Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, in which antibodies mistakenly identify the body’s tissues as foreign substances and attack them, causing inﬂammation and pain. The dis- ease most often strikes women in their childbearing years; only 10 percent of people with lupus are men. For reasons that are as yet unknown, African American women are three times more likely to receive a diagnosis than are their Caucasian counter- parts, and American women of Asian or Hispanic descent are also more susceptible. Lupus is a rare condition, but, as with other autoimmune disorders, the number of inci- dents has been on the rise in recent years.
Lupus takes two related but quite distinct forms: discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In DLE, the only symptom is a scaly red rash that spreads across the cheeks and the nose, and sometimes the forehead and the scalp. We tend to think of this rash as butterﬂy-shaped, but in a different era, the pattern reminded doctors of a wolf ’s face—hence the name lupus, which means “wolf ” in Latin. The red patches usually come and go in cycles, but sometimes they leave disﬁguring scars. Scars that occur on the scalp may prevent hair from growing in the area they cover. DLE can be distressing, but it does not pose a serious health threat. Since the rash is often triggered by exposure to sunlight, the most effective treatment is to remain inside during peak daylight hours and to shade the face and the head when outdoors.
Sufferers of SLE may also experience a rash, and their disease, like DLE, goes through periods of remission and activation, but the similarity between the two dis- orders stops there. Systemic lupus, as the name implies, affects not just the skin but the entire body. The process that produces the red rash spreads to the joints and the muscles, creating pain and inﬂammation very similar to that of rheumatoid arthritis. People with SLE suffer from frequent low-grade fevers that may spike when the dis- ease cycle is at its peak. Not surprisingly, the fever and the pain leave their victims
exhausted and sometimes depressed. For some people, the symptoms never progress beyond this point. In other cases, the inﬂammation spreads to the kidneys, the liver, the heart, or the spleen, creating dangerous and even life-threatening problems.
No one knows the exact cause of lupus. Conventional medicine focuses on factors that often trigger ﬂare-ups; certain medications, viral and bacterial illnesses, birth-control pills, pregnancy, and periods of extreme stress are all suspects, but it is likely that there is no single culprit. Holistic doctors such as ourselves take a close look at other factors; when these are addressed, it can be quite helpful to people with this disease. The factors include food allergies, hormone balance, digestive function (“leaky gut syndrome”) and detoxiﬁcation, heavy metal toxicity, and nutritional deﬁciencies.
Earlier in this century, lupus was fatal within a few years of its onset. Now almost all people with lupus live out a normal lifespan, provided that they and their doctors monitor the symptoms and control any threatening developments. Today, quality of life is the most pressing issue for the majority of lupus sufferers. Although some peo- ple experience very little inﬂammation and pain, others are nearly crippled by it. Doc- tors can help ease the worst ﬂare-ups with medications for pain control and antibody suppression, but it’s best to try to avoid the need for aggressive measures. An anti- inﬂammatory diet, adequate rest and stress control, and speciﬁc natural treatments can all help you to reduce the chance of ﬂare-ups and minimize the symptoms when they do occur.
SYMPTOMS OF DLE
• A butterﬂy-shaped facial rash that may spread to the forehead or the scalp
SYMPTOMS OF SLE
• Facial rash
• Fatigue and malaise
• Joint and muscle pain
• Weight loss
• Hair loss
• Sensitivity to the sun
• Mouth sores
• Vulnerability to illness
• Enlarged lymph nodes
• Constipation or diarrhea
• Recurring bladder infections
• Presence of lupus antibodies in the blood
The cause or causes of lupus are unknown. Following are some of the top suspects:
• An allergic reaction to medications or vaccines
• Bacteria, especially streptococcus
• Extreme and prolonged emotional
or physical stress
• Estrogen disruption related to preg- nancy or birth-control pills
• Use of synthetic hormones
• Deﬁciency of certain hormones
(especially DHEA, progesterone,
testosterone, and growth hormone)
• Food allergies
• Poor digestion and detoxiﬁcation
• Heavy metal toxicity
The following tests help assess possible causes of lupus:
Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen, progesterone)—saliva, blood, or urine
Vitamin and mineral analysis—blood
Essential fatty acid balance—blood or urine
Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal Heavy metal toxicity—hair or urine
Give your body optimal support by eating well-rounded, varied meals of whole foods. Buy organic products whenever possible, to reduce your exposure to toxins and pesticides. If you must buy conventional produce, wash
it thoroughly in clean water before eating.
