Diet can aggravate the symptoms of lupus or contribute to its onset. Treatment may call for dietary alterations and supplementation for any nutrient deficiencies. Food allergies and sensitivities have been implicated as a possible trigger of the disease. Many believe alfalfa sprouts are a common trigger of lupus symptoms; people who have had lupus symptoms may want to avoid eating alfalfa sprouts. An elimination diet can help to identify any other culprits. Here's how an elimination diet works:
- For two to three weeks, the patient's commonly eaten foods are eliminated from the diet. Common food allergens (such as wheat, eggs, milk, peanuts, and corn) are also avoided.
- If symptoms have subsided or not appeared by the end of this period, then the food challenges can begin. If the symptoms are still present, then more foods should be eliminated from the diet.
- Every two days, reintroduce (one at a time) the commonly eaten foods and common food allergens that you eliminated, noting if any symptoms appear.
- Continue in this fashion with the other foods.
It should be noted that lupus symptoms can go into remission for weeks or years. Linking a remission to an avoided food allergen may take some detective work.
Hydrochloric acid deficiency also has been linked with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The stomach normally secretes this strong acid, which helps digest proteins. If indicated by a practitioner, supplements in capsule form can be taken with meals.
A low-protein diet is often prescribed to treat people with lupus, as a large amount of protein may be harmful for several reasons:
- It can tax weakened kidneys. (Half of the people with lupus have kidney disorders.)
- It has the ability to rob calcium from the bones. (People with lupus are often at higher risk for osteoporosis because of the drugs they take and their instructions to avoid the sun.)
- It may tax the immune system.
The ideal diet, in addition to being low in protein, should be low in fat and high in green leafy vegetables, such as bok choy, collard greens, and kale. These vegetables may help people with lupus to metabolize estrogen better.
Supplements may also be prescribed, including vitamin B6, vitamin C, and essential fatty acids. Vitamin E, taken orally and applied to the skin, can help heal the skin rashes that sometimes accompany lupus. Supplements are often recommended instead of trying to get the vitamin from food sources because most of the food sources of vitamin E (such as vegetable oils) contain a lot of fat. Fish oil, especially EPA, is another effective supplement.