What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease. It is an illness in which the body’s immune system has become hyperactive and cannot decipher between its own tissues and organs and invading germs and viruses. As a result, the immune system attacks the body’s organs (autoimmune), in a misguided attempt to fight the enemy. This causes inflammation in the affected areas, which over time can cause damage and impairment to major organs and systems.
Lupus affects a reported 1.5 million individuals in the United States and 5 million across the globe. However, Lupus is known as the “copycat illness”, because its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. As such, many people with Lupus may be misdiagnosed or take longer to receive a diagnosis, if at all. As a result, it is believed that the number of Lupus cases is vastly underreported.
Lupus is a unique illness in that it consists of reoccurring cycles of flares and remission. When the immune system is overactive and causes damage to the body, this is called a “Lupus flare”. This period of disease activity lasts for just a few days at a time in some patients, while others experience flares for weeks or months at a time. The disease activity then abates for a period of time. Careful monitoring and medical intervention can minimize the severity of Lupus flares and allow the patent to better cope when they occur.
Lupus is classified as a “chronic illness”, which means that the symptoms last for more than six weeks and often for the person’s lifetime. However, with early detection and treatment, it is possible to minimize symptoms, or even eliminate them altogether.
Common Lupus Misconceptions
Lupus has recently received more national exposure, however, there are still many people who are unfamiliar with the illness. Because of this, many misconceptions abound, such as:
- Although it does involve the immune system, Lupus is not akin to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The difference between the two is that in AIDS, the immune system is hypoactive, meaning it is not able to effectively fight at all. In the case of Lupus, the immune system is overactive to the point of damaging many areas of the body at once.
- Lupus is not contagious and certainly not transmitted sexually or through the exchange of blood or other bodily fluids. You cannot get Lupus by being around someone who has it or by using their personal belongings.
- Lupus is not related to cancer and affects the bodily in a different way. Mutated cancer cells grow in a particular part of the body and potentially overtake that organ. Left unchecked, cancer can spread to other areas as well. With Lupus, the damage is caused by the attacking antibodies of the overactive immune system.
Lupus does not only affect African American women. Although more prevalent in this group, women from all races have been diagnosed with Lupus. Also, although less frequently, men and children are diagnosed as well.
Lupus is seen predominantly in women, with greater than 90% of diagnosed cases being female. Also, Lupus is more prevalent in ethnic communities, with women of color being three times as likely to develop Lupus as other women. This group includes African Americans, Latinos, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders.
Also, Lupus is a disease that primarily affects women of childbearing age, from15-44, with 15% of cases presenting symptoms before the age of 18. There has been a genetic correlation indicated, as 13% of individuals with Lupus have a relative with the disease. Children of parents with Lupus are at minimal risk of developing the illness later in life, noted at 5%.
The symptoms of Lupus are caused by antibodies attacking various organs and systems in the body. Antibodies are produced by the immune system as a means or fighting disease. However, in the case of Lupus, the body misinterprets what is actually harmful and sends antibodies to attack healthy tissue and organs. This attack causes inflammation in the affected area, which results in the following common symptoms:
- A reddish or purple butterfly shaped rash across the nose and cheeks, known as the molar rash. This is present in approximately 65 percent of Lupus diagnosis.
- Fingers and toes that change color and become swollen and painful, a sign of possible Reynaud’s Syndrome.
- Swollen joints or tissue
- Sudden or severe hair loss
- Sores in the mouth or nose that last more than a few days
- Low red blood cell count
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Chest pain or trouble breathing
- Tingling, headaches or seizures
- Chronic fatigue, even after a full nights rest
For many, the first symptoms are constant fatigue, joint pains and the most recognizable, the molar rash. Often individuals will experience the frustration of not feeling well, but not being able to pinpoint exactly why. In other cases, a person may be misdiagnosed because of the similarity of the symptoms of Lupus to other illnesses. A number of factors will be examined, in addition to blood work to make a definitive diagnosis.
Types of Lupus
Lupus is a complex illness that manifests in different ways. Because Lupus can affect any area of the body, two people may present entirely different symptoms. The physician will take into account the overall landscape of the patient’s health and individual symptoms when trying to ascertain which form of Lupus the patient may have. Lupus cases are classified as follows:
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Also known as SLE, Systemic Lupus is by far the most prevalent form. With this type of Lupus, any and all of the body’s organs and systems can be affected. When the immune system becomes overactive, it may impact one area more than others, or severely attack many areas at once.
