The other day, my mum asked me about lupus. Hmmmm. It took a while for me to reach back into my memory and pull out information that I learned in university about it. So, I set out to research more about the condition.
90% of lupus sufferers are women! Interestingly, for decades, researchers have focused on hormonal differences between males and females as a cause for the gender difference in rates. A study published in 2009 in PNAS shows that females are 10 time more susceptible than males possibly due to a particular gene found on the X chromosome instead: IRAK1 and it’s variants. Why is this interesting? When researchers removed this gene in mice, they lacked lupus symptoms including kidney malfunction, production of autoimmune anti-bodies and activation of white blood cells. This gene is still in the preliminary stages of research – so watch this space!
Lupus – The Wolf Disease
For those of you unfamiliar with the condition, lupus is an autoimmune disease; meaning, it occurs when the body’s immune system attacks itself causing a highly inflammatory state of well-being. The disease was actually named lupus, which is latin for “wolf,” because many sufferers develop a butterfly-like rash on their cheeks and nose which gives them a wolf-like appearance. There are two main types of lupus: systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and discoid lupis erythematosus (DLE). Rarer types of lupus include ‘drug-induced lupus’ which is caused by certain medications, and ‘neonatal lupus’ which can occur in newborns of women with or without a medical history of autoimmune disease.
SLE is the most common form of lupus and, as the name implies, is systemic – meaning it affects many areas of the body.
The first onset of the disease often mimics symptoms of arthritis with joint swelling and pain. Signs and symptoms can occur suddenly and can include:
- A characteristic rash across the face on the cheeks and nose
- Acute fever
- Red scaling lesions on different parts of the body
- Mouth sores
- Chest pain
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abnormal cells in the urine
- Sun sensitivity
- Low white blood cell count, low platelet count, or hemolytic anemia
As lupus affects the body systemically with chronic inflammation being the driving factor, correcting the underlying imbalance in cytokine biology (messengers that coordinate the whole immune system) would be the first aim. This will reduce the effect of inflammation and subsequent tissue damage. Lupus can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, heart, brain, and blood cells so it is extremely important to nourish and look after the body.
What are the two key nutritional factors that influence cytokine biology?
These two protective nutrients are essential to reduce inflammation in the body. The current Western diet is highly inflammatory with lots of processed foods and sugar that negatively impact the body’s healing processes. If you suffer from lupus or want to prevent it, make sure to eat lost of raw, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Eat as many different coloured fruits and vegetables as you can at each meal – the different coloured pigments in plants will give you a diverse range of antioxidants and flavanoids.
Ensure to eat fish that is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids at least 3 times per week – great choices include blue-eye trevalla, salmon, mackerel and sardines. In clinical trials, fish oil supplements have proven to be beneficial for sufferers of SLE compared to placebo. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 fats include walnuts, chia-seeds, flaxseeds, green leafy vegetables and berries!
For the nerds out there – EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) suppresses the production of leukotriene B4, or LB4, (a derivative of arachidonic acid) whilst DHA (docoshexanoic acid) blocks nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-ϰB). LB4 and NF-ϰB are both involved in the stimulation of inflammation so Omega-3 EPA & DHA are beneficial in preventing and reducing disease flare-ups. Omega-3’s are also helpful for arthritis symptoms in lupus sufferers.
Antioxidants are important because they neutralize free radicals and prevent the full activation of an autoimmune response. Alpha-lipoic acid is particularly good because it is a free radical scavenger and assists in the regeneration of Vitamin C & E (other antioxidants), whilst raising glutathione levels inside cells. Sources of alpha-lipoic acid suitable for lupus sufferers include spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots & beetroot – interesting that these foods are all different colours too! You’ll definitely be getting a range of antioxidants if you ate these everyday!
I would also recommend to include lots of anti-inflammatory foods in your diet as well, like turmeric, ginger, pineapple, cherries, papaya and cinnamon. These will help dampen inflammatory mediators as well as providing more potent antioxidants.
If you have any more questions in relation to lupus or other autoimmune diseases, please comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to see me for a consultation, you can contact me directly or use my bookings page.
I hope everyone is enjoying their week!
Love Stace x
*Photo Courtesy of Pinterest