Worldwide, over 5 million people are estimated to have lupus. Lupus is most common in women of childbearing age, and is more common in the non-Caucasian population. It is an autoimmune condition that affects multiple body systems, and the tell-tale physical sign is a ‘butterfly’ rash across the face.
What is lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune condition where the immune system, which normally should combat foreign substances like germs and viruses, but in the case of lupus it causes all sorts of unwanted symptoms.
Lupus has the following symptoms:
- Pain or swelling in joints
- Muscle pain
- Fever with no known cause
- Red rashes, most often on the face (the characteristic butterfly rash)
- Chest pain when taking a deep breath
- Hair loss
- Pale or purple fingers or toes (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Sensitivity to the sun
- Swelling in legs or around eyes
- Mouth ulcers
- Swollen glands
- Feeling very tired.
Due to something called overlap disease (source), lupus can also present with other autoimmune symptoms more characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma such as:
- Rheumatoid nodules
- Joint pain
- Systemic involvement
What are conventional treatments for lupus?
Medications are used to manage this autoimmune disease and help prevent flares, lessen the severity of flares, and treat the symptoms of lupus. No conventional medication claims to cure or reverse lupus.
Common rheumatoid arthritis medications include:
- OTC NSAIDs like ibuprofen and Naproxen. These medications are nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, and reduce inflammation and the role that inflammation has in lupus symptoms such as pain, swelling, and stiffness. Their side effects include increased blood pressure, stomach irritation, ulcers, and stomach bleeding in extreme cases. They are one of the first medications used for RA, and the risks and benefits are evaluated by the treating doctors.
- Prescription NSAIDs are stronger medications prescribed by doctors, again, after weighing the risks and benefits. They also have side effects as the NSAIDS above, and also increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Antimilarials, part of the class of medications called DMARDs (Disease Modifying AntiRhumatic Drugs) such as Plaquenil are used to treat lupus-related skin problems, muscle and joint pain, and swelling around the heart (pericarditis). It is not known how they work. Side effects include: Nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, headache
- MAbS, Benlysta, is the first drug developed specifically for lupus. It suppresses antibodies in people with lupus, but as it came out in 2011, long-term studies have not been done with it yet.
- Immunosupressants such as Imuran, methotrexate, and Cytoxan are used when other drugs have failed to control the symptoms of lupus since they have moderate to severe side effects including: Liver damage, hair loss, increased risk of cancer, increased risk of infection.
- Steroids are used as injections or pill, especially during flares. Potential long-term side effects include high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
Are conventional treatments for lupus working well?
In short, no. In talking with anyone who suffers from lupus, you will quickly become aware of the cycle of doctor’s visits, increase in medications, changing medications, side effects from medication, and skin issues, other body system issues, fatigue, and illness.
Conventional doctors do not know the cause of lupus, and so focus on treating the symptoms (inflammation and immunity).
Below we will learn more about leaky gut and joints, and it is important to note that NSAIDs are linked with gut permeability, which means that even the first conventional treatment for lupus used will further exacerbate the leaky gut problem. (source)
**As always, remember that I am just a mom, not a medical professional. This information below is based on what I have read about the gut-disease connection, and based on experiences that my readers have emailed me**
How does what I eat have anything to do with my Lupus?
There are a few ways that the gut is associated with an autoimmune condition such as lupus.
As we know, the body systems are all connected and work with each other in our body.
The air we breathe in oxygenates all of our cells, and if we’re breathing in dirty air, or air that doesn’t contain enough oxygen, our lungs won’t work properly, they will get damaged, and our cells won’t be oxygenated well enough. In the same way if we eat poor food laced with chemicals, and without the nutrition we need our gut will be damaged and our whole body will suffer.
- First, the gut (and really our whole body) is lined with a colony of bacteria. When the body is healthy and working well, we have beneficial bacteria that keep the opportunistic pathogenic bacteria held back. The beneficial bacteria also work with the wall of the gut to make enzymes for food digestion, stimulate cell regeneration, and help with immune function.
- Our good bacteria are able to crowd out the bad bacteria before they take root, much like a ground cover in your yard crowds out the weeds and prevents them from taking hold. When this balance of good-to-bad bacteria is off, the bad bacteria take over our guts.
- With this, the bad bacteria actually secrete chemicals as part of their metabolic process. These chemicals go through the gut wall and into the bloodstream, and can trigger inflammation as the body protects itself from the offending foods.
- Second, lack of nutrients being absorbed by your gut create nutrient deficiencies in your body. When the body does not have the nutrients it needs to run the all-powerful brain, some systems get out of whack.
- Third, because so much of the detoxification system of our body is housed in our gut, when our gut health is not in good shape, we get a backup of toxins. Like the pathogenic bacteria, these toxins can once again re-enter the bloodstream, and affect our brain. In a healthy gut mild toxin exposure is easily accommodated for by the body, but in a damaged gut, we are unable to detoxify as well.
Don’t miss out: Free presentation: How to Turn Off Your Autoimmunity — and Restore a Healthy Immune System, this coming Wednesday. Click here to sign up for free.
How did our guts get so messed up?
Eating more and more processed foods, antibiotics being prescribed so often, toxins in our water, fluoride in our toothpaste, lack of the fats needed to build cells, chemicals sprayed in the air to give it a ‘fresh clean scent’, pollution… It’s a wonder that we’re still here! Our skyrocketing chronic conditions are telling us THIS IS NOT WORKING.
We need to change. While a round of antibiotics might have been life-saving for your great-grandpa, it has detrimental effects on gut health, and over generations, our microbiome has become too compromised. We need to be careful with what we eat, what we breathe, and what we’re exposed to. This didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t be fixed overnight, but we can start taking the steps to change right now.
So I want to heal my gut and get rid of autoimmunity rather than making it with increasing doses of pharmaceutical drugs – where do I start?
There are some natural supplements that have been used to help with rheumatoid arthritis. I don’t have personal experience with these, and I am not a medical professional, please check with your doctor before discontinuing or starting new supplements or medications.
We also need to make healthy changes to our homes and reduce our toxic load – these are pretty basic steps but can make a big difference. Click here to get a free printable checklist for a 30-day plan to get this started in simple steps
Next, we try an elimination diet. It’s so common that removing foods that often are allergy-causing, inflammation-causing, and cause a leaky gut. Removing dairy and/or gluten will most often relieve symptoms drastically. And then we can work our way back to really healing our gut with the GAPS diet. (click here for more information on working backwards to the GAPS diet)
Then once we are stabilized and eliminating common allergens from our diet, we can work on restoring gut flora balance and healing the gut. Most importantly, we clean up the gut. (click here for the GAPS intro diet for gut healing and sealing)
Probiotics can help, be sure to go slow (see how to introduce high quality probiotics here) – we’ll be introducing these beneficial bacteria, which will in turn kill off the bad ones – when this happens we can experience a rush of symptoms, so it’s important to go slowly (these are the probiotics that I use)
When the gut flora is balanced, we should crave healthy food, have our immune system in check, and feel nourished.
Want more info?
Learn more about naturally healing the gut to fix autoimmune problems like lupus in this engaging and informative webinar by my friends Jordan and Steve that airs next Wednesday. Sign up for free here!
Other posts in this series
Let me tell you exactly why all the problems start in the gut!
( photo credit)