Patients with systemic Lupus will experience many of the symptoms listed above and often simultaneously. It is imperative that patients with SLE monitor their condition and report any new developments to their physician in order to control potential long term damage.
Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus
Cutaneous Lupus refers to inflammation of the skin, which is made up of three layers. Approximately five percent of patients with Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus go on to develop Systemic Lupus. Cutaneous Lupus presents in the following ways:
- The most prevalent form of skin Lupus is Discoid Lupus. The name is derived from the fact that the lesions that present resemble small disks. The lesions are often red and scaly. Discoid Lupus can be localized, meaning it is limited to the face, neck, ears and scalp. It can also be general, with lesions appearing on the back, torso, arms and other areas of the body. Childhood Discoid Lupus manifests in children, but is more prominent in boys. A greater percentage of boys that have Discoid Lupus develop Systemic Lupus later in life.
- The Butterfly or Molar Rash is another form of Cutaneous Lupus. Also called the mask of the wolf, for its shape. This rash is usually red, raised and inflamed. The rash is spread across the nose and both cheeks and may itch, but usually does not. The skin in the affected area can become dry and may peel. The area is also usually sensitive to light and touch.
- Subacute Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus is a subset and is characterized by red and scaly rashes in the cleavage area and the forearms, areas which are typically exposed to the sun.
Drug-induced Lupus Erythematosus
The onset of Lupus can also be triggered by a reaction to ongoing use of certain medications. Medical drugs are chemical compounds and at times are difficult to metabolize. In fact, a study identified that many cases of drug induced Lupus correlated with a reduction in the critical enzyme N-acetyltransferase. These individuals are unable to properly metabolize certain drugs and as a result there is more of the drug residue in their body. Over time, this builds up and causes an immune system reaction.
There are thirty known drugs that can induce Lupus. However, most instances are induced by three drugs, which are:
- Hydralazine is a pharmacutical drug used to treat hypertension. However research has shown that ongoing use can trigger Lupus symptoms. In a study reported in the British Journal of Medicine, 10.4% of patients developed drug induced Lupus after receiving 200mg of hydralazine a day over a three year period. In participants who received a lower dose of 100mg a day over three years, the Lupus rate was 5.4%.
- Procainamide is an anti-arrhythmic drug, which helps to regulate irregular heart patterns. However, it has been positively linked to the onset of Lupus syndrome. The drug prompts the development of anticardiolipin antibodies, as well as anti-DNA and Anti-histone antibodies. Procainamide is administered orally or through intravenous infusion and in addition to Lupus syndrome, can cause fever, rashes, blood clots and muscle pain. Patients who are weaned off of the medication often experience a reduction in their Lupus symptoms.
- Isoniazid is a drug which is used to treat tuberculosis and has been linked to drug induced Lupus. Common side affects of prolonged Isoniazid use mimic many lupus symptoms, such as fatigue, rashes, joint and muscle pain, as well as many more. Recommended treatment is to discontinue use of Isoniazid and introduce a course of prednisone to counteract the autoimmune response. Results have shown gradual reduction of Lupus symptoms with this course of treatment.
In rare instances, a mother with Lupus may develop antibodies which affect her unborn child. A baby normally begins receiving antibodies from the mother at 12 weeks gestation. Passing these antibodies to the fetus helps to protect it against illness. However, in the case of Lupus, the mother also makes antibodies against her own healthy tissue, which can be passed to the fetus as well.
The most common manifestations of Neonatal Lupus are skin rashes, congenital heart block, low red blood cell levels and issues with the liver. Women with Lupus will be tested for auto-antibodies by their high risk prenatal provider. If there is evidence of antibodies, the mother is closely monitored during the pregnancy to detect any issues with the baby’s heart, including receiving regular fetal echocardiograms.
If an issue is discovered with the baby’s heart, in some cases, it may be advantageous to treat the mother with steroids in hopes of reducing the severity of the heart block. The prognosis for survival is good, however children with a complete heart block will need to use a pacemaker to regulate their heart rhythm. While it is possible for a child with a congenital heart block to live a long life, some statistics do show that approximately 19% of cases result in miscarriage or stillbirth.
Twenty percent of diagnosed cases of Lupus are in children, with the majority presenting in girls over the age of ten. While it is possible to show signs of Lupus before ten, it is rare that symptoms develop before the age of five. However, as in adults, Lupus can be damaging to internal organs and systems if left untreated.
