Certain people may need to follow a slightly different diet. For example, pregnant women need to avoid eating certain foods; people with lupus nephritis (lupus affecting the kidneys) need to follow advice from their hospital dietician; and dietary advice for people over 60 and for children of various ages may also be different. The British Nutrition Foundation provides further advice and information about healthy eating and alternative diets. You can also find a lot more information in the links for further reading at the end of this article.
If you notice these symptoms or a combination of these symptoms and they can’t be explained by another problem or illness you know you have, see your doctor to get them checked out. With early diagnosis and treatment, many of the symptoms of lupus and its complications can be managed, says Stuart D. Kaplan, MD, the chief of rheumatology at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Hewlett, New York.
This axial, T2-weighted brain magnetic resonance image (MRI) demonstrates an area of ischemia in the right periventricular white matter of a 41-year-old woman with long-standing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). She presented with headache and subtle cognitive impairments but no motor deficits. Faintly increased signal intensity was also seen on T1-weighted images, with a trace of enhancement following gadolinium that is too subtle to show on reproduced images. Distribution of the abnormality is consistent with occlusion of deep penetrating branches, such as may result from local vasculopathy, with no clinical or laboratory evidence of lupus anticoagulant or anticardiolipin antibody. Cardiac embolus from covert Libman-Sacks endocarditis remains less likely due to distribution.
The first mechanism may arise genetically. Research indicates SLE may have a genetic link. SLE does run in families, but no single causal gene has been identified. Instead, multiple genes appear to influence a person's chance of developing lupus when triggered by environmental factors. HLA class I, class II, and class III genes are associated with SLE, but only classes I and II contribute independently to increased risk of SLE.[45] Other genes which contain risk variants for SLE are IRF5, PTPN22, STAT4,[46] CDKN1A,[47] ITGAM, BLK,[46] TNFSF4 and BANK1.[48] Some of the susceptibility genes may be population specific.[46]

Saturated fats, on the other hand, can raise cholesterol levels and may contribute to inflammation. So they should be limited. Sources of saturated fats include fried foods, commercial baked goods, creamed soups and sauces, red meat, animal fat, processed meat products, and high-fat dairy foods. That includes whole milk, half and half, cheeses, butter, and ice cream.

Corticosteroids and immune suppressants: Patients with serious or life-threatening problems such as kidney inflammation, lung or heart involvement, and central nervous system symptoms need more “aggressive” (stronger) treatment. This may include high-dose corticosteroids such as prednisone (Deltasone and others) and drugs that suppress the immune system. Immune suppressants include azathioprine (Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune). Recently mycophenolate mofetil has been used to treat severe kidney disease in lupus – referred to as lupus nephritis.


Your gut is somewhat permeable to allow very small molecules (micronutrients) pass through the intestinal wall. It’s how you absorb your food. Many factors can damage your gut, including gluten, infections, medications and stress. This damage allows much larger particles such as toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles to “leak through” your gut and enter your bloodstream, triggering an immune response. We know from the research of Dr. Alessio Fasano that leaky gut is a necessary precursor to autoimmunity, meaning if you’re dealing with lupus, you also have a leaky gut. Not to mention, your gut is where nearly 80% of your immune system lives. So in order to overcome lupus, you must first repair your gut.

  According to the Mayo Clinic, “People with lupus should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients that benefit overall health and can help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and digestive disorders. Plant-based diets also support a healthy weight because they are naturally low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Fruits and vegetables are particularly high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body by destroying harmful substances that damage cells and tissue and cause heart disease and cancer.” Take a look at our blog, Lupus: the Diet Dilemma for some great tips. While these diets, or eating plans, may have some merit, individual foods should not be the focus. Pay attention to your overall pattern of nutrition. Reducing inflammation is not just about what you eat.  Patients should also know that these diets are never meant to be a replacement for the lupus treatments they may already be taking under the close supervision of a medical professional. Until more research is in on the effectiveness of these diets, be practical by getting enough sleep and exercise, and try to maintain a healthy weight. Back to top
Acute cutaneous LE typically presents in the third decade of life and is frequently associated with active SLE. There are localized and generalized forms of ACLE. The localized form is the frequently described malar, or “butterfly” rash, which refers to erythema that occurs over both cheeks, extends over the nasal bridge, and spares the nasolabial folds. These lesions are classically transient, sun-induced, and non-scarring, although dyspigmentation can occur. Patients may initially mistake this rash for a sunburn, and only seek medical attention when it persists for several days. A fine surface scale and/or edema may be associated with the erythema. Malar rashes have been reported to be present in up to 52% of SLE patients at the time of diagnosis, with clinical activity of the rash paralleling that of the systemic disease. This rash can be confused with acne rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis, however the former is associated with the formation of papules and pustules, and the latter occurs within the nasolabial folds.

