Lupus is a type of autoimmune disease, whereby your immune system begins to attack healthy tissues and cells by mistake (1). As a result, you may suffer from widespread inflammation and damage to your joints, blood vessels, brain, skin and internal organs (e.g., your kidneys, heart, and lungs) (2). Scientists have yet to discover the cause or cure for lupus. Anyone can succumb to the disease, however, women tend to suffer more from the disease. African American and Hispanic women are likelier to be inflicted with a more severe form of the disease, followed by Asian women and Caucasian women (3). While there is no cure, there are treatments for lupus that have been studied and shown to reduce the symptoms. Our home remedies for lupus bring together the best research for the treatment of the disease.
Symptoms of Lupus
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common type of lupus, and it can manifest mildly or severely (4). Women during their childbearing years (15 to 44 years) face the highest risks of developing SLE, especially when pregnant (5). Other types of lupus include cutaneous lupus (skin lupus, rashes or lesions typically appear where your skin is exposed to sunlight), drug-induced lupus (when your body overreacts to particular types of medication), and neonatal lupus (where an infant gains auto-antibodies from a mother with SLE) (6).
Lupus can manifest in a wide range of symptoms, varying from one individual to the next. It often includes muscle pains, chest pains when you take a deep breath, the loss of hair, swelling or pain in your joints, a swelling in your legs or around your eyes, mouth ulcers, swollen glands, sensitivity to sunlight, fatigue, pale or purple fingers or toes, a fever with unknown causes, and red rashes that usually appear on your face (also known as the ‘butterfly rash’) (7).
The more severe lupus symptoms include arthritis, lung problems, kidney problems, heart problems, psychosis, seizures, blood cell abnormalities, and immunological abnormalities (8). The symptoms often manifest intermittently in ‘flares,’ which can frequently occur throughout your life or between remission periods that can last for multiple years (9).
While lupus is typically non-fatal, it can result in long-term reductions on one’s quality of life (especially when there is a late diagnosis, when effective treatments are not obtained, or when one fail to adhere to the prescribed therapeutic regimen) (10).
SLE can adversely affect your mental, physical and social functioning; limiting your ability to participate effectively in the workforce. Fatigue is cited as the symptom that has the greatest impact on the quality of life of those coping with SLE. Studies have indicated that 54% of working adults with SLE are unemployed (11).
Due to its wide range of symptoms, lupus is often confused with a number of other diseases – thus resulting in a delayed diagnosis (12). Doctors have to rely on a range of tests and assessments to diagnose lupus, e.g. a complete physical examination, a review of a patient’s medical history, blood and urine tests, a skin biopsy, and a kidney biopsy (where cells from your kidney are analyzed via a microscope).
There is no cure for lupus, but an effective treatment plan can prevent flares, treat symptoms whenever they occur, balance your hormones, protect your immune system, and reduce and prevent damage to your joints, skin, and organs.
- Consume a healthy and balanced diet
While there are no specific foods or herbs that can cure lupus, access to good nutrition on a regular basis can help your body cope with the symptoms and the side effects of the medication (14). This should include ample amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, with moderate consumption of meat, oily fish, and poultry.
Maintaining a healthy diet will help you reduce inflammation, mainly through the regular consumption of antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., oily fish, nuts, canola and olive oil).
Furthermore, low-fat or fat-free dairy products (or non-dairy alternatives like dark green vegetables, soy milk, and almond milk) can help ensure that you consume enough calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones and muscles.
Since gaining sufficient levels of vitamin D through sunlight exposure if often impossible for many lupus patients, consuming foods that are rich with vitamin D (fatty fish, cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms, tofu, etc.) or vitamin D supplements are necessary to prevent a deficiency.
Lupus can also lead to weight loss due to a diminished appetite, as well as from the stomach upsets or mouth sores that can be caused by medication. If you find yourself losing or gaining weight, consult your doctor to devise a diet plan to control your weight and optimize your health.
- Consume probiotics
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology noted that young, female lupus-prone mice that were comparable to women of childbearing age had depleted lactobacilli within their gut microbiota. Instead, strains of Clostridiaceae and Lachnospiraceae were more abundant, leading to an earlier onset of lupus symptoms and an increase in their severity. When treatments that increased the abundance of Lactobacillaceae in the intestines of the mice were introduced, the lupus symptoms improved (15).
While future studies are needed to validate the ability of lactobacilli probiotics to alleviate the inflammatory flares suffered by lupus patients, they presently stand as a possible therapeutic method for lupus patients. Consuming lactobacilli probiotics in the form of capsules and cultured drinks thus stand to provide you with anti-inflammatory benefits and less severe symptoms.
- Consume fish oil/omega-3 fatty acids
In 2015, a study published in the Nutrition Journal found that 50 SLE patients benefited from a greater quality of life, reduced fatigue, lower disease activity and lower levels of inflammation after consuming fish oil capsules that contained omega-3 fatty acids (16).
Consuming fish oil supplements can thus help you access their powerful anti-oxidant benefits, which will help you cope with the common set of problems reported by SLE patients: oxidative stress, inflammation, and constant fatigue.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Renal Nutrition revealed that daily consumption of three turmeric capsules (500 mg, with 22.1 mg of curcumin) by patients with relapsing or refractory lupus nephritis produced a significant decrease in proteinuria (i.e., protein in urine), lower systolic blood pressure and decreased hematuria (the presence of red blood cells in urine) (17).
