Lupus is an autoimmune disease characterized by acute and chronic inflammation of various tissues of the body. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body's tissues are attacked by its own immune system. The immune system is a complex system within the body that is designed to fight infectious agents, such as bacteria and other foreign microbes. One of the ways that the immune system fights infections is by producing antibodies that bind to the microbes. People with lupus produce abnormal antibodies in their blood that target tissues within their own body rather than foreign infectious agents. These antibodies are referred to as autoantibodies.
Symptoms vary but can include fatigue, joint pain, a red rash on the face (also called the "butterfly rash") and fever. These symptoms can periodically get worse (flare-up) and then improve.  Lupus flares can range from mild to severe, often resulting in periods in which the disease is relatively quiescent. Currently, no cures exist for lupus, and treatment often involves corticosteroids, other immunosuppressants or organ transplants. But research is providing hope for better diagnosis, treatments and even cures.

The global rates of SLE are approximately 20–70 per 100,000 people. In females, the rate is highest between 45 and 64 years of age. The lowest overall rate exists in Iceland and Japan. The highest rates exist in the US and France. However, there is not sufficient evidence to conclude why SLE is less common in some countries compared to others; it could be the environmental variability in these countries. For example, different countries receive different levels of sunlight, and exposure to UV rays affects dermatological symptoms of SLE. Certain studies hypothesize that a genetic connection exists between race and lupus which affects disease prevalence. If this is true, the racial composition of countries affects disease, and will cause the incidence in a country to change as the racial makeup changes. In order to understand if this is true, countries with largely homogenous and racially stable populations should be studied to better understand incidence.[2] Rates of disease in the developing world are unclear.[6]


Take a good multivitamin/multimineral supplement with recommended dosages of antioxidants. To help address inflammation, increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating sardines or other oily fish (salmon, herring, mackerel) three times a week or supplementing with fish oil. Freshly ground flaxseeds (grind two tablespoons a day and sprinkle over cereals or salads) can also help decrease inflammation. Other dietary strategies include avoiding polyunsaturated vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, corn, etc.), margarine, vegetable shortening, and all products made with partially hydrogenated oils. Eat a low-protein, plant-based diet that excludes all products made from cows’ milk, be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (with the exception of alfalfa sprouts, which contain the amino acid L-canavanine that can worsen autoimmunity.)
Immunosuppressive agents/chemotherapy. In advanced cases of lupus, drugs like azathioprine, methotrexate and cyclophosphamide might be used to suppress the immune system. These types of therapies can help prevent organ damage; however, they do cause severe side effects as well as infertility in women. People on immunosuppressive therapies must be closely monitored by a doctor.
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.
Studies from around the world have documented a higher prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency in patients with SLE, compared with the general population, especially in conjunction with obesity. [108, 152, 153, 154, 155, 110] Studies from Australia, [152] France, [155] the Mediterranean region, [109] and Taiwan [154] —but not from Mexico [153] —have shown an association between serum vitamin D levels and SLE disease activity.
At Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI), research programs study the cells which regulate lupus to further understand disease pathogenesis - or the development of the disease – translating these findings into therapeutic targets. In addition, clinical trials are ongoing to evaluate novel therapies in this disease. BRI has a Clinical Research Registry people can join to learn about clinical trials that may be appropriate for them.
Due to the variety of symptoms and organ system involvement with SLE, its severity in an individual must be assessed in order to successfully treat SLE. Mild or remittent disease may, sometimes, be safely left untreated. If required, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and antimalarials may be used. Medications such as prednisone, mycophenolic acid and tacrolimus have been used in the past.

