Inflammation associated with lupus and other autoimmune reactions largely stems from an overactive immune system and poor gut health. Leaky gut syndrome can develop in those with lupus, which results in small openings in the gut lining opening up, releasing particles into the bloodstream and kicking off an autoimmune cascade. This inflammatory process can wind up increasing the risk for many conditions, including heart disease or hypertension, weight gain, joint deterioration, and bone loss, just to name a few. (5)


For reasons that doctors still don't understand, the immune system sometimes becomes confused, attacking the body itself, a condition known as autoimmune disease. With lupus,the immune system can attack any organ of the body, including the kidneys and brain, although skin and joints are often most affected, he said. Like many autoimmune diseases, it's more common in women.

Photosensitive systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) rashes typically occur on the face or extremities, which are sun-exposed regions. Although the interphalangeal spaces are affected, the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) and proximal interphalangeal (PIP) and distal interphalangeal (DIP) joints are spared. Photo courtesy of Dr. Erik Stratman, Marshfield Clinic.


However, this type of “specialized” treatment ignores the reality that all of your bodily systems are interconnected. Functional medicine, on the other hand, looks at the health of the entire body based on the fact that the health of one organ affects the function of the others. Rather than simply treating the symptoms, functional medicine aims to get at the underlying root causes of disease.
The authors reviewed the influence of nutritional factors on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and discussed an alternative treatment option. The autoimmunity and inflammatory process of SLE are related to the presence of dyslipidemia, obesity, systemic arterial hypertension, and metabolic syndrome, which should be properly considered to decrease cardiovascular risk. A diet with moderate protein and energy content, but rich in vitamins, minerals (especially antioxidants), and mono/polyunsaturated fatty acids can promote a beneficial protective effect against tissue damage and suppression of inflammatory activity, in addition to helping the treatment of those comorbidities. Diet therapy is a promising approach and some recommendations may offer a better quality of life to patients with SLE.
“There’s no specific diet for lupus, but the Mediterranean-style diet comes close to what’s most ideal," says Sotiria Everett, RD, a clinical assistant professor in the department of family, population, and preventive medicine at Stony Brook School of Medicine in New York. "You want to eat a diet that’s low in fat and sugar and has lots of fruits and vegetables. You should get some of your protein from fish and eat lots of beans and legumes because they’re high in fiber, vitamin B, and iron."

We conducted a systematic evidence-based review of the published literature on systemic lupus erythematosus. After searching several evidence-based databases (Table 1), we reviewed the MEDLINE database using the PubMed search engine. Search terms included “lupus not discoid not review not case” and “lupus and treatment and mortality,” with the following limits: 1996 to present, abstract available, human, and English language. One author reviewed qualifying studies for relevance and method.


Libman-Sacks endocarditis is the most characteristic cardiac manifestation of lupus. It is characterized by clusters of verrucae on the ventricular surface of the mitral valve. These lesions consist of accumulation of immune complexes, platelets, and mononuclear cells. This can lead to heart failure, valvular dysfunction, emboli, and secondary infective endocarditis. Diagnosis is best made via echocardiography, which may reveal the characteristic valvular masses (arrows). IVS = interventricular septum; LA = left atrium; LV = left ventricle.
In addition to the oral antimalarial hydroxychloroquine, doctors may prescribe topical steroids for lupus rash. Steroids or antimalarials may also be injected directly into rash lesions. (8) Topical creams containing tacrolimus or pimecrolimus that modulate the skin’s immune response may help manage lupus rash. Oral thalidomide, which affects the immune response, may be prescribed if other therapies don’t work. Doctors may also recommend that people with lupus rash avoid the sun and other ultraviolet light sources and wear sunscreen.

