Symptoms, Triggers, and Management Tips for Lupus
"Lupus is super tricky to diagnose because it has symptoms closely associated with a number of other conditions."
In today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, she takes a close look at the auto-immune disorder, lupus. We will talk about what lupus is, how it is diagnosed, the risk factors and common symptoms, and which things are known to cause lupus flare-ups. Dr. Nancy will also share specific foods, as well as lifestyle habits to help reduce inflammation and other symptoms associated with lupus.
- 1:32: What is Lupus?
- 4:01: The most common risk factors for Lupus
- 6:38: Most Common signs and symptoms associated with Lupus
- 9:40: Typical Medications
- 11:35: Foods that can make lupus symptoms and autoimmune disease much worse
- 17:05: Effective Natural Lupus Treatments
- 17:11: Anti-inflammatory Diet
- 24:48: Bone Broth
- 25:57: Foods that support healthy skin
- 30:00: Exercise
- 38:31: Reduce your stress levels
- 40:38: Get enough sleep and rest
- 43:01: What can you do to improve the Quality of sleep?
- 44:59: Protecting and healing sensitive skin
- 49:49: Wrap Up
What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s own healthy tissues and organs, which over time results in chronic levels of inflammation. Inflammation negatively affects nearly every part of your body, including the cardiovascular system, muscles, joints, brain health and function, hormone production and regulation, thyroid health, and more. Remember our affirmation of health and how we should be living: Less Inflammation In + More Inflammation Out = Healthier you.
Lupus tends to be very frustrating and complicated. The most common symptoms of lupus are very similar to symptoms of other serious health conditions including hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, and several other autoimmune conditions including fibromyalgia.
An estimated 1.5 million Americans and six million people worldwide have some form of lupus. That’s a lot of people. Most people with lupus are diagnosed fairly young, in their 20s and 30s.
The most common risk factors for Lupus
- Having a family history of lupus; the disease is genetic
- Being a woman. An estimated 90% of all lupus cases are diagnosed in women. Eighty percent of these cases are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45.
- Being of African, Asian, or Native American decent. These ethnicities develop lupus two to three times more frequently than Caucasians do.
- Unhealthy diet and specific nutritional deficiencies, digestive health issues, and leaky gut syndrome.
- Having food allergies and sensitivities to gluten, and exposure to toxins and chemicals from pesticides on conventionally grown produce, tap water, and common household cleaners. These are also common risk factors.
Most Common signs and symptoms associated with Lupus
Lupus affects every single person differently. Some people experience next to no symptoms, while some others experience constant debilitating and painful symptoms.
Lupus, just like fibromyalgia, tends to flare up for significant periods of time. This means that you might experience really intense symptoms for extended times.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with lupus include:
- Fatigue. Approximately 90% of all people with lupus experience some level of fatigue and lethargy.
- Reoccurring low grade fever around 99°F to 101°F is one of the earliest signs of lupus and could be a sign of inflammation or infection in the body. These low grade fevers can often be signaling an oncoming lupus flare-up.
- Muscle and joint pain, or stiffness and swelling can occur around certain affected joints or muscles. Certain joints might also appear red, inflamed, and warm, and pain might get worse when you move.
- Skin rashes. These include a rash on the face that covers the cheeks and the bridge of the nose often referred to as a butterfly rash because of its shape. Nearly 50% of people with lupus experience a butterfly shaped facial rash.
- Photosensitivity, or sensitivity to sunlight. Burning easily, redness, peeling, and itchiness are often common with lupus as well.
- Digestive problems. Inflammation of the digestive tract associated with lupus can also cause a number of other issues including weight loss, loss of appetite, heartburn, headaches, insomnia, stiffness or swelling, shortness of breath and chest pains, depression and anxiety, anemia, memory loss, confusion, and brain fog. In fact, a third of lupus patients are diagnosed with clinical depression.
Doctors and rheumatologists traditionally tend to treat autoimmune disease by prescribing specific medications designed to lower inflammation, such as:
- Immunosuppressive Medications
- Antirheumatic Drugs
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
- Steroids like prednisone and hydrocortisone
While you should always develop a plan for treating any medical condition with your healthcare provider, many people believe prescription medications are the only way to treat autoimmune conditions like lupus and most feel that they have no other choice; they are desperate to find relief from their symptoms.
Fortunately, natural remedies for lupus including a healthy diet, rich in anti-inflammatory foods, exercise, stress management, and supplementing with specific high quality supplements, are all going to be really beneficial in helping to manage symptoms and improve overall immune function without raising the risk for unwanted or unexpected complications.