If a child is complaining of joint pain, constant aches or develops a prolonged skin rash, it is important to follow up with the pediatrician. They can determine whether the symptoms necessitate involving a specialist to fully evaluate the child’s condition.
If a child does test positive for lupus, it is critical to work closely with health care providers to monitor the progression of the disease and adhere to medical recommendations regarding medication and other therapies. Treatment is typically the same as in adults – NSAIDs, Corticosteroids, or other immunosuppressive drugs.
As a child is still developing, it is important to pay close attention to the affect of specific symptoms and medications to their health and mental state. Side affects of medication can include weight gain, abnormal hair growth, acne, issues with bone density and a higher risk of cancer. In addition to a rheumatologist, the child or family may also need to seek the aid of a psychologist to help them deal with the strain of the disease.
Causes of Lupus
Officially, there is no known medical cause of Lupus. Medical researchers have studied the inflammatory nature of Lupus, but have not been able to isolate a specific cause of the disease. However, many naturopathic doctors and holistic healers have identified common reasons why individuals are beset with Lupus. The most common are:
Many individuals experience their first lupus flare after a bout of extreme stress. It could be stress from a divorce, career, or relationships. The body is designed to deal with stress effectively and produces hormones to aid in this. However, prolonged or extreme stress will produce a never ending stream of cortisol and adrenalin and can be very harmful long term.
Alternative health practitioners understand that the mind and body are intrinsically connected and point to chronic stress as a major component of developing Lupus. It is proven that stress creates physical symptoms, many of which can morph into full blown Lupus. The excessive stress hormones, as well as mental toxicity that develops poisons the body, causing the immune system to malfunction, inflammation to occur and the development of Lupus symptoms.
We currently live in a toxic environment. Chemicals and pollution are widespread and absorbed by the body on a daily basis. This can be through the use of chemical skin care products, polluted water, radiation, harsh cleaning products, and many more. The body is equipped to process and expel the toxins we absorb, however not on the massive scale our current intake requires.
As a modern, industrial society, the payoff for progress is often chemical or toxin exposure. Often, the organs of elimination, such as the lymphatic system, liver and kidneys become overtaxed when trying to flush toxins from the body. As it is not able to process them all, excess toxins are often dumped back into the blood stream or attach themselves to organs and tissue. Over time, this prompts an immune system response that is often exaggerated and causes the chronic inflammation know as Lupus.
Diet is often a major component in Lupus. The current nature of commercial food makes it less than optimal for long term health. The infusion of chemical dye, flavoring agents and preservatives is an unhealthy practice, which can harm the body over the long term.
Additionally, pesticides and insecticides are used to grow food before it even reaches the processing stage. These chemicals alter the nature of the food and produce fruits and vegetable that contain varying amounts of dangerous chemicals. Ongoing consumption of chemically grown and preserved foods can lead to chemical toxin overload and inflammation.
Excessive consumption of processed white sugar and flour can also contribute to Lupus. These items are simple carbohydrates which the body is unable to use or store in an effective, healthy manner. The nutritional value is very low and in the case of flour, may actually cause an allergic reaction in the body. May individuals with Lupus have also identified that they are gluten intolerant and have benefited from removing wheat from their diet.
The body is a complex mix of hormones, which form a balanced cocktail. However, if the mix is altered, there may be serous health consequences. An overproduction or insufficiency of a specific hormone can alter the way the body process food, deals with stress, processes information and a host of other functions. Balanced hormones are critical to overall mental and physical health and hormonal imbalances have been indicated in a number of illnesses, including Lupus.
Lupus is not the easiest disease to diagnose, due to its copycat nature. The symptoms that many patients experience can be commonly found in other chronic and episodic illnesses. Also, many patients experience a general feeling of being unwell, but may be unable to accurately pinpoint their symptoms. In order to receive an accurate diagnosis, the patient and physician each must play an important role.
The Patient’s Role
To be your best advocate, it is important to tune into your body and evaluate what you are feeling. Is it shortness of breath, a skin rash, or possibly joint pain? It is important not to dismiss feeling and symptoms, as they may help your doctor in diagnosing your condition.
One of the most effective means of aiding your doctor in ascribing a diagnosis is to write down a thorough list of your symptoms. When doing so, include the frequency/duration of each symptom, as well as the severity. Also, be descriptive. If you experience pain in your joints, write down in which joints and whether it is just in the mornings, or ongoing. Even after being diagnosed, taking your list to your doctor at each appointment helps him to track your symptoms, and evaluate the effectiveness of the prescribed treatment plan.