Lupus is not necessarily life threatening when treated appropriately. Up to 90 percent of patients will have a normal life expectancy if they are followed closely by their doctor and receive proper treatment. (4,5) Lupus can, however, increase mortality rates because patients have a higher risk of heart disease, infection or complications such as inflammation of the kidney, or nephritis, says Francis Luk, MD, an assistant professor of rheumatology and immunology, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Heart and Lungs. Heart and lung involvement often is caused by inflammation of the covering of the heart (pericardium) and lungs (pleura). When these structures become inflamed, patients may develop chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and accumulation of fluid around the lungs (pleuritis or pleurisy) and heart (pericarditis). The heart valves and the lung itself can also be affected by lupus, resulting in shortness of breath.
Since SLE patients can have a wide variety of symptoms and different combinations of organ involvement, no single test establishes the diagnosis of systemic lupus. To help doctors improve the accuracy of the diagnosis of SLE, 11 criteria were established by the American Rheumatism Association. These 11 criteria are closely related to the symptoms discussed above. Some people suspected of having SLE may never develop enough criteria for a definite diagnosis. Other people accumulate enough criteria only after months or years of observation. When a person has four or more of these criteria, the diagnosis of SLE is strongly suggested. Nevertheless, the diagnosis of SLE may be made in some settings in people with only a few of these classical criteria, and treatment may sometimes be instituted at this stage. Of these people with minimal criteria, some may later develop other criteria, but many never do.
The clearance of early apoptotic cells is an important function in multicellular organisms. It leads to a progression of the apoptosis process and finally to secondary necrosis of the cells if this ability is disturbed. Necrotic cells release nuclear fragments as potential autoantigens, as well as internal danger signals, inducing maturation of dendritic cells (DCs), since they have lost their membranes' integrity. Increased appearance of apoptotic cells also stimulates inefficient clearance. That leads to maturation of DCs and also to the presentation of intracellular antigens of late apoptotic or secondary necrotic cells, via MHC molecules. Autoimmunity possibly results by the extended exposure to nuclear and intracellular autoantigens derived from late apoptotic and secondary necrotic cells. B and T cell tolerance for apoptotic cells is abrogated, and the lymphocytes get activated by these autoantigens; inflammation and the production of autoantibodies by plasma cells is initiated. A clearance deficiency in the skin for apoptotic cells has also been observed in people with cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE).[67]
There is no cure for SLE.[1] Treatments may include NSAIDs, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, hydroxychloroquine, and methotrexate.[1] Alternative medicine has not been shown to affect the disease.[1] Life expectancy is lower among people with SLE.[5] SLE significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease with this being the most common cause of death.[4] With modern treatment about 80% of those affected survive more than 15 years.[3] Women with lupus have pregnancies that are higher risk but are mostly successful.[1]
Do you think you may have lupus? If you have shown several of the signs for lupus, you and your physician may now take the next step in determining if it is lupus or another auto-immune disease.  In order to make such a diagnosis, the individual must first show clinical evidence of a multi-symptom disease (i.e., the individual has shown abnormalities in several different organ systems).
Vegetarian or vegan diets are okay, but you need to take a multivitamin that includes vitamin B12, as this vitamin can only be obtained through animal products. Otherwise you might develop anemia and nerve damage. Also, it’s important to mix your sources of protein so that you get complete proteins – for example rice and beans, or corn and wheat. Animal proteins, dairy, and eggs are complete proteins, but vegetable proteins are generally low in one or more amino acids, which makes them inadequate as sole sources of protein.
Steroids . Steroid creams can be applied directly to rashes. The use of creams is usually safe and effective, especially for mild rashes. The use of steroid creams or tablets in low doses can be effective for mild or moderate features of lupus. Steroids also can be used in higher doses when internal organs are threatened. Unfortunately, high doses also are most likely to produce side effects.
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 principal receptors on animal cells for binding most extracellular matrix proteins—including collagens, fibronectin, and laminins—are the integrins. Integrins, like other cell adhesion molecules, differ from cell-surface receptors for hormones and for other extracellular soluble signal molecules in that they usually bind their ligand with lower affinity and are usually present at about tenfold to a hundredfold higher concentration on the cell surface. If the binding were too tight, cells would presumably become irreversibly glued to the matrix and would be unable to move—a problem that does not arise if attachment depends on large numbers of weak adhesions. This is an example of the “Velcro principle” mentioned earlier. Like other transmembrane cell adhesion proteins, however, integrins do more than just attach a cell to its surroundings. They also activate intracellular signaling pathways that communicate to the cell the character of the extracellular matrix that is bound.
Below you will find that list, accompanied by questions created by the LFA to help individuals determine whether they should contact a healthcare professional to discuss the potential for having lupus. The LFA suggests discussing the possibility with a doctor if you answer “yes” to more than three of the questions, from your present and past health history.

Alternative treatments are those that are not part of standard treatment. At this time, no research shows that alternative medicine can treat lupus. Some alternative or complementary approaches may help you cope or reduce some of the stress associated with living with a chronic illness. You should talk to your doctor before trying any alternative treatments.
One common early symptom that can be indicative of lupus is a photosensitive rash, meaning a rash that develops in response to sun exposure, particularly on the face and upper arms, says Dr. Kramer. Other early symptoms are unexplained fever and pain, swelling, and stiffness of multiple joints. Complications such as inflammation of the lining surrounding the lungs or heart can also occur early on, he adds.

Anemia is common in children with SLE[20] and develops in about 50% of cases.[21] Low platelet and white blood cell counts may be due to the disease or a side effect of pharmacological treatment. People with SLE may have an association with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome[22] (a thrombotic disorder), wherein autoantibodies to phospholipids are present in their serum. Abnormalities associated with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome include a paradoxical prolonged partial thromboplastin time (which usually occurs in hemorrhagic disorders) and a positive test for antiphospholipid antibodies; the combination of such findings have earned the term "lupus anticoagulant-positive". Another autoantibody finding in SLE is the anti-cardiolipin antibody, which can cause a false positive test for syphilis.[citation needed]