The monoclonal antibody belimumab (Benlysta), a B-lymphocyte stimulator–specific inhibitor, has been found to reduce disease activity and possibly decrease the number of severe flares and steroid use in patients with SLE when used in combination with standard therapy. [114] In March, 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of belimumab in combination with standard therapies (including steroids, nonbiologic DMARDS [eg, hydroxychloroquine, azathioprine, methotrexate]) to treat active autoantibody-positive SLE. [115]  In July 2017, a subcutaneous (SC) formulation was approved that allows patients to self-administer a once-weekly dose. [162]
The immune response is how your body recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses, and substances that appear foreign and harmful.The immune system protects the body from possibly harmful substances by recognizing and responding to antigens. Antigens are substances (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Nonliving substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles (such as a splinter) can also be antigens. The immune system recognizes and destroys substances that contain antigens. Your own body’s cells have proteins that are antigens. These include a group of antigens called HLA antigens. Your immune system learns to see these antigens as normal and usually does not react against them.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disease characterised by multiple organ involvement and a large number of complications. SLE management remains complicated owing to the biological heterogeneity between patients and the lack of safe and specific targeted therapies. There is evidence that dietary factors can contribute to the geoepidemiology of autoimmune diseases such as SLE. Thus, diet therapy could be a promising approach in SLE owing to both its potential prophylactic effects, without the side effects of classical pharmacology, and its contribution to reducing co-morbidities and improving quality of life in patients with SLE. However, the question arises as to whether nutrients could ameliorate or exacerbate SLE and how they could modulate inflammation and immune function at a molecular level. The present review summarises preclinical and clinical experiences to provide the reader with an update of the positive and negative aspects of macro- and micronutrients and other nutritional factors, including dietary phenols, on SLE, focusing on the mechanisms of action involved.
While the genetics of SLE are not very well understood, there is growing evidence for the involvement of specific genes in this complex autoimmune disease. Part of the complexity of this disease is due to the effects of both environment and genetics factors that may contribute to its development.[49] Further compounding our understanding of the etiology of the disease is the involvement of several organ systems.[50] Genetic studies of the rates of disease in families supports the genetic basis of this disease with a heritability of >66%.[51] Identical (monozygotic) twins were found to share susceptibility to the disease at >35% rate compared to fraternal (dizygotic) twins and other full siblings who only showed a 2–5% concordance in shared inheritance.[51]
***Please note that this article is written for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Do not delay seeking or disregard medical advice based on information here. Always seek the advice of your local family physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment or making any changes to existing treatment. It is also advisable to consult a medical professional before making any changes to diet or starting alternative remedies, which may interact with other medications.***

A common neurological disorder people with SLE have is headache,[33] although the existence of a specific lupus headache and the optimal approach to headache in SLE cases remains controversial.[34] Other common neuropsychiatric manifestations of SLE include cognitive dysfunction, mood disorder, cerebrovascular disease,[33] seizures, polyneuropathy,[33] anxiety disorder, psychosis, depression, and in some extreme cases, personality disorders.[35] Steroid psychosis can also occur as a result of treating the disease.[31] It can rarely present with intracranial hypertension syndrome, characterized by an elevated intracranial pressure, papilledema, and headache with occasional abducens nerve paresis, absence of a space-occupying lesion or ventricular enlargement, and normal cerebrospinal fluid chemical and hematological constituents.[36]


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.
Proteinuria (also called albuminuria or urine albumin) is a condition in which urine contains an abnormal amount of protein. Albumin is the main protein in the blood. Proteins are the building blocks for all body parts, including muscles, bones, hair, and nails. Proteins in the blood also perform a number of important functions. They protect the body from infection, help blood clot, and keep the right amount of fluid circulating throughout the body.
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are in your blood, urine and body fluids. Maintaining the right balance of electrolytes helps your body’s blood chemistry, muscle action and other processes. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink.
"Keeping my weight under control has been a battle. I have tried diets. I know that being overweight increases joint stress and stress on my heart, both of which can be affected by lupus," says LaPlant. Some of the medications that people take for lupus can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Prednisone, one of the most common medications used to treat lupus flares, can increase your appetite and lead to significant weight gain. Regular, low-impact exercise can help offset weight gain and also improve your health in general.

Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.


No overarching diet exists for people with lupus. However, lupus is a systemic disease, so maintaining good nutritional habits will help your body remain as healthy as possible. Generally, doctors recommend a diet composed of about 50% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 30% fat. However, since people with lupus often experience symptoms like weight loss or gain, inflammation, osteoporosis, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis, certain specific nutritional concerns may also need to be taken into consideration. If you need help managing your weight or making healthy food choices, please speak with your doctor. S/he can give you more specific information and refer you to a registered dietitian if needed.
Cognitive impairment is defined as any difficulty with normal thought functions or processes, such as thinking, learning, or remembering. Cognitive impairment can occur as a neurological symptom of lupus. However, cognitive impairment is a common occurrence that happens to everyone at some time, not just lupus patients, and it can affect one single thought process or many thought processes either temporarily or permanently.
Repair. It’s essential to provide the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself. My most comprehensive weapon against leaky gut is Leaky Gut Revive™ powder, which contains powerful gut-repairing ingredients l-glutamine, aloe, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm and marshmallow root. With these ingredients, Leaky Gut Revive™ nourishes and soothes your gut cells, restores your gut’s natural mucosal lining, and maximizes gut-mending fatty acid production. Another one of my favorite supplements is collagen, which is rich in amino acids that quite literally, “seal the leaks” or perforations in your gut by repairing damaged cells and building new tissue.
Discoid Lupus is the most common form of Cutaneous Lupus. People living with Discoid Lupus complain of a red, raised and scaly lesion on the face, scalp or parts of the body. Manifestations on the face form across the cheeks, nose and ears. Over time, these lesions can produce scarring and skin discoloration (darkly colored and/or lightly colored areas). Typically, these lesions occur on areas of the body that are exposed to sunlight or fluorescent lights. If lesions appear in the scalp or involve the hair follicles, areas of hair loss may develop which could be permanent if the hair follicle is completely destroyed. They are often not itchy or painful. 
A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help to mitigate inflammation. Although omega-3s have not been adequately studied in lupus, studies of the general population suggest that these essential fatty acids may also boost mood and improve cardiovascular health. Fish, nuts, and flax are excellent sources of omega-3s and can be easily incorporated into everyday meals. Try to avoid saturated fats, such as those in beef and fried snack foods, since these fats are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and may actually stimulate the immune system.

