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Lupus Diet and Nutrition


Combatting the Side Effects of Medications

A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can help counteract the bone-damaging effects of corticosteroids.

Diet can also be helpful in combatting other drug side effects. For example, a low-sodium diet can help reduce fluid retention and lower blood pressure, which can be elevated with corticosteroid use.

A diet high in folic acid, such as found in leafy green vegetables, fruits, and fortified breads and cereals, or a folic acid supplement is important if you are taking methotrexate (Rheumatrex). For nausea caused by medications, eat small frequent meals and foods that are easy to digest. Try dry cereals, breads, and crackers. Also avoid greasy, spicy, and acidic foods.

If corticosteroid or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Naprosyn, Alleve) cause stomach upset and irritation, taking them with meals may help. But let your doctor know that you are having some stomach upset from the drugs.


Helping Achieve or Maintain a Healthy Weight

Lupus may be associated with unhealthy weight loss or weight gain. So eating to achieve a healthy weight is important.

Weight loss and poor appetite, common among people recently diagnosed with lupus, can result from the illness itself. It can also result from medications that cause stomach upset or mouth sores. Weight gain can be the result of inactivity. It can also be caused by the corticosteroids used to control the disease.

If weight loss or gain is a problem, it is important to speak with your doctor or nurse. The doctor or nurse can assess your diet and suggest a program to help control your weight. The program will probably include a low-fat diet and exercise. A registered dietitian can help you design a diet specifically for your needs and lifestyle.

Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease

People with lupus have higher risk of heart disease compared to the general population. That makes a heart-healthy diet an important part of a lupus treatment plan.

If your doctor finds you have risk factors for heart disease -- including high blood pressure or high cholesterol-- a low-fat diet and exercise may help. Your doctor may prescribe a low-sodium diet for high blood pressure.

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oils may improve some risk factors for heart disease like high triglycerides and blood pressure. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • mackerel
  • bluefish
  • herring
  • mullet
  • tuna
  • halibut
  • lake trout
  • rainbow trout
  • ground flaxseed
  • walnuts
  • pecans
  • canola oil, walnut oil, and flaxseed oil

These foods should be a part of a heart-healthy meal plan.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 21, 2013
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