Diets for Lupus Patients

Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Eating pineapple

If you are suffering from Lupus, you may be wondering if a special diet may help with symptoms. Although there is not currently a science-based diet available specifically for Lupus patients, many men and women suffering from the disease report significant change in symptoms when implementing certain dietary changes.

Dietary Changes for Lupus Patients

Prescription for Nutritional Healing

In this book, now in its fifth edition, Phyllis Balch discusses certain dietary and supplemental implementation for Lupus patients to better control and/or relieve symptoms. These include:

  • Eating a low fat, low salt and low animal protein diet. She explains how this kind of diet is easy on the kidneys and prevents the immune system from being over-reactive.
  • Avoiding items such as sugar and caffeine is important for Lupus patients (as these lower the fighting ability of an already damaged immune system), as is avoiding foods from the nightshade category. These include peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and white potatoes. Nightshade vegetables contain solanine, which promotes inflammation and pain.
  • Limiting red meat as much as possible is another recommendation in this book. Certain red meats can cause an inflammatory response in the body within a few hours, even in healthy people. To try to keep any additional inflammation at a minimum, Balch recommends steering away from red meat, if possible.
  • Eating fresh pineapple (never canned) can reduce inflammation, due to its bromelain levels. Bromelain is an enzyme present in fresh pineapples and has even been turned into supplement form to help decrease inflammation.

Prescription for Natural Healing describes in detail other dietary changes a Lupus patient should implement, plus outlines nutrient and supplements one may want to add to his or her daily regimen. As some of the recommendations involve herbs and large doses of specific supplements, it is a good idea to speak with your physician beforehand to make sure there will not be an interaction with any pharmaceutical medication you may be taking.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

An Anti-Inflammatory diet is one that is based upon specific foods that decrease inflammation in the body. This type of diet may be beneficial for Lupus patients who are already fighting high amounts of inflammation.

The diet works through scientific rating of thousands of commonly eaten foods, which determines whether they are inflammatory, neutral or anti-inflammatory once digested. The rating is calculated by the amount and types of fat, vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels in that specific food, as well as how fast the sugar is metabolized and how the food is prepared.

Some great resources on how to incorporate an anti-inflammatory diet, in addition to diet specifics, include:

Upon researching this type of diet, one will also find high levels of essential fatty acids, selenium, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, as well as specific herbs and spices, such as ginger, turmeric, green tea and rosemary should be added to the diet, as they are all anti-inflammatory.

Alternative Possibilities

The Lupus Recovery Diet

Author Jill Harrington wrote this book after she was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus at the age of 32 and was taking various medications. Although her father is a physician, Jill explains in the book that while she was receiving excellent medical care, she decided to follow the route of nutrition and diet after numerous drug cocktails weren't helping. The book outlines a whole food, plant-based diet, in addition to adding therapeutic fasting.

Plant-based diets have been recommended by many, including physicians, to help with symptoms of numerous diseases. Dr. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, is one of the world's biggest supporters of adopting a plant-based diet because of its impact on health, disease prevention and society as a whole. Plant-based diets are based on consuming a large number of vegetables, grains, legumes and fruit, with little or no animal products and diary. Forks Over Knives is a great documentary for those who want to learn more, as it explores a plant-based diet and its effects on the body and certain diseases.

Implementing Dietary Changes

When implementing dietary changes, many Lupus patients opt to be tested for food and other allergies. Studies from the National Institute of Health show that Lupus patients have higher levels of allergic disorders than healthy individuals. An allergist can tell you which foods, chemicals, and insects you are allergic to; eliminating any "allergic" triggers out of your diet could also help relieve some symptoms you are experiencing.

Food Journal

Keeping a food journal is another great addition when reworking your diet. Food journals help you keep track of how you feel after consuming specific foods; it is also a good way to track and see if regular consumption of a specific food leads to an increase in symptoms.

Radically changing your diet in one day isn't the best route to take if you are a Lupus patient. Not only does this increase the chance that you won't stick to the dietary changes you've implemented, but it puts a lot of stress on a body that is already fighting a chronic condition. Once you have spoken with your physician, nutritional counselors and allergist, and have decided which dietary changes or programs you want to try, start slowly and use your journal to write down all of the outcomes (good and bad).

Which Diet Is Best?

No two cases of Lupus are exactly alike - each patient has a variety of symptoms and different organ systems which may be involved. Symptoms can also change over time, or during each flare (a time when the disease is active).

Because of this, there is no magic diet that is going to work for every Lupus patient. Speaking with your physician and a nutritionist is a good place to start if you want to learn how to incorporate dietary changes into your lifestyle.

Diets for Lupus Patients