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Systemic Lupus Diet: What Should You Eat with SLE?


Have you been diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)? This autoimmune disease can affect almost every organ in the body, causing a variety of health complications. Because there’s no known cure for this disease, therapy centers around treating the symptoms and preventing organ damage. One area of interest surrounding the issue of treating SLE is diet. Is there a good systemic lupus diet that can help reduce the pain and complications of this disease?

What causes systemic lupus? SLE occurs when antibodies form against the body’s own tissues. The antibodies that occur in system lupus are known as antinuclear antibodies because they form against nucleic acids that make up DNA, the genetic material found in each cell of the body. The problems arise when these antibodies deposit in various tissues and set up an inflammatory reaction. Most commonly, antibodies deposit in the kidneys which can eventually lead to kidney failure. Deposition of antibodies can also cause joint inflammation and pain as well as a variety of other symptoms such as fatigue and loss of energy. Is there a systemic lupus diet that can help to reduce the symptoms as well as the complications?

System lupus diet: Calorie, protein, and fat restriction.

A study published in the journal Lupus showed that in mice restricting total calories, protein, and fat all resulted in fewer lupus antibodies deposited in the kidneys as well as an overall prolonged lifespan. Reducing protein intake could also have the additional benefit of reducing stress on the kidneys, one of the most common sites for lupus related disease. It’s also thought that foods high in fat and protein are pro-inflammatory which could have an adverse effect on lupus symptoms.

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System lupus diet: More omega-3’s, please.

Even though some fats are bad, it appears that others are good when it comes to a lupus diet. The same study previously discussed showed that the addition of polyunsaturated fats such as those found in fish oil (omega-3’s) decreased overall mortality in mice suffering from lupus. This isn’t surprising since it’s been shown that omega-3’s have anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have also shown that omega-3’s can reduce the inflammation and joint symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Systemic lupus diet: Flaxseed

Flaxseed is another good source of omega-3’s. A study published in Archives of Internal Medicine showed that supplementing lupus patients with thirty milligrams of ground flaxseed each day improved kidney function in those with lupus related kidney disease. It’s important that the flaxseed be ground in order to get the full health benefits. If not, they may pass through the system without releasing their healthy omega-3’s.

The bottom line? While preliminary studies show that these dietary components may have some benefits when it comes to treating SLE, always talk to your doctor before making dietary changes.