Alternative and Natural Medical Lupus Treatment
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is “a set of health systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered to be part of conventional medicine. CAM consists of natural products (vitamins, herbs, and supplements), mind and body medicine, and manipulation and other body-based practices, as well as alternative medical systems such as traditional Chinese medicine, ayurvedic medicine, and homeopathy.”
It has been estimated that upwards of 50 percent of lupus patients utilize or have utilized CAM therapies to reduce the symptoms associated with lupus. However, there are few research studies to indicate the effectiveness of CAM for lupus.
If you’re reading this and are wondering, “There’s gotta be something else out there for me!” but at the same time are thinking, “Alternative therapies may be a bit too weird,” you should know that CAM therapies are utilized heavily in not just lupus patients, but in the general population and they are no longer weird.
As we’ve already discussed, at least 50 percent of lupus patients utilize CAM therapies, 40 percent of adults in the US are actively using a CAM therapy, and 70 percent will use a CAM therapy at some point in their life.
That being said, that doesn’t mean you should go out and utilize every type of treatment available!
Here’s a review of several of the most prevalent and promising CAM therapies.
We know that you’ve already been prescribed medications to treat lupus, but there are several supplements that may be beneficial to your health:
- Vitamin D has been found to be deficient in many people in general- but even more so in patients with lupus. A Hungarian study evaluated 177 patients with lupus and found that 82 percent – yes, over three-quarters of the study participants – suffered from low vitamin D levels. In an Egyptian study, researchers believe that vitamin D supplementation “may improve disease activity and modulate proinflammatory and hemostatic markers.” Also, for a variety of conditions. According to Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus, “In recent testing, high doses of vitamin D were safe and appeared to temper some of the destructive immune system responses believed to cause lupus. Research is pointing to an immune-regulating role for vitamin D.”
- Omega-3 fatty acids/fish oil is useful in the general population because it has been established to be cardioprotective and have anti-inflammatory effects – both of which are also a boon to our lupus patients. In one research study, study participants were given fish oil supplements daily for 24 weeks. At the completion of the study, Systemic Lupus Activity Measure-Revised (SLAM-R) had declined significantly, indicating an improvement in functioning.
- Turmeric is a popular spice – but it can also be used as a supplement. In fact, it has been used for years to treat a variety of conditions but has only recently gain traction as a reputable treatment. Curcumin is the active component in turmeric. Turmeric is known to “inhibit tumor growth, inflammatory cytokine production, and inflammatory bowel disease, and curcumin can lower cholesterol and enhance wound healing.” An Iranian study evaluated the usage of turmeric in lupus patients, specifically those with relapsing or refractory lupus nephritis. The control group noticed no differences, while the patients who were given turmeric were noted to have a reduction in proteinuria, systolic blood pressure, and hematuria.
- Flaxseed contains a component called alpha-linolenic acid. Alpha-linolenic acid is a fatty acid that may reduce inflammation in the body. In people with lupus, this supplement is thought to be beneficial, especially for lupus nephritis, which is kidney inflammation that is related to lupus.
- Vitamin A is also beneficial in reducing inflammation in the body – specifically the intestines, skin, and lungs. People who are deficient in vitamin A may also have inflammatory bowel disease, acne, and lung diseases. It is a known antioxidant that is often found in milk, liver, and fortified foods. It has a special relationship with beta-carotene – beta-carotene is turned into vitamin A in the body.
- Vitamin E is another of the alphabet vitamins that is thought to be helpful in treating lupus. However, the verdict is still out – the studies have only been performed on animals. That being said, alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E, is thought to prevent heart disease because it prevents the release of inflammatory substances that are known to cause heart damage.
- Boswellia extract is an ancient medicinal treatment. In fact, the active ingredient in Boswellia extract is frankincense, which is known in the Bible as a gift to the baby Jesus. Frankincense is a known anti-inflammatory agent because it reduces the body’s production of leukotrienes. It has successfully treated inflammation in lupus, as well as Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.
Acupuncture has been highly evaluated in various chronic illnesses, but few studies have evaluated the effect on lupus patients.
One study did evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture for the reduction in pain and fatigue in SLE patients. The study assigned participants to continue their usual medical care as well as 10 sessions of acupuncture and 10 sessions minimal needling, where needles were inserted into the skin in areas that were not known to be acupuncture points.
The study found that both acupuncture and minimal needling had a reduction in pain – 40 percent and 30 percent respectively. Why? Researchers suspect that when “needles are inserted can elicit a non-specific analgesic effect  or because treatment did not last long enough.”
It is reasonable to believe that acupuncture is a safe treatment for pain and fatigue, but that further studies are needed for evaluation.
Next page: More natural and alternative lupus treatments, dietary changes and more.