Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes pain and inflammation to occur throughout the body, most commonly affecting the skin, joints, and internal organs. Like other autoimmune diseases, lupus develops when the immune system misfires. Instead of fighting against disease and infection as it ought, it attacks healthy tissue. While treatment options can help relieve many of the symptoms of lupus, lifestyle choices — such as your diet — can make a big impact on how lupus affects your body. But what is the right diet for someone with lupus? And what foods should you avoid?
Best Foods to Eat for Lupus
There is no magic diet for people with lupus. Instead, balanced nutrition and healthy lifestyle is the best option to reduce inflammation and flare ups. With that in mind, some foods may provide added benefits to people with lupus.
Foods High in Omega-3s
These foods are known to decrease inflammation as well as improve mood and cardiovascular health. Examples include:
- Fatty fish, such as mackerel, salmon, oysters, sardines, shrimp, and trout
- Seaweed and algae
- Chia, flax, and hemp seeds
- Nuts and legumes, such as walnuts, kidney beans, and edamame
Patients with lupus are a greater risk of developing bone disorders such as osteoporosis and osteopenia. Calcium-rich foods can help protect you against some of these conditions. Some foods high in calcium include:
- Dairy products*
- Dark, leafy greens
*Dairy products, while high in calcium, also come with cardiovascular risk since they are high in cholesterol and saturated fats. It is important, therefore, to balance the amount of dairy in your diet.
Foods High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants — such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B, and Vitamin E — can help fight against inflammation and other types of cell damage. While the exact benefits for patients with lupus are unproven, some patients find that foods high in antioxidants can help prevent flare ups. These foods include:
- Nuts and legumes
- Oats and granola
- Black and green teas
Foods to Avoid
Some foods contain substances that naturally boost immunity. While this may be a positive thing for a person with a healthy immune system, for someone with lupus it can lead to flare ups and inflammation. Remember, lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system works against itself. Anything that charges the immune system, therefore, inherently runs the risk of increasing the negative effects of an autoimmune condition like lupus. Some common foods to avoid include:
Alfalfa and alfalfa sprouts contain an amino acid known as L-canavanine, which stimulates the immune system. Foods with alfalfa should be avoided completely.
Substances in garlic, such as allicin, ajoene, and thiosulfinates, can boost white blood cells, which ordinarily help the body fight disease. For patients with lupus, however, this charge to the immune system can lead to flare ups. Small amounts of garlic may not cause problems, but it should be avoided when possible.
Foods High in Cholesterol and Saturated Fats
Heart attack risk is 50 times higher in people with lupus, so patients with lupus should be extra vigilant against foods with known links to heart disease, such as red meat, fried foods, and dairy.
Echinacea is an ingredient often found in supplements meant to boost your immune system against colds and other seasonal illnesses. Like the other foods on this list, such a boost is unhealthy for people with an autoimmune condition. Consult your doctor and check the labels of any supplements you take to be sure they are free of Echinacea.
To summarize the information above, the best diet for lupus is one that:
- Is balanced, providing the same healthy nutrition as recommended for someone without lupus
- Provides high levels of calcium, antioxidants, and Omega-3s in order to avoid commonly-diagnosed complications from lupus — such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease
- Avoids foods which boost immune system activity, which can cause flare ups of lupus and other autoimmune disorders
If Your Doctor Has Recommended Infusion Therapy for Lupus, Let Infusion Associates Help You
At Infusion Associates, we provide medically-prescribed infusion therapy for patients with chronic conditions in a welcoming and friendly environment. Our team of healthcare professionals is fully committed to making the experience as comfortable as possible for you or your patients. We always inform patients of any potential side effects and answer all their questions before starting treatment. In addition, we have a Registered Pharmacist and medical provider on-site to make the process as seamless as possible.