Most people who are diagnosed with lupus, and those who know someone affected by this condition, appreciate that it can be a challenging process for both the patient and their provider. Typically, a diagnosis is made by a rheumatologist skilled at diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and joint diseases after a complete full physical examination and multiple specialty blood tests. Some patients are fortunate to go into remission with standard medical treatment, but, more and more patients are turning to natural remedies to help control daily symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect many of the body’s organs. It is an autoimmune disease- meaning it occurs when the immune mechanism forms antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues. Many experts believe that it is due to an as-yet-unidentified virus. According to this theory, the immune system develops antibodies in response to the virus that then attack the body’s own organs and tissues. This produces the inflammation commonly seen in the skin, blood vessels, joints, and other tissues. Heredity and sex hormones are two other possible factors in the development of this condition.
This disease was named lupus, which means “wolf” because many people who got it developed a butterfly-shaped rash over the cheeks and nose that was considered to give them something of a wolf-like appearance. In fact, rashes may appear on different parts of the body as well, such as the chest, ears, hands, shoulders, and upper arms. At least 90 percent of those who contract lupus are women. Lupus usually develops between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five, although it may occur at any age.
TYPES OF LUPUS
There are two types of lupus: systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE). As the name implies, SLE is a systemic disease that affects many different parts of the body. The severity can range from mild to life-threatening. The first symptoms of SLE resemble those of arthritis, with swelling and joint pain in the fingers and other joints. The disease may also appear suddenly, with acute fever. The characteristic red rash may appear across the cheeks, or there may be red, scaly lesions elsewhere on the body. Sores may also form in the mouth. Other symptoms may include abdominal and chest pains, blood in the urine, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, shortness of breath, and weight loss, making the diagnosis difficult since it resembles many other symptoms related to other more common diseases. The lungs and kidneys are often involved as well. Approximately 50 percent of those with SLE develop inflammation of the kidneys. In more severe cases, the brain, lungs, spleen, and heart may be affected.
Discoid type of lupus is a less serious disease that primarily affects the skin. The characteristic butterfly rash forms over the nose and cheeks. There may be lesions in other areas of the body also, commonly on the scalp and ears, which may persist for years. Both types of lupus follow a pattern of periodic flare-ups alternating with periods of remission. Excess exposure to the sun may result in a flare-up of DLE and may even induce the first attack. Other contributing factors may include fatigue, chronic stress, unidentified viral infections, and certain prescription medications may also trigger a flare-up.
According to the American Rheumatism Association, four of the following eight symptoms must occur, before a diagnosis of lupus can be made:
- abnormal cells in the urine
- butterfly rash on the cheeks
- low white blood cell count or low platelet count
- mouth sores
- sun sensitivity
- ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) test positive
STANDARD MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR LUPUS
There are many different treatment options used for lupus. Anti-inflammatory drugs are usually used first. Even the recently publicized antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) may alleviate the skin problems and sun sensitivity that affects those with lupus. In severe cases, physicians may have to use cortisone and immunosuppressive agents to induce remission. Other steroids like prednisone can be helpful in some cases. Warfarin (Coumadin) or other anticoagulants may be used to prevent blood clotting and reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. Many of these drugs, unfortunately, have some potentially serious side effects. Because natural remedies are becoming more popular as an adjunct to prescriptions, or in some cases as a stand-alone therapy, more and more patients are moving towards natural approaches due to their gentle effect on the body and increased success in reducing everyday symptoms associated with lupus.
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR IMPROVING LUPUS
The primary approach when choosing to use natural remedies to help support the body and alleviate symptoms associated with lupus revolves around natural products which reduce inflammation, improve digestion, enhance normal sleep patterns, and improve moods and overall outlook. The real focus is identifying the possible underlying root causes leading up to the diagnosis of lupus. This takes some effort in evaluating your lifestyle and daily behavior patterns, but in the end, it can pay great dividends.
For starters, it is essential to only take pharmaceutical-grade, standardized, science-based natural products. Remember, quality matters if you are looking to get results.
The following are supplements and natural remedies with a proven track record of success in improving any condition where inflammation is the primary concern as in lupus:
- probiotic with proper strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria to balance gut bacteria and reduce inflammation (70 percent of inflammation begins in the gut)
- digestive enzymes (break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats while reducing edema or swelling)
- glucosamine- chondroitin complex to rebuild connective tissue and cartilage
- omega-3 fish oils with proper ratios of EPA/DHA for improved circulation, blood flow and reduction of inflammation
- vitamin D3
- calcium-magnesium complex
- InflamMove– a combination of herbal medicines and vitamins to reduce inflammation and pain
- multivitamin and mineral formula
- apple cider vinegar to balance pH levels
- Epsom salt soaks daily for soothing the joints
Also, it is prudent to eat a well-balanced diet (the Mediterranean diet is a great choice), drink plenty of water and green tea, exercise daily, stretch, deep breath, and maintain a positive attitude. When combined, natural remedies and mental and physical exercises can contribute to an increased probability of overcoming the quality of life issues associated with lupus.
Before introducing new lifestyle changes or supplements into your routine, it is important to speak to a medical professional or pharmacist that can help determine any risks, side effects or negative interactions with other medications you are taking.