As a disease, Lupus doesn’t receive as much media attention as other autoimmune disorders, like multiple sclerosis and celiac disease. However, it is more common than many might think, with 200,000 cases in the United States each year. When first diagnosed with Lupus, it’s natural to be worried and perhaps even a little scared. Lupus can vary wildly in terms of its symptoms and severity, and it is a disease without a cure. The most basic definition of the disease’s effects is that it causes the sufferer’s immune system to attack the body’s tissue. But how this manifests can either be severe or somewhat milder and easier to deal with, depending on a lot of different factors. Lupus sufferers rarely have the same levels of symptoms throughout their lifetime. Rather, they have flare-ups over time that will change the severity of the patient’s condition. It is an inflammatory disease, and most commonly will affect the joints, skin, and internal organs. The fact that Lupus can affect so many different parts of the body also changes its degrees of symptoms. Furthermore, there are actually four different types of the disease.
Most commonly, when people discuss Lupus, they’re thinking of systemic Lupus, which is the most widespread form. The other forms include cutaneous Lupus, which targets the skin rather than the entire body, neonatal Lupus, rare form of the disease which only affects the infants of women who carry the disease, and drug-induced Lupus. The latter form is technically a disease that is like Lupus rather than Lupus itself and is induced by certain prescription drugs. When dealing with systemic Lupus, there are a variety of different treatments that essentially treat the symptoms, as a cure is unavailable. Lupus is a disease that therefore must be managed over the course of a lifetime. As is the case with many chronic illnesses, an individual’s diet can affect how the disease manifests. While all dietary choices of Lupus patients should be made with a doctor’s advice in mind, there are steps that you can take to make your diet more Lupus-friendly. With that being said, let’s look into some of the foods that work best for Lupus patients. While a specific lifestyle change won’t make the disease go away, having the best diet for Lupus patients possible can make life a lot easier.
1. Calcium-Rich Foods
When researching the best diet for Lupus patients, you’ll quickly realize that calcium-rich foods are great additions to your overall meal-planning process. The reason why Lupus patients should stock up on their calcium is not so much due to the disease’s symptoms, as it is due to the medications that Lupus patients tend to take. Many Lupus patients are prescribed steroids to help fight the disease. While steroids have a lot of benefits for Lupus patients, they also have some negative side effects, in particular the thinning of the bones. The thinner your bones become, the more likely you will be to suffer from random fractures. Therefore, you should eat foods that have high levels of calcium and vitamin D in order to strengthen your bones and combat this particular side effect. Fortunately, it’s not overly difficult to add foods that are high in calcium to your overall diet. You’re probably already eating foods with a good deal of calcium now; you’ll just want to raise their levels. This will not only benefit your bones but also help you if you’re dealing with thinning hair or highly breakable fingernails as well.
Foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D would include cheese, tofu, yogurt, beans, low-fat milk, and dark, leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli. Of course, some of these foods may clash against health issues that you’re already dealing with. if you’re lactose-intolerant, you may worry about upping your intake of milk and dairy-based products. Fortunately, there are alternatives, like calcium-fortified plant milks. Furthermore, as vegan cheeses become more popular, you may be able to seek out calcium-fortified plant-based cheeses as well. You don’t have to go out of your way to drink a lot of milk and eat many different cheeses independent of other ingredients, either. For example, having a Margherita pizza allows you to take in calcium due to the cheese toppings; you don’t have to eat that cheese on its own unless you want it to. You can just put more thought into the foods that you’re choosing.
2. Replace Salt With Healthier Alternatives
A lot of the foods that you should avoid while formulating the best diet for Lupus patients are foods that you should be cutting out of your diet, at least as much as possible, anyway. You’ve probably already heard that you should be cutting down on the amount of salt that you’re putting into your body. Too much sodium isn’t good for anyone, and it can actually put you at a higher risk for heart disease. Lupus already endangers the heart in this sense, and therefore you should take extra care to prevent heart disease. Of course, salt is a major part of a lot of different recipes, which leaves people wondering what they should choose as salt alternatives.
It’s really all about getting creative, not just in terms of cutting down on salt but in terms of creating the best diet for Lupus patients in general. You can cut down on salt itself by remembering to ask for sauces on the side of your meal at restaurants and requesting your foods without salt whenever possible. But when cooking at home, you can add other foods and seasonings for additional flavor when going without salt. For example, while lemon doesn’t mimic salt, it does bring out savory flavors in foods much like salt does. Pepper is used in conjunction with salt, and you can certainly still use it while dealing with Lupus. Many cultures have always used seasonings like curry powder and turmeric instead of salt, and you can choose them while creating the best diet for Lupus patients. It’s really about improvising when it comes to dealing with many diets made to deal with adult diseases, and diets for Lupus are no exceptions.
