A Look at Lupus Treatment Options


Alternative and Natural Medical Lupus Treatment

Mind-Body Treatments

According to Current Rheumatology Reports, “Mood disorders affect up to 65 percent of SLE patients over their lifetimes and the rate of psychiatric disorders are higher in SLE than in other chronic, inflammatory autoimmune diseases, such as RA and ankylosing spondylitis.”

Because of the high rates of mood disorders in lupus patients, mind-body treatments are often recommended by providers.

Not only are these mind-body interventions thought to be effective at improving the symptoms of mood disorders, they can also improve symptomology of lupus – “Mind–body interventions for SLE may be focused on reducing pain, stress, anxiety, and fatigue, and consist of skills training in physiologic relaxation, meditation, problem-solving, and assertive communication skills and identifying and modifying distorted or unhelpful thinking styles.”

Effective mind-body therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a specific type of therapy that improves the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Recently, it has been studies in patients with SLE and cutaneous lupus.  In 2010, 45 patients with SLE and cutaneous lupus each were assigned 10 sessions of CBT or to their usual medical care.  They were followed over the course of 15 months.  At the conclusion of 15 months, the group who was assigned CBT had reduced stress, depressive symptoms, and anxiety than that of the control group, although this did not lead to a reduction in exacerbations.
  • Meditation has been shown to improve immune function. In addition, those who have been trained in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which is an 8-session program that focuses heavily on meditation, seem to have a reduced psychological stress and pain in those with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.  There is, unfortunately, little research on the effect of meditation in those with lupus.
  • Yoga is known to help reduce stress – and it is well-known that stress promotes inflammation and increases pain! Yoga can also maintain limber joints.  Make sure that you take a yoga class with an instructor who is knowledgeable in modifications that may be necessary to ensure your safety.

Dietary Changes

The treatments discussed above are either traditional medical treatments or CAM treatments that directly treat lupus and/or the symptoms of lupus – research shows these treatments efficacy.

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But what about dietary changes?  Is there any merit to changing one’s diet to improve lupus?

These days, you can’t watch the news, flip through a magazine, or scroll through Facebook without seeing a news story or an advertisement about a new diet.  We’re quick to start the latest fad diet.

But then there’s the old adage – “You are what you eat.”

What if treating lupus was effective with a combination of all of the aforementioned treatments, as well as a well-planned diet?

Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus notes that two specific diets are trending in the “autoimmune world” right now – the anti-inflammatory diet and the Paleo diet.  Let’s take a look at both diets:

  • The anti-inflammatory diet is “intended to provide steady energy, plenty of vitamins and minerals, and the essential fatty acids needed to maintain optimum health.” This “diet” is designed to avoid inflammation in the body.  To put it simply, this diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish or supplements), whole grains, lean protein sources, full-fat dairy sources, and avoiding processed foods.
  • Paleo diet is “based around focusing on foods that have been eaten by humans for thousands of years during their evolution. Foods that existed before the introduction of agriculture. These foods are fresh and free of any added preservatives, mainly consisting of vegetables and meats.” Proponents of the Paleo diet believe that it heals the immune system.  In addition to a diet rich in vegetables and meats, healthy fats are included, while dairy products, sugar, and grains are eliminated.

What does science say about these two diet plans? Not a whole lot! These diets are very little research that indicates that either of these diets stops lupus from progressing or improves symptoms. However, you can discuss the diet plan (or another diet plan of your choosing) with your physician to ensure that it is “right” for you.

The Bottom Line…

There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting treatment for lupus. From traditional medicine for managing symptoms to alternative options for easy the mental and emotional health of living with lupus.

Generally, a traditional medication will be required to maintain health. Should you choose to supplement, ensure that what you select does not interact with your medications. 

If you’re interested in trying a different type of medication or treatment option for your lupus, be sure to consult your doctor first before beginning or taking anything new. Working closely with your health care team will help you find the right treatment and cater towards your symptoms and to prevent further complications lupus may bring.

While living with lupus isn’t always easy, it’s important to not give up.

Resources

Johns Hopkins Medicine (Treating Lupus with DHEA)

Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus (Alternative Lupus Treatments and Therapies)

Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus (The Paleo and Anti-Inflammatory Diet: What You Should Know)

Mayo Clinic (Lupus – Diagnosis & Treatment)

The National Resource Center on Lupus (Lupus Facts and Statistics)

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (Updated Review of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatments for Systemic Lupus Erythematous)

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Alternative Treatments for Lupus

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Though they won't cure you, there are alternative treatments for lupus you can use that may help with symptoms and help you cut down on your medication.
by Anna Scanlon on April 26, 2016
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