Autoimmune conditions are now a leading cause of disease and disability, affecting an estimated 23.5 million Americans, and this number is expected to continue rising. One of the most common autoimmune conditions is lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Lupus is an inflammatory condition where the immune system produces antibodies that attack the body’s own healthy cells and tissues. In extreme cases, lupus can cause organ damage and life-threatening conditions. Lupus is not a condition to be taken lightly, and it’s important to seek medical advice if you think you may have it.
Similar to many other autoimmune conditions, lupus can have periods of flare-ups and remission. While there’s no known cure for lupus, treatment efforts focus on managing symptoms and preventing flares. Conventional treatment often uses a combination of medications to accomplish this, but this approach often comes with side effects. Many people are unaware that there are also natural interventions that can manage lupus just as effectively. At F8 Well Centers, we’ve seen many of our patients restore balance to their bodies by using holistic interventions that address the root causes of immune dysfunction.
What Are the Causes of Lupus?
While the exact causes of lupus aren’t yet well understood by research, it’s theorized that lupus is caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors. We know that a dysregulated immune system is one of the main drivers behind autoimmune conditions. Poor immune function can be triggered by a combination of lifestyle factors, including:
Poor nutrition and gut health
Around 90% of diagnosed lupus cases are women between the ages of 15 and 44. Because of this, some researchers theorize that hormonal imbalances play a significant role in the development of lupus.
What Are the Symptoms of Lupus?
The symptoms of lupus are wide-ranging and often resemble other autoimmune conditions, so it can be a difficult condition to identify. Thorough lab testing is often necessary to reach a diagnosis. One of the characterizing symptoms of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash on the face, known as a malar rash. Other common symptoms of lupus include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Joint pain and swelling
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Rashes and skin lesions, especially after sun exposure
- Sleep disruptions
- Swelling of the extremities
- Mouth and nose ulcers
- Generalized weakness
If left untreated, lupus can cause widespread organ damage resulting in serious complications. Individuals with lupus are especially vulnerable to heart disease, kidney disease, and infections. Lupus also may cause an inflamed brain and spinal cord, causing cognitive and mental health symptoms. In extreme cases, lupus may even cause seizures.
Lupus can be a debilitating and scary condition to face, but it doesn’t have to be. By developing a better understanding of the immune system, you can learn to manage your lupus naturally. This will ensure that you prevent serious complications, keep the disease in remission, and promote your best quality of life.
How to Manage Lupus Naturally
Conventionally, lupus is managed with a combination of pharmaceutical drugs to lower inflammation and manage symptoms. First-line treatments include immunosuppressive medications, steroids, NSAIDs, and synthetic hormones. While these medications are often effective in symptom management, they come with significant side effects. Another problem with this approach is that it doesn’t address the underlying causes that are feeding the disease. In fact, medications usually cause further disruption to the body’s homeostasis. This can lead to more health imbalances down the road.
Lupus can be managed naturally by targeting the root causes through diet and lifestyle interventions. This approach supports immune function, reduces inflammation, and alleviates symptoms – all without throwing the body even more out of balance. In the long run, a natural and holistic approach can be more effective than medication with very few side effects.
Every individual with lupus is incredibly unique. What triggers flare-ups for one person may be entirely different than another, which means there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment method. If you’re struggling with your lupus symptoms, it’s important to work closely with a practitioner who can help identify your specific underlying causes and develop an individualized treatment plan.
Good nutrition and stabilizing your blood sugar
The gut microbiome is so closely linked with the immune system which is why good nutrition plays a huge role in managing autoimmune conditions. Poor nutrition causes gut imbalances and chronic inflammation, which can ultimately trigger or worsen immune dysfunction. One study showed that women with lupus had higher levels of Ruminococcus gnavus in their gut during flares. For any individual with autoimmune conditions, avoiding inflammatory foods should be a top priority.
Keeping a stable blood sugar is also extremely important. If you’re having sharp swings in blood sugar, your body will stimulate the kidneys to release stress hormones in an effort to restabilize the blood sugar. This chain reaction of events can cause inflammation and an increased risk of developing insulin resistance. If you have lupus, blood sugar spikes are especially dangerous because the disease already puts you at a higher risk for developing insulin resistance, diabetes, and kidney disease. High-carb foods and added sugar should be avoided to keep the blood sugar within the range of 85-110 mg/dL.
You may be wondering what specific foods can trigger lupus flare-ups. The truth is, it’s not that straightforward and every person has a unique metabolic response to food. Certain foods might be inflammatory for some people and not for others. Similarly, certain foods might spike blood sugar in some individuals and not in others. Working with a practitioner can help you identify which foods are problematic for your body.
