Lupus is a condition that shows up as an issue with the immune system. This issue results in an attack on healthy cells and tissue in the body, which can lead to damage to the joints, skin, heart, lungs, kidneys and even the brain.
Lupus is more common in women and typically affects those of African American, Hispanic or Native American descent. Asians are also more susceptible to lupus. It’s not really clear why some ethnic groups are more prone to the condition than others.
There are several types of lupus that can affect people. Your doctor can best determine which type of Lupus you have.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common type of lupus. This type of lupus affects various areas of the body. There are a variety of symptoms that will set this type of lupus apart from the other types. Namely that the rashes that are associated with the other types of lupus are absent.
Discoid lupus results in a persistent skin rash. This rash is worse when a person with lupus is exposed to the sun. This rash may appear on the arms, as a butterfly pattern across the nose (frequently referred to as a butterfly rash) and even on the legs or torso depending upon the person diagnosed and the severity of the condition.
Subacute cutaneous lupus results in skin sores whenever a certain area of the body is exposed to the sun. This rash with skin sores will appear anywhere on the body that was exposed to the sun.
The more the skin is exposed to the sun, the worse the condition will become. Sometimes the sores can also become infected so it’s best to avoid the sun whenever possible if it’s causing a rash.
Symptoms of lupus can range from muscle pain and a fever with no discernible cause to pain and swelling in the joints, hair loss, sensitivity to the sun, mouth ulcers, chest pain during a deep inhalation and purple fingers or toes. It is often mistaken for fibromyalgia until the rash appears after exposure to the sun.
Who is More Prone To Lupus?
Unfortunately for women, they tend to contract Lupus more than men. The statistics say that women are 10 times more likely to be diagnosed than men are.
The disease is very complex, and that leads to a need to consult a rheumatologist to ensure the proper treatment. Individuals will be treated differently, based on the severity of the illness and its symptoms that are presenting for that particular individual.
Just as everyone reacts differently to medications, everyone who has lupus may have different symptoms of the condition and will have to have individualized treatments set up to treat their particular condition of lupus.
What Will Treatment Involve?
There are numerous doctors who have to work together to treat a condition like lupus. A family doctor is the person who will usually suspect the condition. He or she may refer the patient to see a rheumatologist.
The rheumatologist will diagnose the condition but they may also call in a nephrologist, hematologist, endocrinologist… and there are more that might need to be involved to attempt to create a treatment plan for your case.
Since the condition affects each person differently the list of specialists may differ from one patient to the next. Each specialist has their own specific field of expertise in the treatment of the patient.
Often they will all work together to create a treatment plan for the patient so that the patient will be as comfortable as possible.
The intent for a treatment plan is to prevent flare-ups and treat them when they are unavoidable. However, these treatment plans can be unsuccessful.
That is where people tend to turn to natural remedies, in the hopes that something the doctor wouldn’t consider may be the best fit for their condition and relieving some of the pain and discomfort associated with symptoms.
Certain conditions related to lupus, like sores due to sun exposure, can obviously be minimized if you don’t spend time in the sun. Likewise, other treatments can be helpful for specific types of lupus or issues related to the disease.
Doctors might prescribe specific medications to treat the conditions that affect the body due to lupus. However, before embarking upon a natural treatment plan be sure to let your doctor know as many medications will interact negatively with supplements.
Your doctor can best advise you as to which medications may interact in a negative fashion and what to avoid.
Also, be mindful that you should never stop taking a prescribed medication without first checking with your doctor. Some medications can have negative effects on your body if you stop them too suddenly.
Your doctor may wish to have you taper off of such medications before stopping them completely.
Options Available as Natural Remedies For Lupus
Eat A Healthy Diet
Diet is usually the first step to minimizing pain for conditions like lupus. Cutting out excess sugar and replacing processed foods with more fruits and vegetables and organic foods can help you avoid making certain conditions you suffer from worse, like heart issues or issues with the digestive system.
Strive for a healthy balance of foods in your diet. Eat plenty of leafy greens and be sure to get plenty of protein and carbs. Avoid foods that make you feel worse. For some this list may be longer than others.
If you’re unsure if a food is causing you problems try eliminating a food for a week or so and then re-introduce it, if you have a negative effect cut that food back out for a few more weeks and try one more time. If this time it causes issues, avoid that food in your diet for best results.
Some foods that can cause issues are processed foods. These foods may have additives or preservatives in them that cause issues to your body when you eat them. Try to concentrate on making foods from scratch for best results. You can learn to freeze such foods ahead if you’re in a time crunch for dinner.
Gluten is another food that is often the cause of joint pain. Try eliminating all wheat, rye and barley from the diet for a few weeks and then gradually re introduce it. If you again have joint pain, don’t eat it. You can however enjoy sourdough bread as it doesn’t retain the gluten in it if it is raised for over 7 hours.
Following a regular exercise routine can help you avoid depression, recover more quickly from a flare and even feel better overall, which helps you handle the bad days with lupus better.
While it may seem counterproductive to get in some exercise, your body will actually benefit from some gentle exercise and movement. If nothing else, try to take a short walk every day and gradually increase the length of time that you are out walking. Start out slow and work your way up slowly.
Many find this is very helpful. If you’re worried about walking alone and your pain, enlist a friend to take a walk with you. This is a great way to avoid depression, keep up a friendship and get in some great exercise.
Herbs like Pennywort have seen success when used in South Africa. Other remedies like Tripterygium can help with certain types of lupus. However, anyone who is pregnant or wants to become pregnant should avoid this herb, since it can interfere with the reproductive organs.