Foods that can make lupus symptoms and/or autoimmune disease much worse
Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and most flour containing products. Most people are sensitive to gluten, meaning you are not able to fully digest gluten, and this can lead to leaky gut syndrome and chronic inflammation, and can trigger significant and persistent lupus flare ups. You don’t have to have celiac disease to have a negative reaction to gluten. Most people do and they’re not aware that gluten is the cause.
Trans fats and saturated fats
These are fats found mostly in fast food, restaurant foods, fried foods, and packaged foods. They lead to severe inflammation and a host of related health issues including lupus, fibromyalgia, obesity, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes. Some people with lupus also experience a difficult time breaking down saturated fats, and should really limit and avoid dairy, red meat, and other processed high fat packaged foods.
Sugar is a really big culprit. Processed or refined sugar can overstimulate the immune system, leading to inflammation and increasing pain, sickness, and swelling especially in your muscles and joints.
Specific legumes, need to be avoided, but not all. Research shows that alfalfa seeds and sprouts, navy beans, peanuts, soybeans, and snow peas contain a substance known as the amino acid L-canavanine which has been shown to trigger lupus flare-ups in people with lupus. Other legumes are generally safe.
These vegetables are called nightshades because they’re grown and flowered in the night time. They contain flavonoids and alkaloids that are gut irritants. Although there is no scientific evidence to absolutely prove it, many people with lupus find that they are sensitive to nightshade vegetables. When you eat them and you have lupus, you might have a higher response to increased inflammation, achy joints, and skin irritations. Some nightshade vegetables include white potatoes and tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, and eggplant, among others. One good way to determine whether you are sensitive to nightshades is to keep a food diary and record what you eat. Then you can eliminate any foods that cause your symptoms to flare up.
Effective Natural Lupus Treatments
Make sure that you download Dr. Nancy’s anti-inflammatory diet and take it with you to the market and to the store. This contains what you should and shouldn’t eat.
Research shows that a healthy, natural, unprocessed diet is very important for managing lupus because it helps control inflammation that causes gut health issues and it reduces the risk for complications like heart disease. It helps to build strength and energy and reduces several side effects of prescription lupus medications.
The best food options for lupus include organic unprocessed foods that are loaded with inflammation-fighting vitamins, minerals, and nutrients and are also free of synthetic additives and toxins or pesticides often found in non organic foods, all of which are directly related to chronic inflammation and other serious health issues. Look for foods like:
- Raw vegetables — These promote an alkaline body. The opposite of alkaline is acidic, so we want to promote an alkaline body to reduce inflammation and improve digestion.
- Wild caught fish — These provide omega-3 fats, which are the fats that feed our brain and keep us sharp. They help to reduce inflammation, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease. Quality sources include salmon, tuna, and halibut.
- Antioxidant rich foods — These include dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, garlic, onions, asparagus, avocado, ginger and turmeric, and all types of berries (strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries). Don’t forget to load up on the herbs and spices that are packed with antioxidants such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, and mint. These foods are high in fiber, vitamin C, selenium, magnesium and potassium, and help to prevent free radical damage done inside the body. They help reduce inflammation, repair possible damage to the joints, and improve your energy.
- Bone Broth – Bone broth is perfect as a quick and easy go-to to support your entire health. Bone broth can help reduce autoimmune and inflammatory symptoms that are associated with lupus.
Making bone broth
To make bone broth, take whatever kind of bone that you want (e.g. chicken bones, turkey bones or buffalo bones), put it in an instant pot and fill it up with water along with any kind of herbs or spices you like. Set it on the “soup” setting, and let it cook for about two hours. If you’re cooking in a conventional stove, that’s probably going to be three or four hours. Simmer it and let all the good nutrients be leached out of the bones and into the soup. You can also make your bone broth with vegetables as well. It’s very healing, especially if you are recovering from any kind of surgery or if you’ve had any kind of cancer treatments, and it’s great for immune support.
Certain foods can also support healthy skin. People suffering from lupus have a lot of skin irritation, redness, dryness, and itchy patches. So when you eat and fill up your plate with healthy skin food, it can help alleviate a lot of the skin problems commonly associated with lupus.
Foods that help skin include avocado; nuts and seeds like chia, flax, hemp, walnuts and almonds; coconut and olive oil; wild caught salmon or any other cold water, omega-rich fish; and drinking plenty of water, herbal tea, and green tea. Herbal teas that are great include oolong tea and rooibos tea, which is a South African tea that has loads of antioxidants and does not have any caffeine. Others include peppermint tea and ginger tea which are really good for digestion, especially in the night time, and help calm the central nervous system and ease anxiety.