When the kidneys or central nervous systems are affected immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) and mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept) may be used. These drugs restrain the overactive immune system by blocking production of immune cells. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, bladder problems, decreased fertility, and increased risk of cancer and infection. The risks increase with the length of treatment.
Nutrients that are important for managing lupus, such as fiber and antioxidants, seem to have the most beneficial effects when consumed from real food rather than from supplements.  What type of foods are included in a lupus diet? These include healthy fats, plenty of fresh veggies and fruits, and probiotic foods. Considering the fact that lupus can increase your risk for other chronic health problems (for example, women with lupus have a five- to tenfold higher risk for heart disease than the general population!), a nutrient-rich lupus diet can have far-reaching protective effects.
The male hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), produced in the adrenals, seems to help and may reduce the need for prednisone. Although DHEA is available over-the-counter, don’t take it without medical supervision. It presents an increased risk of heart attack and breast and prostate cancer so it is vital that a physician monitor anyone taking it for lupus. Furthermore, over-the-counter brands of DHEA may not be as reliable as prescription forms.
Lupus nephritis is managed with a combination of glucocorticoids [130] and immunosuppressive agents to slow the progression to end-stage renal disease (ESRD), along with maintaining normal blood pressure levels (ie, target of ≤130/80 mm Hg). [61, 96] In general, individuals with class I or II lupus nephritis do not need management with immunosuppression. [96]
Research indicates that omega 3 fatty acids from fish or fish oils may help manage high triglycerides and heart disease (see references at end of this summary). There have not been any studies, however, that show a reduced disease activity with lupus. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, mackerel, bluefish, herring, mullet, tuna, halibut, lake trout, rainbow trout, ground flaxseed, walnuts, pecans, canola oil, walnut oil, and flaxseed oil, and are part of a heart-healthy meal plan.
Thinning hair is often one of the first symptoms of lupus. Hair loss is the result of inflammation of the skin and scalp. Some people with lupus lose hair by the clump. More often, hair thins out slowly. Some people also have thinning of the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hair. Lupus can cause hair to feel brittle, break easily, and look a bit ragged, earning it the name “lupus hair.”
Collagen is the major insoluble fibrous protein in the extracellular matrix and in connective tissue. In fact, it is the single most abundant protein in the animal kingdom. There are at least 16 types of collagen, but 80 – 90 percent of the collagen in the body consists of types I, II, and III. These collagen molecules pack together to form long thin fibrils of similar structure. Type IV, in contrast, forms a two-dimensional reticulum; several other types associate with fibril-type collagens, linking them to each other or to other matrix components. At one time it was thought that all collagens were secreted by fibroblasts in connective tissue, but we now know that numerous epithelial cells make certain types of collagens. The various collagens and the structures they form all serve the same purpose, to help tissues withstand stretching.
Neuropsychiatric syndromes can result when SLE affects the central or peripheral nervous system. The American College of Rheumatology defines 19 neuropsychiatric syndromes in systemic lupus erythematosus.[30] The diagnosis of neuropsychiatric syndromes concurrent with SLE (now termed as NPSLE),[31] is one of the most difficult challenges in medicine, because it can involve so many different patterns of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for signs of infectious disease or stroke.[32]
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Limited evidence suggests that supplementation may be clinically beneficial in SLE patients with low levels of vitamin D. In Mediterranean patients,  female patients who were not receiving supplemental vitamin D showed more fatigue and received more oral corticosteroids than those with normal levels of vitamin D. [109] In Australian patients, an increase in serum vitamin D levels was associated with reduced disease activity over time. [152]
In more severe cases, medications that modulate the immune system (primarily corticosteroids and immunosuppressants) are used to control the disease and prevent recurrence of symptoms (known as flares). Depending on the dosage, people who require steroids may develop Cushing's syndrome, symptoms of which may include obesity, puffy round face, diabetes mellitus, increased appetite, difficulty sleeping and osteoporosis. These may subside if and when the large initial dosage is reduced, but long-term use of even low doses can cause elevated blood pressure and cataracts.
Cardiac tamponade is pressure on the heart that occurs when blood or fluid builds up in the space between the heart muscle (myocardium) and the outer covering sac of the heart (pericardium). This prevents the heart ventricles from expanding fully. The excess pressure from the fluid prevents the heart from working properly. As a result, the body does not get enough blood.

