Natural Remedies for Treating Lupus

Fresh salmon
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Lupus (also known as systemic lupus erythematosus) is an autoimmune disease, which means that it causes your immune system to turn against tissues and organs throughout your body. Known to trigger major health problems (including kidney disease, neurological dysfunction, and rheumatoid arthritis), lupus can set off inflammation and can cause damage to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, joints, skin, kidneys, and other parts of the body.

While complications arising from lupus can be fatal, the disease often goes into remission, which can sometimes last for years.

Natural Treatments

Since lupus can be life-threatening, it's crucial to seek medical care rather than attempting to self-treat the disease. However, you can also consult your doctor about reducing your symptoms with the help of these natural remedies. Keep in mind that so far, scientific support for that claim that any form of alternative medicine can treat lupus is lacking.

1) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Shown to curb inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to improve symptoms in lupus patients in several studies. You can increase your omega-3 intake by eating oily fish (such as salmon and sardines) or flaxseeds, or by taking a daily omega-3 supplement.

2) Herbal Medicine

Though not specifically studied in lupus patients, anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger and turmeric may be especially helpful for lupus patients suffering from arthritic symptoms.

3) Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Corticosteroids (inflammation-fighting drugs often used in lupus treatment) may thin your bones and increase your risk of osteoporosis. To keep your bones strong while on corticosteroids, ask your healthcare provider about daily vitamin D and calcium supplements.

4) Mind-Body Therapies

Using mind-body techniques like hypnotherapy and guided imagery may help you deal with the stress of lupus. For more help in coping and alleviating stress, make sure to get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly. Ask your healthcare provider about the right amount and types of exercise for you.

Lupus and DHEA

Research suggests that dehydroepiandrosterone (or DHEA, a steroid hormone essential to the production of estrogen and testosterone) may enhance quality-of-life for people with lupus. While DHEA shows promise as a complementary treatment for lupus, regular use of DHEA supplements could raise your risk of heart attack and some types of cancer. Therefore, it's critical to use DHEA only under the supervision of your primary care provider.

Symptoms of Lupus

Although lupus symptoms vary widely from case to case, some signs and symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Skin lesions (typically aggravated by sun exposure)
  • A butterfly-shaped rash on the face (covering the cheeks and bridge of the nose)
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Chest pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss

Using Natural Remedies

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend alternative medicine for the treatment of lupus. Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications have not been established. If you're considering the use of alternative medicine, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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Article Sources

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  • Sales C, Oliviero F, Spinella P. "Role of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet of patients with rheumatic diseases." Reumatismo 2008 60(2):95-101.
  • Sawalha AH, Kovats S. "Dehydroepiandrosterone in systemic lupus erythematosus." Current Rheumatology Reports 2008 10(4):286-91.
  • Wright SA, O'Prey FM, McHenry MT, Leahey WJ, Devine AB, Duffy EM, Johnston DG, Finch MB, Bell AL, McVeigh GE. "A randomised interventional trial of omega-3-polyunsaturated fatty acids on endothelial function and disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus." Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2008 67(6):841-8.