Fad-diets can be tempting as they offer a quick-fix to a long-term problem. However, they can risk your health. You should follow advice from a doctor or dietician when seeking to change diet. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to make healthier choices, eat a nutritionally balanced and varied diet with appropriately sized portions, and be physically active. For advice on exercising with lupus, you can read our article HERE.


Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is an antimalarial medication found to be particularly effective for SLE people with fatigue, skin involvement, and joint disease. Consistently taking Plaquenil can prevent flare-ups of lupus. Side effects are uncommon but include diarrhea, upset stomach, and eye-pigment changes. Eye-pigment changes are rare but require monitoring by an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) during treatment with Plaquenil. Researchers have found that Plaquenil significantly decreased the frequency of abnormal blood clots in people with systemic lupus. Moreover, the effect seemed independent of immune suppression, implying that Plaquenil can directly act to prevent the blood clots. This fascinating study highlights an important reason for people and doctors to consider Plaquenil for long-term use, especially for those SLE people who are at some risk for blood clots in veins and arteries, such as those with phospholipid antibodies (cardiolipin antibodies, lupus anticoagulant, and false-positive venereal disease research laboratory test). This means not only that Plaquenil reduces the chance for re-flares of SLE, but it can also be beneficial in thinning the blood to prevent abnormal excessive blood clotting. Plaquenil is commonly used in combination with other treatments for lupus.
According to Goldman Foung, “A diet rich in vegetables gives me energy and keeps me feeling strong and healthy." She typically eats meals filled with dark leafy greens and other colorful vegetables, eats lots of whole grains, and limits her consumption of meat and processed foods. “I also try to drink fresh-pressed beet juice as often as possible,” she adds. “It’s a great way to sneak in some of those body-boosting ingredients.”
Intravenous immunoglobulins may be used to control SLE with organ involvement, or vasculitis. It is believed that they reduce antibody production or promote the clearance of immune complexes from the body, even though their mechanism of action is not well understood.[87] Unlike immunosuppressives and corticosteroids, IVIGs do not suppress the immune system, so there is less risk of serious infections with these drugs.[88]
If this disorder is suspected in people, brain scans are usually required for early detection. These scans can show localized areas of the brain where blood supply has not been adequate. The treatment plan for these people requires anticoagulation. Often, low-dose aspirin is prescribed for this purpose, although for cases involving thrombosis anticoagulants such as warfarin are used.[91]
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.

Intravenous immunoglobulins may be used to control SLE with organ involvement, or vasculitis. It is believed that they reduce antibody production or promote the clearance of immune complexes from the body, even though their mechanism of action is not well understood.[87] Unlike immunosuppressives and corticosteroids, IVIGs do not suppress the immune system, so there is less risk of serious infections with these drugs.[88]
Maybe. Start by seeing your family doctor and a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in the diseases of joints and muscles such as lupus. Depending on your symptoms or whether your organs have been hurt by your lupus, you may need to see other types of doctors. These may include nephrologists, who treat kidney problems, and clinical immunologists, who treat immune system disorders.

​Subacute cutaneous: The skin symptoms of subacute cutaneous lupus are usually mild. People with this condition, which is also its own form of lupus, present with reddish-purple plaques, which are firm and raised, flattened skin lesions. These plaques can be found alone or in groups and range in size from 5 mm to 20 mm, usually appearing on the trunk, including the upper chest and back. About 10 percent of people with SLE have subacute cutaneous lupus. Certain drugs may also cause subacute cutaneous lupus. 

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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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