What is lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder wherein the immune system attacks the body’s own healthy tissues and organs. The disease leads to high levels of inflammation, which can negatively affect nearly every organ of the body such as the lungs, brain, joints, skin, heart, kidneys, as well as the endocrine glands. The symptoms of lupus are very much similar to those of other medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, fibromyalgia, and Lyme disease. For this reason, lupus can be difficult to diagnose.
Some people who have lupus may only have mild symptoms, whereas few others have a hard time dealing with the symptoms since they can be quite unbearable at times. Few of the common symptoms of lupus would include joint pain, skin rashes, fatigue, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. Many cases of lupus take years before being accurately diagnosed.
The conventional forms of lupus medications include corticosteroids, thyroid medications, synthetic hormone replacement drugs, and NSAIDs for pain. These medications help in providing relief from inflammation. However, they also have their own set of side effects and even long-term health risks.
Fortunately, there are complementary therapies such as natural supplements that can be used in conjunction with traditional lupus medications. However, talk to your doctor first about considering other treatment options for your condition since complementary therapies may also adversely react with certain medications.
Supplements can be of great assistance when it comes to managing the symptoms of lupus and improving the health of the immune system. Below are some supplements that can be taken for lupus:
1. Fish Oil
Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may be beneficial for people diagnosed with lupus. There are preliminary studies that have shown some promising outcomes in lowering inflammation, but more studies are still needed. The EPA/DHA present in fish oil can help decrease inflammation in the body. Fish oil supplements are also said to bring about improvements in the blood flow and blood vessel functioning in people with lupus.
There was a study conducted wherein 60 people with lupus were given three grams of omega-3 polyunsaturated fish oil supplements on a daily basis for a period of six months. They showed good improvements in the symptoms of the disease compared with their counterparts who only received a placebo. Additionally, it was also seen that the patients who took fish oil supplements showed an improvement in the functioning of the blood vessels with a reduction of oxidative stress, which has been linked to heart disease.
The study confirms that omega-3 fish oils may help improve the symptoms of lupus. It also shows evidence of a potential cardioprotective effect. It is important to note that lupus is not only an immune system disorder since it is also a vascular disease. Lupus can cause damaging effects to the blood vessels over the years and fish oil supplements may help address the damage caused by the disease.
Aside from including fatty fish in your diet, omega-3 fatty acids in the form of pills or supplements also work.
2. DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is beneficial for people who have mild to moderate lupus symptoms. It particularly helps in fatigue, joint pain, osteoporosis, cognitive problems, and hair loss. However, excessive intake of DHEA may result in oily skin, acne, and facial hair in women. These side effects may be experienced since DHEA is a mild male hormone. DHEA is also known to reduce the production of HDL or good cholesterol in certain women and may lead to an increase in the estrogen levels in postmenopausal women.
Consult your doctor before taking DHEA supplements since there are a number of over-the-counter supplements that are not regulated and may be ineffective.
A daily DHEA dose of 200 mg would help provide improvements in the symptoms. However, the following individuals should avoid taking DHEA supplements:
- Men with lupus.
- Postmenopausal women (may take DHEA but must be carefully monitored)
- Pregnant women, women trying to conceive, or breastfeeding mothers
- People who have cancer, a family history of cancer, or have risk factors for cancer
- Individuals undergoing hormone therapy
3. Vitamin D
Studies have shown a connection between lupus and vitamin D levels. People diagnosed with lupus tend to be deficient in vitamin D, and those who have higher vitamin D levels are more likely to have fewer symptoms of the disease. Moreover, when vitamin D levels in the body are low, the risk of developing heart disease also increases. According to some studies, people with lupus can reduce the chances of flare-ups when they take vitamin D supplements.
In recent tests, it was found that high doses of vitamin D were safe and seemed to reduce some adverse immune system responses, which believed to have caused lupus. Vitamin D3 is said to help improve a person's immune system and regulates mood by warding off anxiety and depression. This vitamin also helps balance hormones as well as promotes bone health. A daily dose of 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 is shown to be beneficial for people with lupus.
Turmeric is said to similarly act how steroid drugs work because it helps reduce pain and inflammation in the body. Turmeric has an active ingredient known as curcumin. This ingredient has been studied and found to contain antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is basically a spice used for centuries for cooking as well as an herbal remedy. It provides relief from pain and may also help reduce a few of the symptoms caused by lupus.
Curcumin helps regulate the activity of inflammatory agents and the pathways in immune cell activation. Certain experimental studies have shown that curcumin inhibits certain autoantibodies, which are seen in lupus by binding themselves to the target cells.
Curcumin is also an immunomodulating agent that helps in regulating immune system responses. However, when it is taken for a longer time than required and when excessively taken, it can lead to nausea, diarrhea, and indigestion. Individuals with diabetes and gallbladder problems should avoid this spice. Women who are pregnant, those planning to conceive, and nursing mothers should use it with caution.
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals, which attack and damage healthy tissues. Since lupus is an autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s healthy tissues and cells, taking vitamin E can help minimize such attacks as well as reduce inflammation. An individual with lupus can start consuming vitamin E supplements on a daily basis to boost the immune system. The recommended daily intake of vitamin E should be 1,000 IU.
However, too much of this vitamin is also bad for the body since it can lead to toxicity. Be careful not to exceed the recommended dose. Moreover, always check with the doctor before taking any kind of supplement. Vitamin E supplements are available in different forms: 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. Each of them has different levels of activity in the human body. The alpha-tocopherol type of vitamin E is said to prevent heart diseases since it slows down the release of inflammatory substances that would cause damage to the heart.
Alpha-tocopherol is also beneficial in the case of lung inflammation, which is usually related to allergies. However, most of the studies have been conducted on animals, so its effectiveness remains unclear on humans. Vitamin E is also known to stabilize lysosomal membranes, which contain destructive enzymes that fight off any foreign invaders. When the membranes become unstable, it leads to the enzymes causing damage to the surrounding healthy tissues. Proper levels of vitamin E are also said to prevent the onset of any kind of autoimmune attacks by stabilizing the lysosomal membranes.