Lupus & Nutrition: Is There a Perfect "Lupus Diet?"
Updated: Sep 13
I know what you are thinking.
Really? Do we have to talk about dieting?
Fear not my faithful friends, before I lose you the answer is “no.” You are not about to spend your precious time reading a blog about calorie restriction and starvation. I, like most of the general population, do not like to diet. On the contrary, I like to eat. Why am I writing a diet blog, you ask? Let me clarify: First, there is a difference between the idea of eating nutritiously and "dieting" and second, if you are committed to living your best life with lupus, there are certain tools you need to strap to your lupus tool belt. Nutrition is one of the best assets you have and it is important to learn how to use it wisely for your benefit.
I will say (with much certainty) that over the 29 years of living with this illness, there are certain eating habits I know exacerbate my lupus symptoms. We are all unique creations with destined sensitivities, allergies, and things that we put into our body that simply do us more harm than good. Shaking your head "yes?" I thought so. See this isn’t so bad, right? This blog is not intended to tell you the nutritional formula that is exactly right for you, but rather to provide you with information and resources that hopefully you can take back to your doctor (and work together) to make the healthiest choices for your body and your disease.
Take a look at these popular “diet plans” that have been the talk of discussion recently in the lupus community. One might be a good fit for you, and just the answer you were looking for in your "lupus diet dilemma."
The Lupus Diet Plan
Even in 2020, many people are still unfamiliar with the critical role that nutrition can play in soothing and healing not only their lupus symptoms, but also the side effects of common lupus medications. Registered dietitian Laura Rellihan, who wrote “The Lupus Diet Plan,” found that to be the case after years of struggling with debilitating lupus symptoms. She discovered that through nutrition, she could dramatically improve how lupus affected her by simply changing what she ate. With The Lupus Diet Plan, she designed integrated meal plans, anti-inflammatory recipes, handy food lists, and over 100 simple and delicious recipes.
Her meal plans include:
The Basic Lupus Diet Meal Plan: A general anti-inflammatory diet plan
The Flare Soother Meal Plan: Treats symptom flares
The Kidney Care Meal Plan: Supports damaged kidneys with recipes low in sodium, fat and potassium.
Having read the book and having penned the foreword, I personally feel “The Lupus Diet Plan” is a must-have addition to your culinary and lupus book collection. This diet provides an excellent education into the science behind the food, while supporting the emotional journey with gratitude and wellness charts.
For more information on “The Lupus Diet Plan” please click here.
The DASH Diet
The DASH diet is a popular dietary pattern for those suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure) but has also become increasingly popular among those who have lupus and other inflammatory conditions that affect the cardiovascular system. Promoted by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, The DASH diet was voted the best diet for 2018 by TIME Magazine and is recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as one of its ideal eating plans.
The DASH Diet stands for for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Over 1 billion people are affected by hypertension, and in a recent lupus study, 40% of the women in the trial (under the age of 40) were considered to be hypertensive. This led researchers to create a diet plan that provided a large amount of particular nutrients that have been shown to protect individuals against the risk of increasing high blood pressure.
The diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods and also includes meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and beans. You will notice limited inclusion of sodium, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, red meat, and added fats.
Talk to your doctor about whether the DASH Diet is the right nutritional path for you, particularly if you suffer from high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes.
For more information on the “DASH Diet” please click here.
Have you ever visited Greece, or a surrounding area, and noticed the healthy eating habits of the Mediterranean people? Time to check out the “Mediterranean Diet” which gets its name from those countries that are linked to better health and longevity.
The Mediterranean Diet meal plan is high in fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy fatty foods like fish, nuts, and olive oil. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. Since cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in SLE, it is important to be proactive with protecting your heart.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on:
Mainly plant-based foods, whole grains, vegetables and fruits, legumes, and nuts
Eating healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
Using herbs and spices and eliminating salt
Limiting red meat consumption
Increasing fish and poultry consumption
Making mealtimes a relaxed and enjoyable experience of sharing and socialization, not just hurried stuffing
And even drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
This meal plan was also noted as a top diet by TIME Magazine. For more information on the “Mediterranean Diet” click here.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
This diet was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard-trained natural and preventative medicine physician and pioneer, who believes there is a clear connection between the foods we eat and the level of inflammation in our body. The anti-inflammatory diet is intended to provide prolonged energy, a variety of essential of vitamins and minerals, and important fatty acids needed to maintain your body’s optimum health.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet focuses on:
An increase of specific fruits and vegetables
A decrease of saturated and trans fats
A good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements and walnuts
A decrease in refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice
A variety of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat
Lean protein sources such as chicken
Decreasing red meat and full-fat dairy food intake
Avoiding refined foods and processed food.
Incorporating spices that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects such as ginger, curry, and turmeric
For more information on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet, click here.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet (paleolithic or ancient diet), is a diet based around everyday, modern foods that have been consumed throughout history by our hunter-gatherer ancestors for thousands of years, before the introduction of agriculture. It suggests several characteristics of diets that should help optimize health, minimize disease and help you maintain or lose weight.
The Paleo Diet focuses on these recommendations:
Higher protein intake (eat grass-fed meats, free-range chicken, wild-caught fish, and seafood)
Lower carbohydrate intake (eliminate grains, especially gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye)
Higher fiber intake (avoid all processed and refined foods, but focus nuts, seeds, and non-starchy vegetables)
Choose healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, coconut oil (avoid trans fat)
Higher potassium, lower sodium
No refined sugar
The interesting thing about The Paleo Diet is that it gives you the freedom to have up to 3 non-paleo meals per week. So you can have your dairy or pasta, just not all the time.
For more information on the Paleo Diet, click here.
*Note: morethanlupus.com is not endorsing any of the above mentioned diets. Furthermore, be cautious of any "guru" or book that says lupus can be "cured" by a diet, smoothie, supplement, or anything else. No scientific claims have been declared in research to cure lupus or stop the disease. The diets above are suggestions for you to discuss with your doctor. Always speak to a medical professional before drastically changing your eating habits or before starting any supplements or vitamins.
**All resources provided by this blog are for informational purposes only, not to replace the advice of a medical professional. Kelli encourages you to always contact your medical provider with any specific questions or concerns regarding your illness. All intellectual property and content on this site and in this blog is owned by morethanlupus.com. This includes materials protected by copyright, trademark, or patent laws. Copyright, More Than Lupus, 2020.
Updated, September 2020