Lupus is a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease that affects the blood and connective tissue. It is uncommon, complex and poorly understood condition that affects many parts of the body and causes many different symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition, which means that it is caused by problems with the immune system (the body’s natural defence against illness and infection).
In people with lupus, for reasons that are not clearly understood, the immune system starts to attack healthy cells, tissue and organs. As with other more common autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, it is thought that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are responsible for triggering the onset of lupus in certain people.
Types of lupus
There are several types of lupus. The main types are:
- Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) – this is a mild form of lupus that only affects the skin. It causes symptoms such as red, circular, scaly marks on the skin that can thicken and scar, hair loss, permanent bald patches. DLE can be helped by avoiding exposure to direct sunlight. DLE usually only affects the skin but, in some cases, it can progress to the body’s tissues and organs.
- Drug-induced lupus – there are over 100 medications that are known to cause lupus-like side effects in certain people. Lupus caused by medication is known as drug-induced lupus.
Stopping the course of medication will usually help to resolve the symptoms of drug-induced lupus. If you are concerned that your medication may be causing lupus-like side effects, discuss the issue with your licensed practitioner. However, do not suddenly stop taking any prescribed medication without first checking with your GP.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) – this is a type of lupus that can affect most of the body’s tissues and organs. SLE is what most people mean when they use the term “lupus”. The rest of this article will focus on SLE.
How common is lupus?
SLE is an uncommon condition, with 90% of cases occurring in women. Most cases of SLE first begin in women who are of childbearing age (between the ages of 15 and 50).
There are marked differences in how widespread SLE is among different ethnic groups. For example, in the UK:
- one in every 5,000 white women will develop SLE
- one in every 1,000 women of Chinese origin will develop SLE
- one in every 625 African Caribbean women will develop SLE
The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans, and at least five million people worldwide, have a form of lupus.
Many people will experience long periods of time with few or no symptoms before suddenly experiencing a sudden flare-up where their symptoms are particularly severe.
However, even mild cases of SLE can have a considerable impact on a person’s quality of life because many of the symptoms, particularly chronic fatigue, can be distressing and cause feelings of depression and anxiety.
SLE can sometimes cause a range of serious complications, such as kidney and heart disease, and the treatment may make a person vulnerable to serious infections.
The symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can vary from person to person. Some people with the condition may only experience a few mild symptoms, whereas others may be more severely affected.
The three primary symptoms of SLE are:
- fatigue – one of the most common symptoms of SLE. You may feel very tired even though you get plenty of sleep. Carrying out everyday tasks, such as household chores or office work, can leave you feeling exhausted. Many people with SLE have reported that fatigue is the most distressing and disruptive aspect of SLE because it has a negative impact on their work and social life.
- joint pain – If you have SLE, you are most likely to experience joint pain in your hands and feet. You may find that the pain changes from one set of joints to another quite quickly. However, unlike some other conditions that affect the joints, SLE is unlikely to cause your joints to become permanently damaged or deformed.
- skin rashes – In people with SLE, skin rashes most commonly develop on the face, wrists and hands. A rash over the cheeks and the bridge of the nose is particularly common and is known as a “butterfly rash”. Skin rashes that are caused by SLE may be permanent and can be made worse with exposure to sunlight. This is known as photosensitivity.
As well as the primary symptoms, SLE can also cause a number of other symptoms. However, if you have SLE it is unlikely that you will have all of the symptoms listed below, and many people with the condition will only experience the primary symptoms.
Other symptoms of SLE may include:
- high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
- swollen lymph glands (small, bean-shaped glands that are found throughout your body, including in your neck, armpits and groin)
- recurring mouth ulcers
- hair loss (alopecia)
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- dry eyes
- memory loss
- anaemia – a condition where a lack of red, oxygen-carrying blood cells can cause fatigue and shortness of breath
- Raynaud’s phenomenon – a condition that limits the blood supply to your hands and feet when it is cold
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune condition, which means it is caused by problems with the immune system.
The immune system is the body’s natural defence against illness and infection. When the immune system detects the presence of an infectious agent, such as a virus or bacteria, it sends specialist cells called antibodies to kill the agent.
However, in cases of SLE, antibodies released by the immune system start to attack healthy tissue, cells and organs.
Most experts think that SLE does not have just one cause. They argue that there may be a number of genetic factors that make people more susceptible to developing SLE. However, it also takes one or more environmental factors to trigger the onset of SLE in people with an existing genetic susceptibility.
Possible genetic and environmental factors are discussed in more detail below.
It is believed that the genes that you inherit from your parents make you more susceptible to SLE for two main reasons:
- If you have an identical twin with SLE you have an estimated one-in-four chance of developing the condition yourself.
- Rates of SLE vary widely among different ethnic groups.
Researchers have identified a number of different genetic mutations that seem to make people more susceptible to developing SLE.
A genetic mutation occurs when the normal instructions that are carried in certain genes become “scrambled”, resulting in the body’s processes not working normally.
Most of the mutated genes are associated with regulating certain functions of the immune system, which may explain why the immune system in people with SLE starts to malfunction.
Also, some of the mutated genes are contained in the X chromosome. Chromosomes are large blocks of genetic information. Men only have one X chromosome (and one Y chromosome) whereas women have a pair of X chromosomes.