Five Ways to Use Wheat Germ
Wheat germ may sound like a ﬂavorless holdover from the hippie era, but it actually has a mild, nutty taste that’s quite pleasant. Nevertheless, most people prefer not to eat wheat germ straight out of the jar. Here are some tips for incorporating it into your meals:
1. Add a few tablespoons to mufﬁn batter or dough before baking.
2. Stir some into oatmeal or another hot cereal.
3. Use it as a topping for yogurt. Add some berries, and you have a healthful break- fast or a luncheon side dish.
4. When you’re making juice, smoothies, or other drinks, add some wheat germ before you blend.
5. A tablespoon of wheat germ adds a light crunch and depth of ﬂavor to salads.
Raw vegetables and citrus fruits will help return your body to an alkaline state. These foods are also high in ﬁber, which relieves digestive problems, and in antioxidants, which counteract inﬂammation.
For extra antioxidant protection, eat wheat germ and cold-pressed oils (like olive oil) for vitamin E.
Essential fatty acids are the “good” fats that actually help reduce inﬂammation. Eat cold-water ﬁsh from a clean water source several times a week, and add 1 to
2 tablespoons of ground ﬂaxseeds or ﬂaxseed oil to a daily salad.
During a ﬂare-up of lupus, antibodies will attack your own joint cartilage. You can repair some of the damage by eating foods that are high in sulfur. Good sources include onions, garlic, and asparagus.
If you’re prone to bladder infections, drink unsweet- ened natural cranberry juice every day.
Corticosteroid use is associated with bone loss and osteoporosis. If you must take these drugs, increase your intake of calcium by eating plenty of green leafy vegetables and soy products.
For good general health, drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours. You’ll also keep your joints
lubricated: water makes their cartilage soft and ﬂexible and maintains proper levels of joint ﬂuid.
Food to Avoid
Saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, and partially hydrogenated fats make inﬂammation worse; in fact, some people ﬁnd that their pain goes away completely when they elim- inate animal meats and fried or greasy foods from their diet.
An internal acidic environmental also promotes inflammation and pain. You already know to avoid saturated fats, but you’ll also need to radically restrict your intake of eggs, sugar, reﬁned carbohydrates, alcohol, and caffeine.
If you need another reason to avoid sugar and reﬁned carbohydrates, here it is: these products damage the immune system and leave you even more susceptible to infec- tion and illness.
Food allergies can mimic lupus symptoms or make them worse. Try the elimina- tion diet on page 253 to determine whether there’s a food or foods that you should avoid. Wheat, in particular, tends to cause problems in people with lupus.
You are highly vulnerable to microorganisms and toxins, so never drink tap water.
Be kind to your kidneys. Along with avoiding saturated fats and animal meats, restrict your salt intake.
Anyone with an autoimmune disorder should practice regular juice fasts to keep the body functioning at its peak. Try a three-day juice fast once a month. You can sup- port the fast with plenty of green drinks and cleansing herbal teas.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Lupus
Super Prescription #1 Fish oil
Take up to 20 grams of ﬁsh oil daily and a minimum of 8 grams. High doses of ﬁsh oil were shown to be of help in a human study. Note: High-potency ﬁsh oil for-
mulas are available, so that less capsules will need to be taken.
Super Prescription #2 Plant sterols and sterolins
Take 20 mg three times daily on an empty stomach. These naturally occurring plant chemicals were shown to have a balancing effect on the immune system for peo- ple with autoimmune diseases.
Super Prescription #3 DHEA
Take up to 200 mg daily, under the supervision of a doctor. Studies have shown
DHEA to improve symptoms of systemic lupus in women.
