The staff at the WebMD website define lupus as an autoimmune disorder, which means it is caused by the immune system attacking the body’s own tissues.
Researchers have not yet determined what causes lupus, but they suspect a combination of environmental, genetic, and physiological factors.
They have learned that some medications can cause lupus-like symptoms and cause a condition caused “drug-induced lupus.”
About 90 percent of patients with lupus are women, and most are between the ages of 15 and 44. Lupus is about two or three times more common in people of Native American, Asian or African heritage than it is in whites. It can be treated through a combination of conventional and complementary methods.
What types of types of lupus are there?
Drug-induced lupus is caused by certain prescription drugs. It is the one type of lupus more likely to affect men rather than women. The symptoms resemble those of systemic lupus, and they clear up about six months after the patient has stopped taking the medication.
Neonatal lupus is a rare condition that affects infants whose mothers have lupus. Doctors can now treat neonatal lupus at or shortly before birth, and the symptoms can also disappear on their own several months after birth.
Cutaneous or discoid lupus affects only the skin. The name “discoid” refers to the most common type of rash associated with the disease. It is circular, raised, red and scaly. Cutaneous lupus can also cause a “butterfly rash” that involves the cheeks and bridge of the nose.
Systemic lupus, which affects many parts of the body, is the most common form, and its effects can range from mild to severe.
Its more severe effects can include the following:
- Lupus nephritis or inflammation of the kidneys
- Heart disease
- Inflammation of the brain’s blood vessels causing seizures, behavioral changes, and high fevers
- Inflammation of the brain and nervous system causing strokes, confusion and memory problems
According to the Lupus Research Alliance, more common symptoms of systemic lupus include severe fatigue, rashes that can last weeks, high fevers, and swollen and painful joints.
How is lupus treated?
While there is yet no cure for lupus, the website WebMD describes a variety of medications that can help relieve the symptoms and prevent organ damage.
The medicines used will depend on the severity of the patient’s symptoms and the parts of the body affected. For example, a patient suffering from joint pain may be given anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen or ibuprofen.
Some of the drugs used to treat malaria can also help lupus patients by relieving their joint pain and/or skin rashes. Some anti-malarial drugs can also reduce the chances of developing blood clots.
Immunosuppressive drugs reduce the activity of the immune system and thus control the symptoms. Unfortunately, they can also cause severe side effects.
Natural Treatments For Lupus
Can lifestyle changes help?
Cultivating and/or maintaining healthy habits can also help relieve symptoms and keep the disease from getting worse.
For example, a lupus patient needs to stay current with all of their vaccinations, since immunosuppressive drugs reduce the body’s ability to fight off infection. During flu season, they need to get their flu and pneumonia vaccines.
Exercise and a good diet also help lupus patients. Yoga may be particularly helpful because it is relaxing, and its relatively slow pace makes it less tiring than many other exercises.
As a low-impact exercise, it isn’t as hard on the joints as aerobics can be. As there are several different types of yoga, the patient needs to choose carefully.
They should avoid Bikram and hot yoga, for exercising in a heated room increases the risk of dehydration and inflammation. On the other hand, Hatha, Iyengar, and restorative yoga are all slow-paced and can accommodate patients with chronic fatigue.
In his video, Dr. Tarrin P. Lupo describes foods that patients with lupus should avoid because they can make the inflammation worse.
Exercise can ward off heart disease and can also help the patient sleep better. Getting a good night’s sleep is important since fatigue is one of the primary symptoms of lupus.
If the patient smokes, they should quit, for smoking increases the risks of heart disease. Since lupus increases the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, the patient should always wear sunscreen when going outside.
Can supplements help?
According to the Johns Hopkins Lupus Center, lupus patients who want to take herbs or supplements should always discuss the matter with their doctor beforehand, for some herbs and supplements can either interfere with the patient’s medication or even make their symptoms worse.