Therefore, women are twice as likely to receive one of the mutated genes. Along with hormonal factors, this may partly explain why SLE is much more common in women than men.
A number of environmental factors may be responsible for triggering the onset of SLE in vulnerable individuals.
There is limited to moderate evidence to suggest that the following factors may be responsible:
- exposure to sunlight
- hormonal changes that occur during a woman’s lifetime, such as during puberty or pregnancy
- medications can trigger drug-induced lupus
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has also been suggested as a possible cause of SLE. However, EBV is a common viral infection that does not usually cause any symptoms at all and in some people can cause glandular fever.
Eat an organic, whole foods diet and avoid potentially allergy-causing foods, especially sugar, wheat, milk, and dairy products, including yogurt. Also avoid excess consumption of fruit, especially citrus and sour, as these foods may aggravate symptoms.
Other things to consider:
- Do not consume any artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, NutraSweet or Aspartame
- Do not consume high fructose corn syrup or mono-sodium glutamate.
- Do not drink any carbonated beverages.
- Avoid all fast food restaurants.
- Avoid all canned food.
- Eliminate conventional dairy products. The best dairy products are raw, unpasteurised and homogenised dairy from grass fed cows. If this is unavailable, then buy organic dairy.
- Avoid conventional beef. The best beef is organic grass fed beef. The second best is organic meat; this includes beef, veal, lamb, chicken and turkey. Check out www.grasslandbeef.com.
Whole foods are beneficial and vegetables should be increased, especially those which are green, yellow and orange. Try and consume fish several times a week. Avoid over-eating (more frequent but smaller meals are recommended.)
According to Leon Chaltow ND, OD, hydrochloric acid deficiency is common in people with lupus. Supplementation with meals can help or stimulation of natural production can be achieved by careful use of specific herbs such as the “Swedish Bitters” combination – http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/articles/sweden/Swedish-Bitters-Uses-Benefits-Side-Effects/4752
Other supplements known to help are:
- Vitamin A with beta carotene
- Vitamin C and bioflavonoids
- Vitamin B complex
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Essential fatty acids such as Omega 3s: Krill oil – ; Fish oil ; Cod liver oil –www.drrons.com
- Proteolytic enzymes taken away from meals
- Digestive enzymes taken with meals
- Amino acids L-cysteine, L-methionine, and L-cystine.
Prescription and non-prescription medication:
What non-prescription and prescription drugs are you taking? Your non-prescription and prescription are partially the reason that you have this illness or disease – you need to get off these medications, but do so only under the guidance of a licensed health care practitioner.
We know that when the body is out of balance, energy doesn’t flow, leading blockages and eventually disease. Here are some things you can do to combat stress and restore balance:
- Go to a Dr. Morter BEST (Bio-Energetic Synchronisation Technique) Practitioner.
- Sign up for Energetic Re-Balancing: 2 practitioners to consider are:
Stephen Lewis, founder of the Aim Program. Find out more by clicking here.
. Find out more by clicking here.
- Consider using Mary Millers Iching System Products – ichingsystemsinstruments.com
- Reiki healing is very powerful in releasing stress and emotional baggage. Find a practitioner here.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has had remarkable results in dissolving stress. Find a local practitioner here or go to www.thetappingsolution.com or www.tftrx.com
- Try Hypnotherapy to relax the mind. Find a practitioner here.
- Alphabiotics www.alphabiotics.biz
Lupus and Homeopathy: www.empowher.com/lupus/content/lupus-and-homeopathy
Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Lupus: www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_magazineback.aspx?articleid=1734&zoneid=67
Treating lupus naturally: www.raysahelian.com/lupus.html
Home remedies for lupus: www.homeremedycentral.com/en/natural-cures/home-remedy/lupus.html
Natural therapies for lupus: www.naturaltherapypages.co.uk/article/Lupus
Lupus and the success of herbal medicine: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHgnp1Y4bJw
Lupus and natural cures: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyGzDMMah_8
Lupus and the raw food diet: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kf961FrLn4
Natural treatment for lupus rash: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0za566TlzSM
Ingredient in plastics may trigger lupus: www.newswise.com/articles/view/513121/
The use of herbs in treating lupus: www.healthy.net/scr/article.aspx?Id=1349
Alfalfa shows promise in healing lupus: www.naturalnews.com/034740_alfalfa_cholesterol_lupus.html
Lupus and homeopathy: lupuslupus.tribe.net/thread/0d89457a-5f66-4ef4-af55-c69047f6ac73
Further Information (links and books)
The Lupus Recovery Diet: A Natural Approach to Autoimmune Disease by Jill Harrington; Lupus: Alternative Therapies That Work by Sharon Moore; Connective Tissue Diseases: Holistic Therapy Options by Hannelore Helbing-Sheafe Ph.D;
Andrea Butje | Aromahead [email protected] – Aromatherapy
Carrie Vitt [email protected] – Organic food recipes.
David Spector-NSR/USA [email protected] – Meditation, stress
Judith Hoad [email protected] – Herbalist.
Kath May [email protected] – Reiki, tai chi.
Lillian Bridges [email protected] – Chinese medicine, living naturally.
Monika [email protected] – Aromatherapy.
Rakesh [email protected]feStyles.com – Ayurvedic practitioner.