Sleep is essential for so many healing and immune-supporting processes in the body. Chronic sleep deprivation may cause inflammation and trigger flare-ups. Lupus patients also often experience fatigue, brain fog, and cognitive difficulties that are often worsened by lack of sleep. Unfortunately, sleep disruption is another symptom of lupus, which can keep lupus patients stuck in a frustrating cycle of flare-ups and exhaustion.
Certain techniques can help you promote your circadian rhythm and restore sleep quality:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Avoid blue light at least one hour before bedtime
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark
- Wear a sleep mask to reduce light
- Use a white noise machine
- Get sun exposure within the first hour of waking up
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime
Reduce toxin exposure
Toxins can be found anywhere and everywhere – inside the home, in household products, and in the outdoor environment. When you’re exposed to toxins, the immune system kicks into overdrive to help the body get rid of them. A high toxic burden can quickly overburden the immune system, especially if you’re already facing an autoimmune condition. Research shows that environmental toxin exposure can put you at a higher risk for both developing lupus and experiencing flares.
Some of the most common sources of toxins include:
- Unfiltered tap water
- Air pollutants
- Toxic mold
- Harsh household cleaning products
- Personal care products
- Air fresheners and other scented products
- Certain types of non-stick cookware
- Plastic water bottles and containers
If you have a high toxic burden, it’s important to address this as soon as possible. Unfortunately, so many people are being exposed to toxins on a daily basis without even realizing it. Testing can provide information about which toxins are affecting you so that you can make efforts to minimize your exposure.
If you have lupus and struggle with skin inflammation, it’s especially important to pay attention to the ingredients in your personal care products. Some products contain irritating chemicals that can worsen skin lesions. Make sure that you read the labels on your products and choose natural/organic options whenever possible.
Treat chronic infections
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), also known as mono, has been associated with seven different autoimmune conditions, including lupus. Research suggests that EBV may cause gene activations that increase the risk of developing an autoimmune disease. EBV is extremely common, with more than 90% of Americans infected with it by age 35. However, the virus often remains latent until the immune system becomes compromised. If left untreated, EBV may contribute to immune dysfunction and exacerbate lupus.
While EBV is one of the most common, there are many other types of chronic infections that can trigger lupus flares. People with lupus are also more likely to be vulnerable to serious infections because their immune system is suppressed by both the disease and the medications used to treat it. When facing lupus, it’s important to work closely with a practitioner to identify and treat any other chronic infections which may be feeding into the disease progression.
While stress often doesn’t cause disease on its own, it can easily disrupt the immune system and worsen disease. Many patients report that they were experiencing high levels of stress right before their first lupus flare. A recent study found that autoimmune disease is more common in people who also had a previous diagnosis of a stress-related disorder.
One of the biggest challenges is that the nature of lupus can be extremely stress-inducing – and not just because of the frustration and fear it often causes. Lupus can cause an inflamed and dysregulated nervous system which may decrease stress resiliency. This is why it’s so important to learn effective stress management techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation.
The brain is a creature of habit, which means that sometimes it can get stuck in unhealthy loops of anxiety. Autoimmune disease can make you especially vulnerable to this. Your brain essentially gets used to being in the high-alert beta brainwaves, and this becomes its “comfort zone”. For many lupus patients who struggle with stress management, Neurofeedback protocols may be necessary to retrain the brain out of unhealthy brainwave patterns.
8 Effective Natural Lupus Remedies
Lupus symptoms can range in severity, from mild to debilitating. If you’re experiencing a severe flare-up, seek out professional medical support. For mild symptoms, these natural lupus remedies can help to reduce stress, calm inflammation, and alleviate pain.
- Massage therapy
- Epsom salt baths
- Coconut oil (for relief of skin rashes)
- Yoga and meditation
- Mind/body therapies (such as guided imagery/meditation)
- Green tea
- Apple cider vinegar
What Vitamins and Supplements Help With Lupus?
Certain vitamins and supplements can be helpful in the management of lupus. Please note that supplements have the potential for side effects and medication interactions. Individuals with autoimmune conditions are at higher risk of experiencing side effects. Consult with a medical practitioner before starting a new supplement.
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
- Omega-3 fatty acids
The F8 Well Approach
Facing an autoimmune condition such as lupus can be scary and confusing. While medication-centered treatment may offer some short-term symptom relief, many patients find that it doesn’t offer the long-term results they’re looking for. Often, medications end up having side effects that create a domino effect of health consequences.
At F8 Well Centers, we know the importance of treating the human body as a whole integrated system. This is especially true in the case of lupus because it has such widespread effects throughout the entire body. The body has an incredible potential to heal itself and prevent disease, but it needs to be given the right support. We believe that education and empowerment are some of the best tools for learning how to best support your own body. To learn more about natural health solutions, subscribe to our newsletter!