Super Prescription #4 Gentian root (Gentiana lutea) and herbal bitters
Take 300 mg or 10 to 20 drops ﬁve to ﬁfteen minutes before meals. Gentian root and herbal bitters formulas improve overall digestive function.
Super Prescription #5 Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
Take 2,000 to 8,000 mg daily. MSM has natural anti-inﬂammatory beneﬁts and con- tains the mineral sulfur, an integral component of cartilage. Reduce the dosage if diarrhea occurs.
Super Prescription #6 Enzymes
Take 1 to 2 capsules of a full-spectrum enzyme product with each meal. Enzymes help you to digest food more efﬁciently. Protease enzymes can be taken between meals for an anti-inﬂammatory effect.
n a double-blind trial, the combina-
tion of 20 grams of ﬁsh oil daily and a low-fat diet led to improvement in 14 of
17 people with sys- temic lupus in 12 weeks.
Super Prescription #7 Bowsellia (Boswellia serrata)
Take 1,200 to 1,500 mg of a standardized extract containing 60 to 65 percent boswellic acids two to three times daily. This herb has powerful anti-inﬂammatory effects.
Vitamin E may be helpful for people with discoid lupus. Take 800 to 2,000 IU daily.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has anti-inﬂammatory beneﬁts. Take a product contain- ing 450 mg of curcumin twice daily.
Take a super green food supplement, such as chlorella or spirulina, or a mixture of super green foods, each day. Take as directed on the container.
A high-potency multivitamin contains a strong base of the antioxidants and other nutrients that protect against tissue damage. Take as directed on the container.
A probiotic is a supplement that contains friendly bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and biﬁdus, that aid in digestion and detoxiﬁcation. Take a product con- taining at least 4 billion active organisms daily.
Evening primrose oil, black currant, or borage oil contain the essential fatty acid
GLA, which reduces joint inﬂammation. Take up to 2.8 grams of GLA daily.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) contains a rich source of antioxidants and substances that assist detoxiﬁcation. Drink the organic tea regularly (2 cups or more daily) or take
500 to 1,500 mg of the capsule form.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) improves liver function and protects against the potential damage of pharmaceutical medications. Take 250 mg of a standardized extract of 80 to 85 percent silymarin three times daily.
Ginkgo biloba improves circulation through the kidneys and has anti-inﬂammatory beneﬁts. Take 60 to 120 mg twice daily of a product standardized to 24 percent ﬂavone glycosides.
You can often avoid harsh conventional painkillers by using analgesic herbs. White willow bark (Salix alba) will soothe joint pain. Find a white willow extract that is standardized for salicin content, and take 30 to 60 mg twice daily. A lotion or a cream made with capsicum will also reduce the pain.
Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) root is a potent herb that will control inﬂammation. Take 2.5 to 5.0 grams twice a day, or use 1 to 2 cc of a tincture three times a day. Expect to take devil’s claw root at least two months before you see results.
Teas made with burdock root (Articum lappa) or red clover (Trifolium pratense) have a detoxifying effect. Drink them during a fast or any time you want a little extra housecleaning.
Lupus can send stress levels soaring. If you’ve lost weight and are very slender, however, a very strong relaxant might be too much for you. Instead, try tea made with a moderately potent herb, like skullcap or hops. If neither of these herbs works, or if you have a larger frame, move on to valerian (Valeriana ofﬁcinalis) or kava kava (Piper methysticum).
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C,
12C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Con- sultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Arsenicum Album will relieve burning joints that feel better with warm applica- tions. The person tends to feel anxious and restless.
Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) works on joints that are hot, red, and burning and that feel worse with motion. Pain and swelling may come on suddenly.
Sepia is for women with lupus, who ﬁnd that their symptoms ﬂare up near their menstrual cycles. There are usually signs of hormone imbalance, such as PMS or extreme menopausal symptoms. There is a craving for sweet, salty, and sour foods. The person tends to be chilly, irritable, and depressed.
Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) is helpful if your pains wander from joint to joint and if your symptoms improve in fresh, cool air or with cool applications.