These positive effects were attributed to curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that activates the immune system to attack the body’s organs. Cytokines are intimately involved in every step of the lupus pathogenesis as cytokines are the protein responsible for inflammation. (18)
Turmeric is effective for treating lupus as it reduces the production of cytokines in the system, reducing the inflammation that causes organ damage. (19)
Turmeric can be consumed in the form of a supplement, or by adding it to your daily diet.
Ginger is closely related to turmeric and has similar medicinal properties which makes it one of the best home remedies for lupus. Studies have shown that ginger is effective home remedy for lupus as it contains regulates the protein in the body called factor-kappaB.
Factor-kappaB is an active agent in a wide variety of inflammatory conditions and diseases (e.g. cancer, diabetes, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases) (20).
Factor-kappaB is responsible for cytokine production (21). With fewer cytokines, lupus induced inflammation is checked.
The active components from ginger, have been demonstrated to suppress and inhibit Factor-kappaB, which reduces cytokines, which reduce inflammation.
To benefit from ginger’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, simply add it to your diet by incorporating it into your cooking. You can also consume ginger supplements, or add it to your tea or fresh fruit and vegetable juices.
6 Oregano Oil
Oregano oil is rich in carvacrol and thymol and is another great treatment for lupus. Both of these naturally occurring compounds give oregano oil its medicinal properties as they are antibiotic and anti-inflammatory
When it comes to lupus, it is the anti-inflammatory properties of oregano oil that are of interest, and again it is to do with cytokines.
Oregano oil has been shown to reduce inflammatory cytokines and increase anti-inflammatory cytokines, and therefore limit the damage from inflammation caused by lupus (22).
Just use the oil in cooking to reap its benefits.
7. Anti-oxidant foods
As already mentioned, a balanced, healthy diet is essential for managing the symptoms of a chronic disease.
However, anti-oxidant foods are particularly beneficial for lupus. Again it is linked to the protein, Factor-kappaB, which is responsible for the production of cytokines that cause lupus inflammation.
In particular, it is phenolic anti-oxidant foods that have been shown to inhibit the Factor-kappaB protein. (23)
Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that are phenolic anti-oxidants as well as being anti-inflammatory.
Fruit is probably your best source of phenol-rich foods. In particular, dark berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and red grapes are phenol-rich. As a rule of thumb, the darker, the better.
For vegetables, onions are high in phenols as are members of the cabbage family.
For grains, the best phenol content is seen in buckwheat, rye, oats, and barley.
Wheat is also a source of phenols but gluten intolerance and lupus are common bedfellows, and so gluten should really be avoided for lupus treatment.
Finally, remember that phenol content is always higher in the skin of fruit and veg and so if possible, do not peel.
8. Flax seeds
Flax seeds are another fantastic treatment for lupus as it helps reduce inflammation.
After encouraging studies conducted on mice with lupus, human trials on the benefits of flax seeds for lupus treatment have been conducted.
The study concluded that just of 30 g flaxseed per day was easily tolerated by the patients, but improved renal (kidney) function of the patients was noted. As renal failure and kidney infections are a common complication of lupus, flaxseeds represent a potential lupus treatment.
Likewise, improvement in the inflammatory and atherogenic mechanisms important in the pathogenesis of lupus nephritis were reduced. (24)
9. Green Tea
The health benefits of green tea are numerous, and now green tea has been shown to have both anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory characteristics. Whatsmore, green tea has been proven to alleviate the symptoms of lupus.
One such study assessed the effects of green tea on lupus disease activity and studied the improvements in the quality of life of lupus patients.
Patients were given green tea extracts for 12 weeks and reported a significant reduction in flare-ups and improvement in quality of life. (25)
Green teas health benefits come from the fact that it is a phenol-rich anti-oxidant which as mentioned inhibits the Factor-kappaB protein, reducing inflammation.
- Stick to maintaining a nutritious, balanced, and varied diet that consists of ample amounts of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and whole grains, coupled with modest amounts of meat, fish, and poultry
- If you are taking corticosteroids, consume a calcium-rich diet to prevent osteoporosis
- Exercise regularly by sticking to a well-rounded program that engages your upper, lower and core muscles
- If you have skin lupus and have to avoid the sun, you can benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement
- Follow a low-calorie diet if your treatment plan causes you to put on weight
- Follow a low-fat diet if you develop hyperlipidemia (high level of fats in the blood) due to lupus
- Do not consume large amounts of alcohol since it can reduce the efficacy of certain medications (e.g. anticoagulants and anti-inflammatory drugs) while aggravating some of the symptoms
- Do not consume large amounts of salt and fat in your diet if you are taking corticosteroids, which can elevate blood pressure and the levels of cholesterol and lipids in your bloodstream
- Avoid processed foods
- Avoid shellfish as they often cause allergic reactions
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Thy increase anxiety levels which can induce further lupus flare-ups.
- Avoid alfalfa tablets and alfalfa sprouts, which have been associated with lupus flares and lupus-like symptoms such as muscle pain, fatigue, abnormal blood test results, and kidney malfunction