really helps.
Doctors often have conflicting opinions on the topic and may imply that changing your diet will be useless. However on the other hand many doctors suggest diet change as the first step to treating lupus. So I guess it really comes down to what is it worth to you?
Personally I am working on changing my diet. I still can't let go of my caffeine and unless someone directly links, with lots of evidence, my coffee to my lupus I doubt I will ever stop drinking it. I am cutting down on other bad foods though
One Doctor's Opinion on the Lupus Diet
Lupus Diet Summary
It is not rocket science ladies and gentleman, simply eat better foods! :) Enjoy fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, fish, healthy drinks, and stay away from fast or processed foods! Stay away from fried foods too (my weakness)!!
Drink plenty of water, stay hydrated, take your vitamins, and eat healthy. There is no miracle cure for Lupus. So we each have to fight in every way we can. Good luck on your journey Spoonies!
Terrace from Plainfield, NJ on June 13, 2017:
Great article! I'm already following a few of these in my diet. Thx for the info.
Akriti Mattu from Shimla, India on June 09, 2015:
Excellent post. Voted useful.
Peeples (author) from South Carolina on May 14, 2015:
I did have an ANA test done which came back positive, however that is not the single diagnosing factor. Typically you have to have multiple symptoms in order to be diagnosed. Did your doc explain the positive ANA test you had? I would hope with you also having arthritis that the rheumy explained that fully. Sometime a positive ANA means nothing and sometimes a negative ANA can really be positive. Some meds also cause a positive ANA.
I have been dealing with lupus for about 4-5 years but did not finally get a diagnosis until November of last year. I finally found a thorough rheumy. I have too many of the symptoms at this point it became easy to get a diagnoses.
Thanks for stopping by! Take care Sparklea
Sparklea from Upstate New York on May 13, 2015:
Peeples this is an excellent hub, full of vital information. Wondering how you were diagnosed?...because I have a positive ANA (low:80), but have never been diagnosed with a disease, though I do have arthritis, and I see a rheumatologist every 6 months. Did you have an ANA test?
I knew someone who had Lupus but she moved away and she looked fine, so I know what you mean about having it and no one can tell.
Have you had Lupus for a long time? It is my understanding that all autoimmune diseases are difficult to diagnose, and a lot of tests come back negative.
THANK you for this very informative hub...I am certain it will help many people. Blessings, Sparklea :)
Alex Finn on May 12, 2015:
Thanks for this helpful information. Lifestyle changes - particularly diet - are most important.
Peeples (author) from South Carolina on May 12, 2015:
Yes, it is really the same as a good diet. None of that stuff is good for the body, but for those of us with lupus it may be doing more damage than it would the average person. Thanks for stopping by poetryman!
poetryman6969 on May 11, 2015:
The dietary restrictions seem similar to what many people would recommend for a good diet. I guess for the sufferers the difference is there are no days off.