Last October, pop sensation Selena Gomez revealed she’d been diagnosed with lupus, requiring her to make some changes to her diet. Lupus, a chronic condition that impacts the immune system, is best managed through dietary and lifestyle measures that focus on limiting inflammation.
Gomez was hospitalized and realized that if she wanted to stay healthy, she needed to adopt a lupus diet plan. The lupus diet plan involved silencing her sweet tooth and trading in sugary candies for healthier, nutritious options like berries, chickpeas, lentils, bananas and peanut butter.
Selena Gomez’ lupus diagnosis meant that she needed stay out of the hospital, eat right, and manage her condition to prevent flare-ups. Here’s how you can do the same thing.
What Studies Say About Lupus
Lupus can be a painful and uncomfortable condition, and if it’s not managed properly it can even result in death. It’s an autoimmune disorder that affects about 1.5 million Americans, and it’s best managed through diet and lifestyle.
The disease essentially puts your immune system into overdrive, causing it to attack healthy tissue in your body. It can eat away at your organs and joints because it ultimately does not recognize when your joints and organs are healthy. This results in inflammation and degeneration in the affected areas.
New research indicates gut bacteria may play a role in the development of lupus, so improving and diversifying gut bacteria through diet might be a way to control flare-ups. And as prior evidence suggests, diet and lifestyle plays a big role in lupus management.
The idea of a lupus diet is nothing new, but there is an increasing level of understanding into how what you eat can help control the condition. Probiotic foods and prebiotic foods, heart-healthy options, and limiting sugars and processed foods seem to be the best way to control this chronic condition.
Foods to Keep in a Lupus Diet
Battling lupus is a multifaceted fight, but diet and lifestyle are your biggest weapons against it. A lupus diet is balanced, heart-healthy and resembles the Mediterranean diet. The goal is to minimize inflammation through nutrition, cultivate a healthy and diverse population of gut bacteria, and limit unnecessary activity by the immune system.
There is no one-size-fits-all lupus diet because everybody reacts differently to different foods, but there are some foundational tenets. The best lupus diet plan is centered around:
- Legumes (beans and nuts)
- Leafy greens
- Foods containing omega-3s
- Healthy fats
- Whole grains
- Foods rich in vitamin C
- Calcium-rich foods
As you can see, these items are virtually identical to those typically found in a normal healthy diet. They are low in saturated fats, trans fats, and sugar, and they do away with the processed foods and other items that make up the Standard American Diet, or SAD.
Foods to Avoid in a Lupus Diet
Just as there are foods that are good at treating inflammation and controlling lupus, there are others that can increase inflammation, trigger immune responses, and sabotage the battle against lupus. Unfortunately, these foods make up the bulk of the American diet, so you’ll be forced to make some tough decisions. But if you look at the benefits of making healthy decisions and how they can assist your body in dealing with lupus, the choice will become much easier. Some of the lupus diet foods to avoid are:
- Processed foods. This is virtually anything that comes in a box. These items are usually filled with sugar, salt, and other additives that lead to inflammation. White bread, candy, chips, and processed meats should all be left alone.
- Red meat
- Fried foods
- Alfalfa sprouts and garlic. Although these foods are very healthy for the general population, they can create problems for people with lupus. They rev up the immune system, which increases the risk of flare-ups.
Lifestyle Changes When Suffering from Lupus
Aside from adopting a lupus diet and focusing and eating an overall healthy and balanced diet, there are some other things you can to manage lupus:
- Exercise: Increased physical activity can help, as it can limit inflammation and reduce stress (which a major cause of inflammation). Try to do some form of exercise four or five times a week to keep the blood moving.
- Stop smoking: Aside from increasing the risk for lupus flare-ups, smoking imposes a number of other fatal conditions.
- Protect yourself from UV rays: Make sure you stay adequately covered up when you’re out in the sun and have access to sunscreen.
Adopting a lupus diet and nutrition plan, and making some other lifestyle adjustments can help manage lupus symptoms. In fact, these natural treatments might be the best way to stay healthy and comfortable when dealing with this chronic illness.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Zhang, H., et al, “Dynamics of Gut Microbiota in Autoimmune Lupus,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2014; doi: 10.1128/AEM.02676-14.
Watson, S., “Lupus diet tips: know which foods to eat or avoid,” Healthline web site, August 23, 2013; http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/lupus-diet-tips#9, last accessed February 17, 2016.
Illiades, C., “Eating right with lupus,” Everyday Health web site; http://www.everydayhealth.com/lupus/eating-right-with-lupus.aspx, last accessed February 17, 2016.
Johnson, L., “Selena Gomez’s new diet living with lupus,” Black Girl Health web site; http://www.blackgirlhealth.com/portfolio/selena-gomezs-new-diet-living-with-lupus/, last accessed February 17, 2016.
“What Is Lupus?” Lupus Society web site; http://www.lupus.org/answers/entry/what-is-lupus, last accessed February 17, 2016.