Despite what you might have read, there’s no established diet for lupus. As with any medical condition, consider eating a healthy blend of foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, plant fats, lean proteins, and fish.

However, certain foods may be better than others for managing your symptoms. Keep reading to find out what to include in your diet.

Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that help protect against heart disease and stroke. They can also reduce inflammation in the body.

Some studies suggest that omega-3s may reduce lupus activity in the body. Research indicates that omega-3 supplements may improve ratings of lupus activity and test results on certain markers of lupus. In addition, higher dietary intake of omega-3s was associated with better sleep in one study of people with lupus.

Fish are high in omega-3s. Try to eat more:

  • salmon
  • tuna
  • mackerel
  • sardines

Some other foods rich in omega-3s include:

  • flax seeds
  • chia seeds
  • walnuts

The steroid drugs you may take to control lupus can thin your bones. This side effect makes you more vulnerable to fractures. To combat fractures, eat foods high in calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients strengthen your bones.

Calcium-rich foods include:

  • milk
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • tofu
  • beans
  • calcium-fortified plant milks
  • dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli

Food sources of vitamin D include:

  • trout
  • salmon
  • mushrooms
  • milk

Ask your doctor about supplements if you’re not getting enough calcium and vitamin D from food alone.

Studies suggest that your gut microbiome may be linked to your risk for developing lupus, and it may also influence how the condition affects your body. Some researchers believe that supporting a healthy gut microbiome may lead to new treatments for the condition.

Your gut contains bacteria that may promote health benefits and some that could be harmful. Certain foods may help keep these bacteria in a healthier balance.

Foods that may benefit your gut microbiome include:

  • Fermented foods: Look for foods that contain probiotics, such as probiotic yogurt and kimchi
  • High fiber foods: Whole grains and other high fiber foods support healthy digestion
  • Fruits and vegetables: These foods contain polyphenols, compounds that may help beneficial gut bacteria grow and reduce harmful gut bacteria

A 2020 study found that eating a diet high in added sugars was associated with increased lupus complications and high cholesterol in people with lupus.

While there is not enough evidence to say that sugar causes lupus complications, limiting added sugars is good for your general health.

Foods to limit include:

  • sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda
  • cookies
  • cakes
  • pies
  • ice cream

Too much added sugar in your diet can contribute to conditions such as:

  • obesity
  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes

The occasional glass of red wine or beer isn’t restricted. However, alcohol can interact with medicines you take to control your condition.

For example, drinking while taking NSAID drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Naprosyn) could increase your risk of stomach bleeding or ulcers. Alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin) and may increase the potential liver side effects of methotrexate.

Set aside the saltshaker and start ordering your restaurant meals with less sodium. Here are some tips:

  • order your sauces on the side; they are often high in sodium
  • ask for your entrée to be cooked without added salt
  • order an extra side of vegetables, which are rich in potassium

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease. Potassium can help combat high blood pressure. Lupus already puts you at higher risk for developing heart disease.

Substitute other spices to enhance food flavor, such as:

  • lemon
  • herbs
  • pepper
  • curry powder
  • turmeric

Many herbs and spices have been sold online as lupus symptom relievers. But there is little evidence that any of them work.

These products can interact with drugs you’re taking for lupus and cause side effects. Talk with your doctor before taking any herbal remedy or supplement.

Lupus affects each person differently. A diet change that works for one person may not work for you. Keeping a food journal and having an open dialogue with your doctor and dietitian will help you determine how different foods help or hurt your symptoms.

Some complications of lupus may require you to follow a special diet. For example, up to 60% of people with lupus may develop lupus nephritis, a condition that affects the kidneys. A doctor and dietitian can help people with lupus nephritis develop an eating plan that supports kidney health.