Some teas that boost immune function include Darjeeling tea, echinacea tea, hibiscus tea, passion flower, rosehip, lemon balm, and chamomile; these are all wonderful teas for relaxation at night and they promote restful sleep as well. You can also make ginger tea as well. Just take fresh ginger root, slice a couple of slices and put it in some boiling water. You can add honey as well, and it’s super good for the digestive system.
Exercise lowers stress, helps improve sleep quality, strengthens your heart and lungs, strengthens bones and muscles, lowers joint pain and inflammation, improves flexibility and range of motion, and lowers the risk for complications associated with lupus. It might be painful and uncomfortable if you have an autoimmune disorder, fibromyalgia, or lupus, but you have to move your body. This will help you manage your pain better and help you increase your range of motion.
Exercise not only increases flexibility and range of motion, it increases and improves physical energy. It will increase circulation, help with stress management and pain management, raise your mood, and help in coping with any additional stress. If you have lupus, here are some simple exercises that you can do:
Hip squats and the plié — This is similar to a goddess squat but your feet and toes are pointed outwards. You’re going to just sit there and pulse. Do 20 to strengthen your entire leg, open up your hips, and improve your posture. So you want to keep your torso vertical, and breathe.
Mountain Pose — For this pose, hinge the hips and lower the torso in a forward fold, then clasp your hands behind your back and open up your chest while you are inverted. Inhale, standing and rooting down to the ground. Your feet can be together or hip distance apart. Inhale, arms up, gaze up, taking big breaths, then exhale, hinge your hips, and cascade you torso down into a forward fold. Your knees can be bent; bring your hands behind you, clasp them and puff up your chest and stay there. Puffing your chest out opens up your chest for you to breathe better and then exhale down. This calms your central nervous system and allows the circulation of blood to be improved throughout your entire body. Breathe calmly and relax your neck, jaw, and face muscles. You can close your eyes if you like. Stay there for about 10 to 20 breaths, and do it a couple of times. This really helps to energize you.
If it’s hard for you to clasp your hands because of tight shoulders, you can simply grab a towel and hold it in both hands.
Ustrasana/Camel Pose — This relieves congestion and helps overcome any kind of rheumatic pain. It stimulates the thyroid glands, improves circulation in the body, and stimulates metabolic capacity. Start on your knees, and use one arm to reach back for your heels. Breathe in, gaze high up to the ceiling while keeping your face relaxed, and you raise your other arm. Breathe there. Exhale to come up, reach the other hand back to the heel, raise the other arm, and breathe. Relax your neck, relax your jaw, relax your face, and breathe. If your knees are sensitive, you can use a rolled towel or a pillow for your knees.
If this is doable and you can do it on both sides without straining your neck, your face, or your body, and your knees feel fine, challenge yourself and reach back with both your arms and touch your toes and look back. You can close your eyes as well. Puff out your chest and shine your collar bone to the sky and stretch. This opens up the front chest cavity. Inhale to come out.
Legs up the wall – This helps to calm your entire body down. All you need is a floor and a wall. Lay down on your back with your feet up and get your sit bones as close to the wall as possible. You can put a couple of pillows, maybe two or three right in the center of your mat and keep your spine right in the center. This opens up the chest cavity and you can just relax. It’s another very calming and gentle, sweet stretch.
Reduce your stress levels
Research shows that psychological and emotional stress scan often trigger lupus and other autoimmune diseases and can bring about lupus flare-ups by increasing the body’s inflammatory response. Make sure you are practicing effective stress management techniques to reduce your physical and emotional stress levels. You can do this by exercising, deep breathing, sighing by inhaling and exhaling really intentionally through your nose, going on a nature walk or hike, practicing yoga, reading a book that you enjoy, and spending time with your friends and family. Walking outside, especially in a place where you can hear birds chirping or the sound of water, helps you clear your head as you get exercise and enjoy nature. It’s simple, you can do it wherever you are, and it doesn’t cost any money or require any equipment.
Get enough sleep and rest
Studies have shown that 50% to 80% of people with lupus have identified fatigue as one of their primary symptoms. Sleeping seven to eight hours each night ensures that your body and your brain have time to rest and the neurons have time to regenerate and repair themselves. It also helps to balance your hormones. Reduced stress levels reduce your inflammation levels, increases your energy levels and also decreases the debilitating fatigue that is also associated with lupus.
There are a number of things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep, such as practicing deep breathing through the nose as you try to relax and fall asleep. It is also best to unplug and reduce your screen time before you go to bed. Electronic devices emit blue light that alters your body’s production of melatonin and also stimulates the optic nerve in your eyeballs so your body thinks that it’s day time. You want to shut all that off in order to adjust your circadian rhythm so that the sleep and wake cycle starts to kick in. You really want your body to get into that regular pattern, ready for sleep.
