Lupus Diet Tips: Know Which Foods to Eat or Avoid
Eating for Lupus
Despite what you might have read on the Internet, there is no one established diet for lupus. Just as with any medical condition, you should aim to eat a healthy blend of foods—fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and fish.
However, certain foods may be better than others for managing your symptoms. Click through the slideshow to find out what to include in your diet and what to ditch.
Switch from Red Meat to Fatty Fish
Red meat is full of saturated fat, which can contribute to heart disease. On the other hand, fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that help protect against heart disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. They can also reduce inflammation in the body.
That’s good news for people with lupus, who face a much higher risk for heart disease than the general population.
Get More Calcium-Rich Foods
The steroid drugs you may take to control lupus can have the unpleasant side effect of thinning your bones, making you more vulnerable to fractures. To combat this effect, eat foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D—nutrients that strengthen bones.
That includes low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. Ask your doctor about taking a supplement if you’re not getting enough calcium and vitamin D from food alone.
Limit Saturated and Trans Fats
Everyone’s goal should be to eat a diet that’s low in saturated and trans fats. However, this is especially true for people with lupus. Steroids can increase your appetite and cause you to gain weight, so it’s important to watch what you eat.
Try to focus on foods that will fill you up without filling you out, such as raw vegetables, air-popped popcorn, and fruit.
Alfalfa is one food that probably shouldn’t be on your dinner plate if you have lupus. These sprouts contain an amino acid called L-canavanine, which can send your immune system into overdrive and flare up your lupus symptoms, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.
People who’ve eaten alfalfa have reacted with muscle pain and fatigue, and their doctors have noted changes on their blood test results.
Skip Nightshade Vegetables
Although there isn’t any scientific evidence to prove it, some people with lupus find that they’re sensitive to the nightshade vegetables. This includes white potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, and eggplant.
Keep a food diary to record what you eat. Eliminate the vegetables that cause your symptoms to flare up every time you eat them.
Watch the Alcohol
The occasional glass of red wine or beer isn’t restricted. However, alcohol can interact with some of the medicines you take to control your condition. Drinking while taking NSAID drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Naprosyn), for example, could increase your risk of stomach bleeding or ulcers. Alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin) and methotrexate.
Skip the Salt
Set aside the saltshaker and start ordering your restaurant meals without the sodium. According to The Johns Hopkins Lupus Center, eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease. Lupus already puts you at higher risk for developing heart disease.
Substitute other spices such as lemon, garlic, pepper, and curry powder to enhance food flavor.
Herbs and Supplements
A number of herbs—ranging from Thunder God vine to turmeric—have been touted on the web for relieving lupus symptoms. However, there is very little evidence that any of them work.
These products can interact with drugs you’re taking for lupus and cause side effects. Don’t take any herbal remedy or supplement without first talking to your doctor.
- Chou CT. (2010). Alternative therapies: what role do they have in the management of lupus? Lupus, 19(12), 1425-1429. doi: 10.1177/0961203310379872.
- Lupus Foundation of America. Diet and Nutrition. Retrieved from http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_learnliving.aspx?articleid=2281&zoneid=527
- Sacks, Frank. Ask the Expert: Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Retrieved from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3/.
- The Johns Hopkins Lupus Center. Diet. Retrieved from http://www.hopkinslupus.org/lupus-info/lifestyle-additional-information/lupus-diet/.