Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes damage to organs, joints or skin. Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age, 15 to 44, and women of color have the highest rates. Symptoms vary for each person, from mild to life threatening, and can go into remission if your health improves over time. There is no specific diet to improve lupus, but speak to your doctor and dietitian about special nutritional needs to manage medical conditions related to lupus.
Symptoms of Lupus
Lupus is a chronic illness that involves episodic "flares." For unknown reasons, the body attacks itself, and the system that's in place to keep you healthy from bacteria and viruses becomes vulnerable. Lupus affects many body systems, including dermatologic, musculoskeletal, hematologic, cardiopulmonary, renal, central nervous system, gastrointestinal and ophthalmologic. The most common symptoms of lupus are fever, fatigue and weight loss or gain; many patients experience skin problems. Manifestations affect your well-being and cause depression, insomnia and impaired concentration.
Specific Nutrition Recommendations
In cases of specific systemic conditions such as steroid-induced osteoporosis or diabetes, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease, eliminating foods from your diet may help manage lupus. You may need a specific dietary plan if you have apathy, poor muscle tone, constipation or diarrhea, dry, rough, scaly skin, and dull, dry, brittle, thin hair.
There is no need for you to avoid any one food, nor is there a single diet recommended for lupus sufferers, says Dr. Laura Coleman, registered dietitian. Coleman recommends following a diet that has plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains and lean meat or poultry. Anemia is a common sign of lupus. Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, to increase iron in the diet. However, the best source of iron is "heme" iron because it is absorbed better than plant-based foods or "non-heme" sources. Heme iron is found in meat, fish and poultry.
To increase iron stores in the body, include a source of vitamin C at every meal and eat meat, fish or poultry in several daily meals. For maximum absorption of iron, do not eat calcium or fiber-rich foods or drink tea and coffee with non-heme sources. Calcium and foods with tannins such as tea reduce absorption of iron. Eat or drink these foods or beverages in-between meals. Talk to your health care provider about supplements that claim to boost the immune system. Supplements can interact with prescription medications and cause harmful side effects.