For example, both melatonin and echinacea boost the immune system and thus worsen lupus. On the other hand, Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently and thus keeps bones strong.
A recent study reported at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can help lupus patients by relieving depression and enabling them to sleep better. Conversely, omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation and thus make the symptoms worse.
According to the dietician Catherine Cox, omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fats. As such, they are necessary to human health, for they help regulate the metabolism and keep both the brain and bones strong. Studies have shown that they can reduce ADHD in children and prevent bone loss in women.
Ideally, people should eat a diet with a ratio of 2:1 to 4:1 between omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. In other words, people should eat between two and four times as many omega-6 fatty acids as they do omega-3 fatty acids.
Unfortunately, most people in the US eat a ratio of 14:1 to 25:1. They are thus eating far too many foods with omega-6 fatty acids and/or not eating enough foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. That high ratio of omega-6 fatty acids increase the risks of inflammation and worsening lupus symptoms.
Vegetable oils often contain a lot of omega-6. Sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and avocado oil are all high in omega-six fatty acids. Conversely, olive oil, palm oil, and flaxseed oil are all low in omega-6 fatty acids.
Some seeds and nuts can also have a lot omega-6. Examples include walnuts, safflower seeds, Brazil nuts, and sesame seeds. Conversely, fish of any type contains little omega-6.
A patient with lupus should thus eat more fish and/or take omega-3 fatty supplements while limiting their consumption of nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.
According to the website WebMD, fish and other seafood are a well-known source of omega-3 fatty acids. Examples include the following:
- Fresh tuna
A few vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and kale also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Some bread, pasta, juices, and dairy products are often fortified with omega-3 fatty acids.
How effective is massage?
Like all other therapies, massage can’t cure lupus, but it can ease the pain it causes. There are many types of massage, and they fall into two broad categories.
Relaxation or spa massage is done primarily to pamper the patient, and it can ease stress. The masseur usually works on the patient’s entire body.
Therapeutic or medical massage is a complementary treatment aimed at reducing pain and increasing a patient’s range of motion.
The therapist will typically concentrate on the affected body parts. Before starting the massage, they will examine the patient to determine which muscles are causing the problems.
A patient with lupus would be better served by going to a therapist who practices medical massage, for they have had more training and experience in working with patients with various disorders and can tailor their treatment to fit the patient’s needs.
Studies have shown that massage can help patients with muscle and/or joint pain – including people with lupus. The American Massage Therapy Association does have a few caveats, however.
First off, the therapist should avoid any area with a rash. They should not use heat treatments like hot stone massage if the patient has any kind of inflammation. Similarly, patients should not get a massage if they have a severe flare-up.
Can acupuncture help someone with lupus?
Acupuncture is another complementary treatment that has often been successfully used to help patients with chronic pain. It has also helped relieve nausea caused by chemotherapy treatments.
Unfortunately, a large study conducted in 1997 found that acupuncture is less effective than some other therapies in relieving pain caused by inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
It can still help some patients, so a patient with lupus should discuss acupuncture with their doctor and then get the treatment from a certified professional.
What is aromatherapy?
The Lupus Site defines aromatherapy as the use of essential oils or concentrated plant extracts to reduce symptoms and/or boost mood.
The oils can be used in a variety of ways: They can be massaged into the skin, added to bath water, inhaled as steam, or applied with a heated or cold compress. Similarly, there are over 150 essential oils.
They need to be chosen and used carefully, for some can actually make the patient’s condition worse. Bergamot and grapefruit oils, for example, increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight – and patients with lupus are already highly sensitive to sunlight.
On the other hand, chamomile can both relieve joint and muscle pain and help the patient sleep. It can be added to a bath, used during a massage or applied with a compress.
Eucalyptus and peppermint oil can be used to relieve fatigue. Eucalyptus can also relieve headaches and other types of pain.
You can also watch Dr. Axe video and get more information about Natural Treatments For Lupus.