Despite what you might have read, thereâ€™s no established diet for lupus. Just as with any medical condition, you should aim to eat a healthy blend of foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, plant fats, lean proteins, and fish.
However, certain foods may be better than others for managing your symptoms. Keep reading to find out what to include in your diet.
Switch from red meat to fatty fish
Red meat is full of saturated fat, which can contribute to heart disease. Fish are high in omega-3s. Try to eat more:
- salmon tuna
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that help protect against heart disease and stroke. They can also reduce inflammation in the body.
Get more calcium-rich foods
The steroid drugs you may take to control lupus can thin your bones. This side effect makes you more vulnerable to fractures. To combat fractures, eat foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients strengthen your bones.
Calcium-rich foods include:
- low-fat milk
- yogurt tofu
- calcium-fortified plant milks
- dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli
Ask your doctor about taking a supplement if youâ€™re not getting enough calcium and vitamin D from food alone.
Limit saturated and trans fats
Everyoneâ€™s goal should be to eat a diet thatâ€™s low in saturated and trans fats. This is especially true for people with lupus. Steroids can increase your appetite and cause you to gain weight, so itâ€™s important to watch what you eat.
Try to focus on foods that will fill you up without filling you out, such as raw vegetables, air-popped popcorn, and fruit.
Avoid alfalfa and garlic
Alfalfa and garlic are two foods that probably shouldnâ€™t be on your dinner plate if you have lupus. Alfalfa sprouts contain an amino acid called L-canavanine. Garlic contains allicin, ajoene, and thiosulfinates, which can send your immune system into overdrive and flare up your lupus symptoms.
People whoâ€™ve eaten alfalfa have reacted with muscle pain and fatigue, and their doctors have noted changes on their blood test results.
Skip nightshade vegetables
Although there isnâ€™t any scientific evidence to prove it, some people with lupus find that theyâ€™re sensitive to nightshade vegetables. These include:
- white potatoes
- sweet and hot peppers
Keep a food diary to record what you eat. Eliminate any foods, including vegetables, that cause your symptoms to flare up every time you eat them.
Watch your alcohol intake
The occasional glass of red wine or beer isnâ€™t restricted. However, alcohol can interact with some of the medicines you take to control your condition. Drinking while taking NSAID drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Naprosyn), for example, could increase your risk of stomach bleeding or ulcers. Alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin) and may increase the potential liver side-effects of methotrexate.
Pass on salt
Set aside the saltshaker and start ordering your restaurant meals with less sodium. Here are some tips:
- order your sauces on the side, they are often high in sodium
- ask for your entrÃ©e to be cooked without added salt
- order an extra side of vegetables, which are rich in potassium
Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease, while potassium can help combat high blood pressure. Lupus already puts you at higher risk for developing heart disease.
Substitute other spices to enhance food flavor, such as:
- curry powder
A number of herbs and spices have been sold on the web as lupus symptom relievers. But there is very little evidence that any of them work.
These products can interact with drugs youâ€™re taking for lupus and cause side effects. Donâ€™t take any herbal remedy or supplement without first talking to your doctor.
Lupus affects each person differently. A diet change that works for one person may not work for you. Keeping a food journal and having an open dialogue with your doctor and dietitian will help you determine how different foods help or hurt your symptoms.