People with SLE have intense polyclonal B-cell activation, with a population shift towards immature B cells. Memory B cells with increased CD27+/IgD—are less susceptible to immunosuppression. CD27-/IgD- memory B cells are associated with increased disease activity and renal lupus. T cells, which regulate B-cell responses and infiltrate target tissues, have defects in signaling, adhesion, co-stimulation, gene transcription, and alternative splicing. The cytokines B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLys), interleukin 6, interleukin 17, interleukin 18, type I interferons, and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) are involved in the inflammatory process and are potential therapeutic targets.[4][60][61]

The ACR Quality of Care statement [147] recommends annual cardiovascular disease risk assessment; some researchers suggest that the cardiovascular risk for SLE is similar to that for diabetes mellitus. The 10-year coronary event rate is 13-15% in patients with active SLE, which is comparable to the 10-year event rate of 18.8% in patients with known coronary artery disease. [148] African American patients with SLE may be particularly vulnerable to premature cardiovascular disease and related death. [149]


In patients with SLE, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) is at least twice that in the general population, and over half of patients have 3 or more CVD risk factors.3,4 “Following a heart-healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and fatty fish and limiting saturated and trans fats can actually help reduce the risk of heart disease,” Gibofsky told Rheumatology Advisor.
It’s been found that low levels of vitamin D might be associated with increased risk of autoimmune conditions and other chronic diseases, according to a report published in the International Journal of Rheumatology. (8) If you don’t spend much time outdoors, especially during the winter, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement to prevent vitamin D deficiency.
Administer angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) to all patients with lupus nephritis (except pregnant women) who have proteinuria of 0.5 g or more per 24 hours (or equivalent by protein/creatinine ratios on spot urine tests). [96] This treatment has been reported to not only reduce proteinuria by about 30% but also significantly delay the doubling of serum creatinine and the progression to ESRD (in patients with nondiabetic chronic renal disease). [139]
Remove. Remove the bad. The goal is to get rid of factors that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract, including inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs, as well as toxic foods, including sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Finally you’ll want to eliminate gut infections from Candida overgrowth, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), and parasites.
It is important to not just rely on supplements to help improve your symptoms, as both diet and supplements together are important. Supplements are unregulated, so the quality and content may vary widely. You may need to take up to several doses per day of supplements to get the same effect that is in the food. Always try and consume the food before looking into supplements. Again, speak with your doctor.
EULAR recommendations for the management of SLE with neuropsychiatric manifestations support the evaluation and treatment of these symptoms in the same way as they are evaluated and treated in patients without SLE; if symptoms persist, management of these symptoms as an extension of SLE should be considered. [83, 61] For example, in patients with neuropsychiatric manifestations that may have an inflammatory etiology, immunosuppressive agents may be considered. [61]
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.
It is important to not just rely on supplements to help improve your symptoms, as both diet and supplements together are important. Supplements are unregulated, so the quality and content may vary widely. You may need to take up to several doses per day of supplements to get the same effect that is in the food. Always try and consume the food before looking into supplements. Again, speak with your doctor.
Women with lupus have a higher risk of miscarriage and preterm labor, says Kaplan. Pregnant women with lupus also have a higher risk of preeclampsia, or high blood pressure, and signs that the kidneys and liver may not be functioning well. (20) If you have lupus and do get pregnant (or if you have lupus and are trying to get pregnant), see a high-risk maternal-fetal medicine specialist who has expertise in how to best handle such pregnancies.
A. Lupus can vary from a moderately disabling disease to a life-threatening one. Because it can lead to cardiovascular disease, lupus can kill women in their 20s by causing heart attacks and strokes, Gilkeson said. People with lupus also can die at young ages due to infections that are related to the immune-suppressing drugs taken to control the disease. Although lupus doesn't make it harder to become pregnant, women with lupus are more likely to miscarry.
Once remission is achieved, start maintenance therapy with azathioprine or mycophenolate mofetil (ie, use less potent agents relative to long-term cyclophosphamide). The ALMS maintenance trial also found that mycophenolate mofetil was superior to azathioprine in the maintenance of the renal response to treatment and in the prevention of relapse in patients with lupus nephritis. [134] In the MAINTAIN trial, there was a trend toward fewer renal flares in patients receiving mycophenolate mofetil than in those receiving azathioprine [135] ; however, these results did not reach statistical significance.

Patients with SLE exhibit a variety of symptoms depending on the severity of their disease. In some cases, the onset of SLE is sudden, with patients developing fever and a general feeling of malaise (that can be mistaken for an acute infection), whereas other patients experience less acute episodes of fever and feeling unwell over many months and years.


Although a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice, a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Fever is part of the body's own disease-fighting arsenal; rising body temperatures apparently are capable of killing off many disease-producing organisms.
Get involved in your care. Learn as much as you can about lupus, your medications, and what kind of progress to expect. Take all your medications as your doctor prescribes, and visit your rheumatologist often to prevent serious problems. This lets your doctor keep track of your disease and change your treatment as needed. If you do not live near a rheumatologist, you may need to have your primary care doctor manage your lupus with the help of a rheumatologist.

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