You can also use chamomile, sandalwood, or lavender essential oil to help you relax. Diffuse it throughout the bedroom or rub it on your wrists or your temples, and behind your neck. Just one drop will do, and this will help get you ready for bed. Whatever you can do to get all of your senses in sync to get ready for bed, that’s what you want to do. If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of turning in, or if you wake up and you can’t fall back asleep in 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Try reading a book, listening to relaxing instrumental music, or do some deep breathing, which can really help you go to sleep and stay asleep for longer.
Protecting and healing sensitive skin
Up to 90% of people with lupus are going to develop some kind of a skin lesion or rash, including that butterfly shaped rash that covers the cheeks and the nose. Skin rashes associated with lupus are caused by an underlying inflammatory response. Almost all skin issues are either a gut issue or an inflammatory issue. It’s very important to protect sensitive skin from irritants, and also from the sun if skin starts to show signs of developing a rash, hives, or redness. Certain chemicals and household or beauty products like lotions, detergents, washes, and makeup can worsen skin inflammation and make dryness and itchiness worse. Tips for helping heal and protect sensitive skin affected by lupus include:
- Avoid direct sunlight during peak hours of the day. Protect your skin with a hat or cloths and wear non toxic sunscreen at an SPF of about 50 or higher.
- Switch from conventional beauty and household products to those that are organic, free of toxins and chemicals, and made with all-natural ingredients like jojoba, coconut, shea butter or essential oils.
- Supplement with vitamin D and curcumin. Supplements that can help reduce nutrient deficiencies and lower inflammation include vitamin D3 — about 2,000 to 5,000 IUs each day. Over half of all adults are deficient in vitamin D. Since people with lupus can experience increased sensitivity to sunlight, we want to supplement with a high-quality, plant-based vitamin D3 supplement. You will also want to make sure that it is combined together with vitamin K2. This will really help regulate and strengthen the immune system; it can help lower depression and anxiety, balance out your hormones, and support bone health.
- Researchers believe that consuming omega-3 fatty acid foods and vitamin D together further lowers the risk of experiencing symptoms related to lupus as well as other dangerous and harmful autoimmune disorders. Remember to take Smarter Vitamin D3, which contains both vitamin K2 and the 5,000 IUs of D3 that you need. It’s a fabulous supplement that you should take every day.
- Also take curcumin which is the active healing company found in the turmeric root and it’s one of the most powerful inflammation fighters. Several studies show that turmeric and curcumin help to reduce joint aches and swelling, and modify immune system responses, all of which will help reduce lupus flare ups. Smarter Curcumin is the most active form of curcumin, 250 times more potent than standard curcumin, and the formula includes black seed oil plus AstraGin, a patented herbal complex that’s clinically shown to boost absorption of curcumin by 92%, plus ginger extract, a traditional bio enhancer that works in synergy with the curcumin to enhance its effects. Thousands of studies show that turmeric and curcumin have significant benefits for joint health, heart health, brain health, digestive health, immune health, and more.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack the body’s own healthy tissues and organs, which over time results in chronic levels of inflammation. It is super tricky to diagnose because it has symptoms closely associated with a number of other conditions. Risk factors for lupus include:
- Having a family history of lupus or other autoimmune disorder
- Being female, as an estimated 90% of all lupus cases are diagnosed in women, with 80% of lupus cases diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45
- Being of African, Asian, or Native American decent, as these ethnicities develop lupus two to three times more often than Caucasians do
- Unhealthy diet
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Food allergies
- Sensitivities to gluten and being exposed to toxins and chemicals from pesticides on conventionally grown produce, tap water, and household cleaners that are commonly filled with toxins. These are just several of the different risk factors.
Lupus has many symptoms and the most common ones are chronic and extreme fatigue, joint and muscle pain, recurring low-grade fever, and skin rashes, including the butterfly rash that covers the cheeks and goes across the nose.
There are a number of recommended tips to help reduce symptoms caused by lupus. These include avoiding certain foods such as gluten and sugar, processed foods, foods high in trans fats and saturated fats, legumes, and nightshade vegetables (specifically tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers and eggplants). Also follow Dr. Nancy’s anti-inflammatory diet that will help support your health with a variety of organic natural whole foods. Try to get in as many omega 3 foods as possible. If you can’t get enough in diet, add a high quality omega 3 supplement like Smarter Omega 3.Exercise on a regular basis. Do a couple of the stretches that we talked about. Reduce your stress levels, increase the quality of your sleep, and supplement your diet with Vitamin D3 and Curcumin.