If you have lupus, the autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissue, then you know there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all “lupus diet.” But that doesn’t mean that a healthy diet isn’t important to lupus management. You need to eat meals that are balanced and heart-healthy, with nutrient-dense foods that minimize inflammation. It’s not complicated, but there are some basics to follow.
Scientists have suspected for years that infections from bacteria, viruses, and other toxins were likely to blame for the development of conditions like lupus. And while they have not been able to identify one single culprit, they have found strong correlations with a number of bacteria and viruses. For example, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been shown to trigger lupus in some individuals.4
Some people find that excluding gluten from their diet gives them more energy. Don’t be tempted to start excluding a lot of foods from your diet; this could lead to serious deficiencies. Avoiding gluten or dairy products will not necessarily prevent flares; food “triggers” vary greatly from person to person. If you feel that you have problems processing certain foods, talk to your GP and ask for a referral to either a dietician or an allergy specialist within the NHS. There are commercial allergy tests available, but these are not always accurate and could cost you a lot of money but bring you no lasting benefit.
Tingible body macrophages (TBMs) – large phagocytic cells in the germinal centers of secondary lymph nodes – express CD68 protein. These cells normally engulf B cells that have undergone apoptosis after somatic hypermutation. In some people with SLE, significantly fewer TBMs can be found, and these cells rarely contain material from apoptotic B cells. Also, uningested apoptotic nuclei can be found outside of TBMs. This material may present a threat to the tolerization of B cells and T cells. Dendritic cells in the germinal center may endocytose such antigenic material and present it to T cells, activating them. Also, apoptotic chromatin and nuclei may attach to the surfaces of follicular dendritic cells and make this material available for activating other B cells that may have randomly acquired self-specificity through somatic hypermutation. Necrosis, a pro-inflammatory form of cell death, is increased in T lymphocytes, due to mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and depletion of ATP.
A healthy diet is important in general, but perhaps even more so for the roughly 1 million Americans and 3 million people worldwide who suffer from systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).1 Because of the multifaceted challenges presented by the disease, consuming adequate amounts of the right nutrients — and limiting others — can help relieve symptoms and improve outcomes.
Most autoimmune diseases affect one specific system. For example, Rheumatoid Arthritis involves the joints, and Multiple Sclerosis affects the brain and spinal cord. Lupus, on the other hand, affects more than one system simultaneously. No matter what organ or system is being attacked, all autoimmune diseases are similar in that they are an immune response caused by systemic inflammation that leads your body to attack itself.
One main type of lupus, cutaneous lupus erythematosus, is limited to skin symptoms, including a rash and lesions. That means people with cutaneous lupus, which does not progress and become systemic lupus erythematosus, only experience skin symptoms. People with cutaneous lupus most commonly develop a discoid rash. It appears as round, raised, red patches and can cause scarring, Dr. Caricchio explains. “It’s often confined to small areas above the neck, such as the ears and scalp,” he says. The rash usually does not itch or cause discomfort.
“I have had severe lupus for over twenty years and find that diet doesn’t really change any symptoms. I eat meat, fish, dairy, gluten and sugar too…all in moderation. I eat lots of fruit and veg and avoid processed foods. The only thing I avoid is alcohol. I guess everyone is different but a well-balanced, healthy diet with exercise (when I’m up to it) is my formula.”
Blood clots are more common in people with lupus. Clots often occur in the legs (called deep venous thrombosis or DVT) and lungs (called pulmonary embolus or PE) and occasionally in the brain (stroke). Blood clots that develop in lupus patients may be associated with the production of antiphospholipid (APL) antibodies. These antibodies are abnormal proteins that may increase the tendency of the blood to clot. Blood can be tested for these antibodies.
“My message to patients is that we can do an excellent job of managing the condition compared to 20 years ago,” says Roberto Caricchio, MD, the interim section chief of rheumatology at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia and the director of the Temple Lupus Clinic at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. With that said, people should never underestimate the serious effects lupus can have, he adds, which is why working with your doctor to manage the condition is so important.
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Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
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