3. Choose Fatty Fish Over Red Meat
You can still be a meat eater and a sufferer of Lupus. But you might have to change the types of meats that you consume, ideally as soon after you receive the positive test for the anti Smith antibody that indicates that you have Lupus as possible. Red meat can be a problem for those attempting to create the best diet for Lupus patients, much for the same reasons that salt can be an issue. Red meat is often full of saturated fight. As this can be another contributing factor to heart disease, Lupus patients are often instructed to avoid red meat. Getting rid of red meat may seem like a big sacrifice for meat lovers, but you should actually up your intake of fatty fish, which can be a great replacement. This is because these fish have high levels of omega-3s, which are good for sufferers of Lupus.
Omega-3s offer a number of different benefits. They’re often taken by those who have to consider their eye care more than others due to macular degeneration and other eye diseases. But you don’t have to take supplements to get those benefits if you add fatty fishes to your diet. If you haven’t eaten a lot of fish in the past, you have a world of great meals ahead of you. You can increase your intake of tuna through tuna salad and tuna sandwiches, or utilize tuna steaks as alternatives to the typical beef steaks. Tuna steaks can be grilled like beef steaks, and seasoned similarly as well. Mackerel and sardines are also fatty fishes that are flavorful, and can also take on the flavors that are added to them. Of course, the classic fatty fish that is considered both delicious and indulgent is salmon. Salmon can be extremely flavorful, and put over salad or pasta, or eaten by itself or with a side of vegetables. Salmon can be cooked in the pan, baked in the oven, or tossed on the grill. You can get creative with different types of fish, and make some beautiful meals that won’t feel like replacements for anything that you gave up.
4. Choose Filling Vegetables
Everyone should choose vegetables as much as possible, of course. This isn’t just something that people should do if they’re looking for the best diet for Lupus patients. But Lupus patients often have to deal with a higher level of hunger than the average person, due to the steroids they often are prescribed. Of course, if you eat too much of certain types of foods, like those with trans fats, you can rapidly gain a large amount of weight and perhaps become overweight, which is unhealthy. Again, as Lupus patients are at a high risk of developing heart disease, this is particularly unhealthy for them. But it can be difficult to stave off your hunger if you’re eating food that is less than filling, which is why some vegetables are better for Lupus patients looking to stay fulfilled than others. No matter what, the best diet for Lupus patients will include raw vegetables; but it should also be satisfying to live off of.The reason why a lot of vegetables are less filling than other types of food is that many of them are largely made up of water. For example, iceberg lettuce is more water than it is anything nutritious. In contrast, broccoli is highly fibrous, while also offering the benefits of being anti-inflammatory while lowering your risk of heart disease. This makes it a great vegetable for Lupus patients to eat, while also filling them up. Artichokes are also very dense and fibrous, and it offers benefits for the skin, which is, as previously mentioned, a problem point for Lupus patients. Another fibrous option that should be included on the best diet for Lupus patient is the pea. Peas are not only fibrous but full of protein. This means that they can help combat the patient’s reduction in red meat consumption. A lot of plant-based meat substitute meals utilize pea powder for this reason. Carrots can be eaten by Lupus patients who are trying to eat more raw vegetables, as they’re particularly delicious and satisfying while eaten raw; and they can be dipped in yogurt, upping their calcium intake. Carrots also are sweet, replacing some of the fattier, sweeter options that Lupus patients should stay away from. Another sweet vegetable that Lupus patients should consider is the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are also rich in fiber, and they’re full of antioxidants. With that being said, those that are looking to get health benefits out of sweet potatoes should keep the skin on, as that’s where the nutrients lie.
Lupus doesn’t have to be a devastating diagnosis. Yet even though Lupus patients don’t often have to visit a 24 hour urgent care center due to their symptoms, it still causes some anxiety for patients, understandably. There are a lot of different options available for people who want to live full and positive lives while dealing with Lupus. Many of the steps to becoming healthy while dealing with Lupus are really about making lifestyle changes, rather than attacking the disease itself. Choosing the best diet for Lupus patients is the first step to living with Lupus, rather than worrying about Lupus constantly.
In a lot of ways, the lifestyle changes that Lupus patients have to make are changes that lead to a healthier life overall. While the best diet for Lupus patients may not be the diet you always imagined living with, it’s a diet with a lot of different benefits that will have long-term positive consequences. Really, it’s a diet that people without Lupus should emulate as well. You’re allowed to be daunted by a Lupus diagnosis. Just don’t let it hold you back!