Rhus Toxicodendron relieves lupus symptoms that are worse in the cold and the damp or with long periods of inactivity. Stiffness of the joints is the main symptom, which improves with some movement and warmth.
Sulphur is for burning pains that are better with cold applications. The person tends to get overheated easily and prefers a cool environment. There is a strong craving for spicy foods and ice-cold drinks.
Acupressure works wonders on rheumatic pains. As the following points are proba- bly quite tender, don’t massage them. Instead, use ﬁrm pressure. Plan to work the appropriate points two or three times a day for several months before you see results; it may take six months for the pain to subside completely. Once the pain has been sig- niﬁcantly reduced, you can reduce your sessions to one a day. For more information about pressure points and administering treatment, see pages 668–675.
• Large Intestine 4 is used for relief of pain anywhere on the body, but it is espe- cially effective for pain in the hands, the wrists, the elbows, the shoulders, or the neck.
• For elbow and shoulder pain, use Large Intestine 11.
• If your ankles are affected, work Spleen 5 and Kidney 3.
• To relieve stress, work Lung 1 on a regular basis.
• For acute anxiety and nervousness, add Pericardium 6 to your daily practice or
use as needed.
Acupuncture is worth trying for people with this condition, to reduce inﬂammation and pain.
See pages 686–687 for information about reﬂexology areas and how to work them.
Lupus is a systemic disorder, so if you have time, it’s best to work the whole foot. If that’s not possible, concentrate on the adrenals to reduce swelling and on any spe- ciﬁc areas that are causing you pain.
To relieve tension, also work the area corresponding to the solar plexus.
A hot bath with Epsom salts will temporarily reduce pain and draw toxins away from your joints and muscles.
Constitutional hydrotherapy is an excellent long-term therapy to minimize lupus symptoms. See pages 676–677 for directions.
Find a few relaxing oils that you like and use them regularly in a bath or a room dif- fuser. Some good choices to start with are lavender, rose, jasmine, and geranium.
Black pepper and ginger encourage blood ﬂow and will help revive tired joints and muscles. If you’re constipated, you can add a few drops of either essence to a carrier oil and rub it onto your abdomen.
If you want to detoxify your body, use lemon balm or juniper in a hot bath.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
It doesn’t matter how you reduce stress—just ﬁnd a technique that you like and use it regularly—on a daily basis, if possible. If you’re not sure where to start, a basic yoga class will help you relax and will give you the gentle exercise you need.
If your pain is intense, consider thermal biofeedback. This therapy will teach you to send warming, nourishing blood to your joints.
Many people with lupus ﬁnd that support groups are as essential to their health as regular check-ups are. Ask your doctor or local hospital for information about groups in your area.
Bach Flower Remedies
Consult the chart on pages 648–650 to determine the best remedy for your particu- lar needs. Following are some suggestions. Once you’ve chosen a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
For deep fatigue, take Hornbeam, Olive, or a combination of both. If you’re convinced that you’ll never feel better, use Gorse.
A diagnosis of lupus can be difﬁcult to handle; if you feel great distress and can- not be consoled, Star of Bethlehem will help you feel better.
• Avoid the bright sunlight, especially in the warm months or when snow (which reﬂects the sun) is on the ground. When you do go outside, always wear a hat and protective clothing. Your skin may be sensitive to some sunscreens; if so, talk to your doctor about a nonirritating prescription sunblock.
• Although you may not feel like exercising, gentle movement is highly recom-
mended to reduce pain and promote good general health. A daily walk in the
early morning sunlight is an excellent idea.
• Birth-control pills and synthetic hormones may trigger ﬂare-ups, so it’s wise to
• Women with lupus were once counseled to avoid pregnancy, but pregnancy can
sometimes actually lead to a remission of the disease. For many women, it’s
the stressful months after the baby is born that cause a ﬂare up. The decision regarding the safety of pregnancy must be made on a case-by-case basis, so talk to your doctor.
• Chinese herbal therapy can be helpful. See a qualiﬁed practitioner.