People with lupus should maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly or engage in some kind of movement to enhance their overall well being.
There is no special diet for lupus, despite numerous claims on the Internet, and in various books and other publications. In general, you should try to eat a nutritious, well-balanced, and varied diet that contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and moderate amounts of meats, poultry, and fish.
Not keen on fruit and veg? Try making sauces, soups or smoothies. Soups also freeze well so you always have nutritious food to hand when you don’t feel up to cooking a meal.
Wherever possible preparing food from scratch is preferable, as you have control of what goes into it. If you do have to use prepackaged foods check labels carefully. Most prepackaged food has the ‘traffic light system’, so can see at a glance how much fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar is in each packet.
Is there a food I shouldn’t eat at all? Actually there is one – alfalfa sprouts (and supplements) which contain an amino acid called L-canavanine that can increase inflammation in people with lupus by stimulating the immune system. Alfalfa has been associated with lupus flares or a lupus-like syndrome that includes muscle pain, fatigue, abnormal blood test results, and kidney problems. As a result, people with lupus should avoid alfalfa completely. Lupus patients should also avoid echinacea which is used as a dietary supplement to boost the immune system against colds and other illnesses. Because it boosts your immune system, it may cause a flare. It’s sometimes added to other products such as cough medicine, so always worth checking labels.
The advice for everyone is to avoid eating foods high in trans fats, refined sugar and salty foods and limit your intake of red meat (which is high in cholesterol and saturated fat). The healthier your diet can be the better as the foods you eat may have an effect on your lupus.
If you are taking steroids a side effect is that these can thin your bones, so it would be a good idea to increase your intake of foods which are rich in calcium, such as low fat milk/cheese/yoghurt, beans, tofu etc. Reducing your sugar intake will help to limit the weight gain caused by steroids.
What about alcohol? In general an occasional glass of wine or beer is fine. However, it also depends upon which medication you are taking as alcohol can interact or lower the effectiveness of your medication. If in doubt consult your doctor or pharmacist before drinking alcohol and they will be able to advise you. You need to be especially careful with alcohol if you are taking a blood thinner like warfarin.
Should I be taking vitamins and minerals to supplement my diet? There’s no particular supplement that is recommended for lupus patients. You should consult your doctor if you feel you need a supplement, especially as some supplements interact with medication. You may find that your doctor will advise you to take certain supplements such as vitamin d and calcium if your levels are found to be low or you are on steroids.
You can learn more in a booklet ‘LUPUS and Healthy Eating’ which is available for download from LUPUS UK if you follow this link Download Here