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Lupus Diet and Nutrition

There are no foods that cause lupus or that can cure it. Still, good nutrition is an important part of an overall treatment plan for the disease.

In general, people with lupus should aim for a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It should also include moderate amounts of meats, poultry, and oily fish.

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If you have lupus, following a varied, healthy diet may help:

  • Reduce inflammation and other symptoms
  • Maintain strong bones and muscles
  • Combat the side effects of medications
  • Achieve or maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease

Here’s what you need to know about lupus, diet, and nutrition to gain these important benefits.

Reducing Inflammation and Other Symptoms

Lupus is an inflammatory disease. So it’s possible, though not proven, that foods that fight inflammation could help lupus symptoms. On the other hand, foods that fuel inflammation could worsen them.

Foods with possible anti-inflammatory properties include fruits and vegetables, which are rich in substances called antioxidants. In addition, foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, ground flaxseed, canola oil, and olive oil may also help fight inflammation.

Saturated fats, on the other hand, can raise cholesterol levels and may contribute to inflammation. So they should be limited. Sources of saturated fats include fried foods, commercial baked goods, creamed soups and sauces, red meat, animal fat, processed meat products, and high-fat dairy foods. That includes whole milk, half and half, cheeses, butter, and ice cream.

One food to avoid is alfalfa sprouts. Alfalfa tablets have been associated with lupus flares or a lupus-like syndrome that includes muscle pain, fatigue, abnormal blood test results, and kidney problems. These problems may be due to a reaction to an amino acid found in alfalfa sprouts and seeds. This amino acid can activate the immune system and increase inflammation in people with lupus. Garlic may also stimulate the immune system.

Maintaining Strong Bones and Muscles

Good nutrition is important for strong bones and muscles. For people with lupus, bone health is a particular concern. That’s because medications used to treat it can increase the risk for osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become less dense and break easily.

Eating foods high in calcium and vitamin D is important for bone health. When buying dairy products, choose ones that are either low-fat or fat-free. Good choices include:

  • 1% or 1/2% skim milk
  • low-fat, low-sodium yogurt
  • low-fat cheese

If you cannot drink milk, good alternatives include:

  • lactose-free milk
  • soy milk
  • almond milk
  • juices that are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D

Dark green vegetables are another source of calcium.

If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your doctor will probably recommend a calcium supplement.

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