Describes a clinical study in which groups of participants receive one of several combinations of interventions. For example, a two-by-two factorial design involves four groups of participants. Each group receives one of the following pairs of interventions: 1) drug A and drug B, 2) drug A and a placebo, 3) a placebo and drug B, or 4) a placebo and a placebo. So during the trial, all possible combinations of the two drugs (A and B) and placebos are given to different groups of participants.


Changes in ESR over time can help guide a healthcare professional toward a possible diagnosis. Moderately elevated ESR occurs with inflammation, but also with anemia, infection, pregnancy, and old age. A very high ESR usually has an obvious cause, such as a marked increase in globulins that can be due to a severe infection. A rising ESR can mean an increase in inflammation or a poor response to a therapy. A decreasing ESR can mean a good response, though keep in mind that a low ESR can be indicative of diseases such as polycythemia, extreme leukocytosis, and protein abnormalities.


Lupus is often missed or misdiagnosed because the symptoms are vague and can match those of other conditions. Generally, a doctor will review your medical history and your family history, and look for signs of systemic inflammation. Because lupus can involve the internal and external organs, a doctor will rely on observation as well as laboratory testing in order to make a lupus diagnosis. There is no one test for lupus–generally, many different criteria will need to come together, and it can take years to reach a diagnosis.
In addition to the 11 criteria, other tests can be helpful in evaluating people with SLE to determine the severity of organ involvement. These include routine testing of the blood to detect inflammation (for example, the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, or ESR, and the C-reactive protein, or CRP), blood-chemistry testing, direct analysis of internal body fluids, and tissue biopsies. Abnormalities in body fluids (joint or cerebrospinal fluid) and tissue samples (kidney biopsy, skin biopsy, and nerve biopsy) can further support the diagnosis of SLE. The appropriate testing procedures are selected for the patient individually by the doctor.
Blood clots are seen with increased frequency in lupus. Clots often occur in the legs (a vein clot, called deep venous thrombosis), lungs (a lung clot, called pulmonary embolus), or brain (stroke). Blood clots that develop in lupus patients may be associated with the production of antiphospholipid antibodies. These antibodies are abnormal proteins that may increase the tendency of the blood to clot.
Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to the peripheral nervous system, the vast communications network that transmits information from the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to every other part of the body. Peripheral nerves also send sensory information back to the brain and spinal cord, such as a message that the feet are cold or a finger is burned. Damage to the peripheral nervous system interferes with these vital connections. Like static on a telephone line, peripheral neuropathy distorts and sometimes interrupts messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
Collagen is the major insoluble fibrous protein in the extracellular matrix and in connective tissue. In fact, it is the single most abundant protein in the animal kingdom. There are at least 16 types of collagen, but 80 – 90 percent of the collagen in the body consists of types I, II, and III. These collagen molecules pack together to form long thin fibrils of similar structure. Type IV, in contrast, forms a two-dimensional reticulum; several other types associate with fibril-type collagens, linking them to each other or to other matrix components. At one time it was thought that all collagens were secreted by fibroblasts in connective tissue, but we now know that numerous epithelial cells make certain types of collagens. The various collagens and the structures they form all serve the same purpose, to help tissues withstand stretching.
Some patients with mild lupus, with a little joint pain or rash can be managed with anti-inflammatory drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, says Stuart D. Kaplan, MD, the chief of rheumatology at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, New York. These drugs can also help manage fever and inflammation of the heart and lining around the lungs. (2)

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