Lupus is an auto immune disorder that can range from mild to live threatening. The body’s immune system attacks its own cells, targeting cells of the skin, joints, kidney, heart and lungs. This leads to inflammation in these areas, with accompanying pain. Lupus affects the skin and joints, and although extremely painful and life impacting, it only becomes life threatening when the major organs become affected. Lupus is generally confined to the skin and joints, and those suffering lupus can expect to live a normal life span. The cause of lupus is unknown, but it is suspected that it involves a gene and an environmental factor such as illness or stress. Lupus is more commonly diagnosed in women.
Symptoms of lupus will vary between individuals and can include joint pain, skin rashes, mouth ulcers, fatigue, anaemia, hair loss, diminished kidney function and chest pain. This broad range of symptoms makes lupus difficult to diagnose. Early diagnosis is particularly important to prevent the major organs becoming involved.There is no cure for lupus, and medical treatment involves the use of a number of different medications to treat symptoms such as inflammation. Similarly, there are no dietary changes that will cure lupus or eradicate symptoms. Nutritional management is directed at ensuring optimal health for the individual to maximise the body’s ability to cope with and manage symptoms. Areas of nutritional focus are as follows.
Omega 3 intake is known to help relieve inflammation and will thus likely be beneficial in the management of joint pain. Research also indicates that omega 3 fatty acids protect against heart disease and can help lower blood pressure. Lupus sufferers are 5 times more likely to develop heart disease than the general population, so omega 3 intake is recommended. It is advised to consume omega 3 in the form of fatty fish and supplement the diet with omega 3 supplements.
Antioxidants are known to neutralise free radicals in the body, compounds that cause damage to the body cells, increase inflammation and increase risk of coronary heart disease and cancer. Inflammation leading to joint pain, and an increased risk of coronary heart disease are just two reasons a diet rich in antioxidants will benefit lupus sufferers. Antioxidant are found in abundance in fruit and vegetables, which also include a variety of other vitamins and nutrients essential for health.
Fatigue is a common complaint of lupus sufferers, and thus eating to maximise energy levels is important. High fat and high sugar foods will lead to low energy levels and further enhance feelings of fatigue. A healthy nutritious diet, with a little focus on the glycaemic index of carbohydrate intake, will help to stabilize energy levels throughout the day. High GI foods are those that are absorbed rapidly, causing a rapid increase in blood sugars followed by a rapid decrease. Intake of high GI carbohydrates leads to high spikes in energy levels with corresponding lows. Low GI foods are absorbed slower, leading to a more stable rise and fall in blood sugars and thus a more stable energy level. Replacing high GI carbohydrates with low GI options can help to stabilise blood sugars. Consuming relatively constant amounts of low GI foods at each meal will allow the body to maintain a relatively constant blood sugar level, and therefore a relatively constant energy supply throughout the day.
Anaemia is a common concern for lupus sufferers. Although iron supplementation is often recommended, it is also beneficial to ensure the diet is rich in bio-available sources of iron from foods such as red meat. A dietitian will be useful in determining if the diet contains adequate iron containing foods and can educate on how to maximise the absorption of iron at meals.
If diminished kidney function is an issue, low sodium, low potassium or low protein diet may need to be followed. This is only upon advice of a medical practitioner. In such case, a dietitian will be extremely important, to ensure the particular diet is being followed and a nutritious intake is maintained to prevent further fatigue or exacerbate iron deficiency. Upon diagnosis of lupus it is highly recommended to visit a dietitian to discuss the above dietary issues, and any other questions you may have that relate to your condition. Nutrition is a valuable tool, and can work hand in hand with medical interventions to enhance the quality of life of a lupus sufferer.
Added to site on : Tuesday, 25 September 2012