Boswellia has been used to treat inflammation in the body. It has been found helpful in many areas of Africa and China. It comes from the resin of a tree native to those countries.
Turmeric contains curcumin, a chemical that helps reduce inflammation and also aids in the digestive process. People who use this herb have found that they actually have a reduce risk of cancer and also have a reduced pain level.
Green tea has polyphenol, which has anti-inflammatory properties and can help fight lupus symptoms. Try sipping a cup of green day twice per day and see if you don’t have less pain and more fluid joint movement.
Making sure you have the right minerals and vitamins in sufficient amounts can be helpful to dealing with lupus as well. Vitamin D, for example, helps the body by lowering a risk of osteoporosis, which is especially high for lupus patients.
Vitamins E and A prevent cell damage, and that can cut down on joint pain related to the condition. Meanwhile, DHEA is a natural hormone that is produced. If the body does not produce a sufficient amount, certain symptoms of lupus tend to get worse.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in nuts, fish and now commonly added to peanut butter, can help due to their natural anti-inflammatory properties. They can also be taken as a supplement. You can find the supplement in your local grocery store, health food store and even in your local pharmacy.
Additional Resources for Lupus Treatments
One other factor to consider is that smoking can increase a lupus patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease and can make the effects of the disease worse on certain areas of the body, like the heart.
Blood vessels are also negatively impacted by smoking, so lupus patients may want to consider dropping that bad habit if possible.
Remember, even passively smoking (second hand smoke) can have a negative effect on your health. Step away from others who are smoking while they smoke and avoid being around it if at all possible.
It is also important to keep in regular contact with your team of doctors, so they can be aware of any changes and new issues that arise that are related to your lupus.
Lupus In the News
Saturated Fats and Monocytes Cause Increased Inflammation
Recent studies involving mice show that high levels of saturated fats do nothing good for someone who is already susceptible to inflammation. The study, completed in London at the Imperial College London, was focused on mice that had unusually high levels of saturated fat in their bloodstream.
Avoid trans fats and monounsaturated fats as much as possible. In fact, avoid fried foods while you’re at it.
The study showed that the mice started developing monocytes, or a certain type of white blood cell. That type of blood cell migrated into the vital organs, and could be the reason that inflammation in certain areas worsened.
This is because the monocytes are turned into a macrophage, or an immune cell. Those cells then take in fat and become foam cells, which increase the production of signals to draw in more monocytes. That process continues to cycle and repeat as long as the saturated levels in the blood remain high.
The theory, which is being examined further, is that the monocytes weaken the tissue in the area and cause damage, and this leads to more inflammation and pain due to conditions like Lupus that are already present in the body.
Resolutions To Lupus Issues May Be A Step Closer
Although Lupus has been poorly understood, recent studies have found more detail on the process of the human immune system when it comes to fighting disease. Because of this discovery, it may become possible to intervene for people with Lupus and protect the healthy tissue that is being attacked by the immune system as a result of the condition.
Scientists have found that immune cells have a very unified approach to fighting illness. There are various types of cells that report to the site of injury, beginning with the neutrophils.
Considered the EMTs of the immune system, these neutrophils not only reach the site of the illness or injury first, but they blaze the trail that the other cells follow to fight off the illness.
Without the neutrophils, the T Cells have trouble reaching the site and are far less effective in fighting the illness when they do arrive.
With this discovery, scientists have a starting point to help them fight Lupus. Being able to focus on the neutrophils means the scientists can find a way to redirect them for a person suffering from Lupus when there is a flare up and the cells are attacking healthy tissue. Once the neutrophils are redirected, the healthy cells are at far less risk of attack and damage.
This study was made possible by a $9 million grant to the School of Medicine and Dentistry, which has the intent of using cutting edge imagery to understand and address the immune system as it fights off infection.
Why Women Are More Prone To Lupus
Studies are showing that the immune system of a woman actually operates differently than that of a man, somewhat explaining why women are more likely to contract Lupus than men are.
The study says that immune system genes toggle more frequently, and women’s genes are triggered by different switches than men’s genes.
This means that the interactions need to be studied in more detail to determine exactly why Lupus is common, but it may be related to the fact that women’s immune systems function in a certain way.
It is still a challenge to say what leads to a case of Lupus exactly, because not only due women’s immune systems function differently, but each individual’s immune system is triggered differently than another person.
However, this study has led to a new system to evaluate genes in real time and examine their behavior and how that behavior is triggered.
The jury is still out on the genetic link to lupus and some women. Perhaps it is more common in some families just as it’s more common for some ethnic groups. The scientific debate is still out on this theory.
Eating a healthy diet and taking a few supplements can make a significant difference when it comes to reducing the flares associated with lupus and the pain that can be caused by certain lupus symptoms.
Addressing the issues may take more than herbal supplements and exercise, but those two things can help you move in the right direction and have better days despite your lupus diagnosis.
As always, be sure to check with your doctor before you begin any supplements. You don’t want to mix a supplement with a medication that your doctor has you already taking and have negative results.
Your doctor can best advise you on this possibility. Also, be sure that you don’t suddenly stop taking a medication that the doctor has you on. Suddenly stopping some medications can also have negative results. Your doctor may prefer that you taper off of a medication in lieu of stopping said medication abruptly.
Many people have found great results by mixing and matching the above suggestions for treating their lupus. Some have found that by using natural remedies they are able to go off of pharmaceutical medications that have a lot of negative side effects.
Your doctor can best advise you if you’re able to go off of a pharmaceutical medication.