Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) is a complex autoimmune disease resulting from the production of antibodies that attack the DNA and proteins within healthy cells. The cause of lupus remains unknown, however, genetics and environmental triggers (stress, dysbiosis, certain medications, viruses and bacteria) are believed to have a role in its manifestation. Lupus is known to affect a persons joints, skin, kidneys, brain, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal, Sage, found that premature coronary heart disease is a significant cause of morbidity (sickness) and mortality (death) in patients diagnosed with Lupus. The study also found that women diagnosed with Lupus had a 5 times higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than women who did not have Lupus. Nevertheless, despite previously being regarded as a potentially fatal autoimmune disease, the prognosis of lupus has improved over the years, with 80 to 90 percent of individuals diagnosed with lupus living well beyond 10 years following diagnosis. It must be noted that life expectancy will depend upon the prognosis made by your immunologist based on the severity of your condition.
Inflammation is the major concern regarding lupus, given that the majority of symptoms are inflammatory orientated. For example, individuals diagnosed with lupus can present with skin rashes across the bridge of the nose and cheeks, mouth and nose ulcers, fevers, numb/tingling/burning arms and legs, joint pain/swelling or stiffness. For this reason, blood tests that determine inflammation in the body are used to diagnose lupus, alongside additional autoimmune blood tests. With the clients I have seen who are diagnosed with lupus, the blood tests most commonly reported on by their general practitioner include anti-nuclear antibodies (autoimmune marker); erythrocyte sedimentary rate (inflammatory marker); high sensitive C reactive protein (inflammatory marker); anti-double stranded DNA (anti-body/autoimmune marker); and anti-smith antibodies (most specific antibody for lupus). If you suspect you have Lupus or have a family history of autoimmune disorders you should speak to your general practitioner about having the foregoing blood tests screened.
The common pharmaceutical treatments utilised by general practitioners include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (nurofen) and steroid therapy (prednisone). One concern regarding this therapy is that long term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can result in gastrointestinal bleeding and/or ulcers, while steroid therapy may further compromise a persons immune system-the very system that is already compromised. In all cases of Lupus, therapy should be consciously undertaken between you and your general practitioner/immunologist, however naturopathic care can be utilised as an adage to conventional medical therapies. For example, essential fatty acids may be an important additional to the diet, given that recent studies have found that individuals diagnosed with Lupus have a defect in metabolising omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. For this reason, even small amounts of EPA and DHA, found in fish oil, have been shown to help. However, there are more naturopathic approaches that can be undertaken.
Improve oestrogen metabolism: Needs to be well balanced in women diagnosed with Lupus. There is a test that can be organised by your health care practitioner, through a functional pathology group in Melbourne, to determine an imbalance in the ratio of oestrogen.
Digestion and Immune Support: 70 percent of the immune system resides around the digestive system-its requires unlimited support. Lupus is considered a type 2 immune system dominant imbalance, which means the immune system is not working correctly. The active ingredient of perilla and mandarin is luteolin, which is a potent type 2 immune system dominance regulator.
Plant sterols (avocados, peaches)- support heart health and reduce inflammation.
Minimise gluten, saturated fats (except coconut oil), and red meat to decrease inflammation.
Eliminate all suspected allergens including wheat and dairy proteins, egg, chocolate, soy and corn.
Avoid foods containing the amino acid tryptophan (see my post on 5-hydroxtryptophan), results in problems associated with antibodies in the blood.
Avoid high dose oral contraceptives (speak with your general practitioner); penicillin; medications containing sulfur-can increase Lupus symptoms.
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