Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune that affects millions of Americans. Many promising studies now show us that nutritional interventions can significantly improve a patient's symptoms and experience with lupus. Discover the foods and lifestyle habits scientifically proven to help below.

Cases per year

There are an estimated 16,000 new cases each year1.

General frequency

The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans have lupus 1.

Risk

Ranges from moderate to severe, lupus can increase the risk of heart disease, and premature death.

Treating lupus with a whole-food plant-based diet and lifestyle medicine

Patients who change their eating patterns to incorporate more plant foods full of anti-inflammatory properties while limiting animal and processed foods report improvements in their disease symptoms.

Dr Laurie Marbas

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Here are some top scientific studies that support the results our clinicians have seen first-hand:

Switching to a plant-based diet greatly improves lupus symptoms 

Plant-based dietary changes may improve symptoms in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 

In a survey of 420 adults, more than 80% of those that undertook new eating patterns with increased vegetable intake and/or decreased intake of processed food, sugar, gluten, dairy and carbohydrates benefited from their dietary change with a significantly reduced severity of their symptoms. The greatest decreases in symptom severity were provided by low/no dairy (27.1% decrease), low/no processed foods (26.6% decrease) and fully plant-based (26% decrease) eating patterns. Patients mostly benefited from weight loss, less fatigue, less joint/muscle pain and improved mood following their dietary changes towards a plant-based diet 2.

Plant-based diets associated with a 25% reduced risk of diagnosed lupus 

The association between dietary patterns and a doctor diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus: the Adventist Health Study-2

Data taken from the Adventist Health Study-2 looked at the association between plant-based diets and a diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 77,795 participants. Researchers found those that followed a more plant-based diet had a 25% reduced risk of SLE compared to those that followed an omnivorous diet containing meat and fish 3

Whole-food plant based diet reverses lupus nephritis 

Six Week Raw Vegan Nutrition Protocol Rapidly Reverses Lupus Nephritis: A Case Series 

In this study a medical doctor reports 2 cases of lupus-related nephritis (where the tissues in the kidney become inflamed and have problems filtering waste from the blood). In both cases, the patient adopted a personalized raw, whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet under the care of their doctor. Case 1 managed to significantly improve kidney function, reverse lupus-related kidney damage, and she no longer needed dialysis or a kidney transplant. Her energy and joint pain also significantly improved. Case 2 also managed to resolve their symptoms and bring kidney function back to normal. These results were due to the power of dietary changes alone 4

Find more information about lupus and its treatment below

What is lupus?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks healthy tissue, leading to inflammation and damage to various organs and tissues. The exact cause of lupus is unknown, but it is thought to be related to a combination of genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors.

There are several types of lupus. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common type and can cause inflammation in a number of organ systems in the body. Subcutaneous lupus affects only the skin, drug-induced lupus develops as a result of high doses of certain medications, and neonatal lupus is a rare form where the mother’s immune system mistakenly affects the fetus and results in fetal and neonatal disease.

A diagram showing the drivers of lupus including hormones, genetics, epigenetics, environment, and immune abnormalities. This leads to inflammation and organ damage in many organs.

Symptoms

The symptoms of lupus can vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms of lupus include fatigue, joint and muscle pain and swelling, rashes, fever, chest pain, and skin lesions. More severely, it can damage the kidneys, central nervous system, heart, lungs, brain, and skin 2. People with lupus may also experience hair loss, sensitivity to sunlight, and changes in mood and cognitive function.

Patients with lupus have a higher risk of developing heart disease. This can be well managed with a healthy diet, exercise, sufficient sleep, and stress management 2,5

Diagnosis 

Diagnosing lupus can be challenging, as the symptoms usually mimic those of other conditions. A healthcare provider will typically start by conducting a physical examination and asking about the person's symptoms and medical history. From there, if your provider thinks you could have lupus they will conduct further tests to confirm the diagnosis, these include:

  • Blood tests: the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test is the most important blood test, if it's negative you don't have lupus. If it's positive you may have lupus, in which case your provider will use further specific tests such as anti-dsDNA and anti-Sm which can detect antibodies specific to lupus conditions
  • Imaging studies
  • Other tests to help confirm the diagnosis.

If you think you may have lupus, it is important to see a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis. 

Treatment 

Treatment for lupus can help manage the symptoms and prevent further damage to the body.

Healthier lifestyle habits support good gut health, reduce inflammation, and improve immune function in patients with lupus, leading to benefits on many disease symptoms 6. A plant-based diet achieves these disease-healing benefits due to the high content of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. For example, improvements in oxidative stress markers are fueled by intake of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables which helps to combat inflammation. 

Remission of lupus has been achieved in patients following a whole-food plant-based diet under the care of their doctor 4

This diet, along with healthy lifestyle changes, are fully encouraged and supported by our physicians within the Mora Medical treatment plan, allowing you to take control of your own health without needing unnecessary medications.  

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References 

1. Lupus Facts and Statistics. Lupus Foundation, Ohio https://lupusgreaterohio.org/lupus-facts-and-statistics/.

2. Knippenberg, A. et al. Plant-based dietary changes may improve symptoms in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Lupus 31, 65–76 (2022).

3. Oh, J. et al. The association between dietary patterns and a doctor diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus: the Adventist Health Study-2. Lupus 31, 1373–1378 (2022).

4. Goldner, MD, B. Six Week Raw Vegan Nutrition Protocol Rapidly Reverses Lupus Nephritis: A Case Series. Int. J. Dis. Reversal Prev. 1, (2019).

5. Giannelou, M. & Mavragani, C. P. Cardiovascular disease in systemic lupus erythematosus: A comprehensive update. J. Autoimmun. 82, 1–12 (2017).

6. Aparicio-Soto, M., Sánchez-Hidalgo, M. & Alarcón-de-la-Lastra, C. An update on diet and nutritional factors in systemic lupus erythematosus management. Nutr. Res. Rev. 30, 118–137 (2017).

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