Are you living with lupus? Do you want to improve your health? While some people diagnosed with lupus may lead normal lives, others may have to deal with debilitating symptoms. Lupus patients are typically treated with conventional medicine like corticosteroid drugs and other drugs. Although these may relieve symptoms, they may cause unwanted side effects and long-term health problems. Fortunately, there are many natural remedies for lupus - one of which is supplements - which can help manage symptoms and improve your overall immune function without the risk of complications.
Though a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables is a great way to add nutrients to your diet, dietary supplements ensure that your intake is optimal. Here's a list of supplements that will help your health. However some may carry few unwanted effects. Talk to your doctor before you begin taking supplements regularly. He can weigh the benefits versus risks and recommend the one that's best suited for you.
Here are 10 supplements that benefit lupus patients:
1. Vitamin D
- Vitamin D supplements are great for lupus. Lupus sufferers generally have low Vitamin D levels. Those who have sufficient Vitamin D exhibit less flares.
- Osteoporosis/brittle bones are one of the commonest complications of lupus. Osteoporosis increases chances of fracture. You need to be more careful with this because it shows no warning signs. You may not know that you have osteoporosis till you end up with a fracture.
- It's imperative that you up your intake of calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is the building block of bones. Vitamin D is essential to absorb calcium.
- Calcium without vitamin D goes unabsorbed.
- Few of the unwanted effects of Vitamin D supplements are altered tastebuds, nausea, and weakness.
- Side effects of calcium supplements are: Gas/bloating
- Dietary sources include: Dairy, fish oil, fatty fish, and egg yolk
2. Vitamin A
- Skin rashes such as a butterfly-shaped rash and elevated red patches are common in lupus. Vitamin A supplements clear skin lesions in lupus.
- No reported side effects.
- Dietary sources: Carrot, cod liver oil, eggs.
3. Fish oil
- Fish oil is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. They protect joints by fighting inflammation, which is common in lupus. Redness, swelling, increased temperature, pain, and loss of movement are the signs of inflammation.
- A few studies also show that Omega-3s also protect the kidneys.
- Likely side effects are nausea and fishy burp.
- Dietary sources: Salmon, tuna, herring, lake trout and sardines
4. Flaxseed & Linseed oil
- Flaxseed and linseed oil have also shown promising results in lupus patients who have kidney damage. Thanks to Omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid.
- If you are on blood thinning medicines such as Warfarin, you should ask your doctor whether this supplement is safe.
- Dietary sources: Dried ripened seeds of the Flax plant
5. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
- Corticosteroids are prescribed to lupus patients to control flares/symptoms and also to stabilize lupus. DHEA is a hormone supplement that has reduced the dose of steroids needed in lupus.
- Likely side effects of Dehydroepiandrosterone are acne, increased facial hair growth in women and loss of hair in men. DHEA may reduce HDL/ good cholesterol. As DHEA increases the risk of cancer, DHEA supplements are not advised for those who fall under the high-risk category for cancer.
- Dietary sources: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) hormone supplements are derived from wild yams. There are no natural sources.
- Selenium supplements have shown promising results in lupus progression, thanks to its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemical compounds that protect the body against diseases.
- However, over dosage of selenium has harmful consequences such as loss of hair and digestion problems.
- Dietary sources: Fish such as herring and carp.
Herbs are available in the form of tablets, capsules, liquid extracts or teas.
- C. sinensis is a powerful herb that prevents antibodies against DNA of the human body and enhances lifespan in lupus.
- Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) tames an overactive immune system and joint pain. Do not opt for astragalus if you are taking lithium or medicines to suppress the immune system.
- Thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii) also works similarly. It eases joint pain and reduces autoimmunity. Long term usage of Thunder god vine may cause weakened bones in women. It is contraindicated in pregnancy.
- Herbs named Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis are also called cat’s claw. A decoction prepared out of them eases painful joints caused by lupus. General dosage is one to two heaped scoops of tea powder soaked in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Roots take longer to soak.
- Atractylodes ovata, Angelica sinensis, Ligustrum ludidum and Codonopsis pilosula extracts also help lupus.
- A few herbs show adverse effects when taken with lupus medicines, so be sure to discuss with your doctor whatever you plan to ingest.
8. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
- MSM fights inflammation, bone diseases and protects joints.
- Dietary source: MSM is a chemical found in living beings. It can also be synthetically made.
- Side effects: MSM may cause allergic reactions, loose stools, nausea, and headaches in some.
9. N-acetyl cysteine
- Studies have proved that N-acetyl cysteine safely improves lupus. Up-to 2.4 gram of N-acetyl cysteine per day is well tolerated by patients. More than that may lead to nausea.
- Dietary sources: High protein sources such as yoghurt, chicken, and oats.
- Turmeric fights inflammation. It works similar to anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Turmeric supplementation improves proteinuria (more proteins excreted in urine), hematuria (blood in urine) and high blood pressure, all of which are seen in lupus.
- Talk to your doctor if you take any blood thinning medicines, if you are trying to conceive, or if you have an iron deficiency. Turmeric can potentially worsen these conditions.
As a final word of caution, consult and discuss with your doctor before trying out any of these supplements, as lupus can sometimes be a life-threatening condition.