The Physician’s Role
If you explain your symptoms to your primary care physician, he will likely refer you to a specialist, such as a rheumatologist or internist. They are specifically trained to evaluate and treat illnesses such as Lupus. Initially, the doctor will perform an examination and may feel parts of your body to sense inflammation, such as the face, hands, ankles and knees. Inflammation in these areas may be indicative of Lupus.
The doctor will also listen to your lungs with a stethoscope to gauge any breathing issues and also listen to your heart to rule out swelling of the out layer around the heart, which causes a discernable rubbing sound. The doctor may also test your vision, reflex response and other indicators of central nervous system involvement.
Additionally, the doctor will ask you a series of questions regarding your symptoms. There are an established set of 11 specific symptoms that doctors look for in people with Lupus. If you answer yes to four out of the eleven symptoms below, it is possible that you have Lupus.
- Molar or butterfly rash across the cheek
- Disk shaped lesions
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Ulcers in the nose or mouth
- Inflammation of membranes in the lungs, the heart, or the abdomen
- Evidence of kidney disease
- Neurological involvement
- Low red and white blood cells and a low platelet count
- Immunologic abnormalities
- Positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) test
Testing for Lupus
In addition to the criteria above, which includes the ANA test, additional testing may be ordered to provide certainty regarding the diagnosis. The most common tests that are ordered to screen for Lupus are:
Testing for Antibodies
Antibodies are proteins which are made by the body in response to colds, viruses and other infections. They seek out the invaders and destroy them. Antibodies are a critical part of the immune system, however in Lupus patients they work somewhat differently. In a person with Lupus, the body creates what is called “auto-antibodies”, which is an antibody produced to attack healthy tissue or organs. There are various tests to detect antibodies, including the following:
Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA Test) – The nucleus of a cell is the area which acts as a command center. The ANA attaches itself to the cell’s nucleus and causes damage to the cell from the inside. In severe cases, it can destroy the cell.
A positive ANA result is founded in 97% of patients with Lupus. However, it is important to note that the ANA antibody can also be an indicator of another illness.
Phospholipid Antibodies (ApLs)- These antibodies attack the bodies blood vessels and arteries, causing problems with blood flow and clotting. The blood vessels become narrower and can prompt a stroke, miscarriage, heart attack or blood clots in the legs, arms or lungs. Pregnant women with lupus should be screened for Phospholipid Antibodies early in their pregnancy.
Double-Stranded DNA antibodies (DsDNA)- this antibody attacks the actual DNA strand, which is the genetic map of the cell and the body overall. Not all Lupus patients test positive for DNA antibodies, but they are found in approximately 50%.
Ro/SS-A and La/SS-B Antibodies – Both of these are antibodies produced to fight proteins in the cells nucleus. They are linked to Sjögren’s syndrome, which occurs in some patients with Lupus.
Ro/SS-A antibodies are linked to Cutaneous Lupus, which is a photosensitive inflammation of the skin.
RNP antibodies (Ribonucleoproteins)- these antibodies attack proteins that are responsible for maintaining the cell’s chemical reactions and overall health. RNP antibodies may be present in numerous autoimmune illnesses.
Other Tests to Identify Inflammation
C-reactive protein (CRP) – This protein is produced by the liver. Patients with high CRP levels may be experiencing inflammation of the liver, which can be an indication of Lupus activity.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (Sed Rate)– The sedimentation rate is a test that gauges the level of inflammation in the body. With a high level of inflammation, the blood cells tend to clump together and move at a different rate of speed than normal blood cells.
Biopsies- A biopsy can be done to extract a sample of tissue and analyze it for signs if cellular damage. The skin and kidneys are common biopsy areas.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)- A CBC is a test that analyzes various components of the blood cells, including white blood cell, platelet and serum levels.
Urine Tests – When seeking to diagnose Lupus, urine tests are often performed to look for Proteinuria, which is protein being spilled into the urine stream. Also, the urine is examined to see if the kidneys are properly filtering waste. The presence of cellular waste in the urine can indicate kidney inflammation, which can be serious if not treated.
Systemic Lupus can affect any organ or system in the body. Prolonged inflammation of organ tissues or blood vessels can cause serious damage if left unchecked, some of it irreversible. Below are the most common systems affected by Lupus.
- Kidney involvement is one of the most common risks associated with SLE. The kidneys become inflamed under the attack of immune system antibodies. Prolonged inflammation can inhibit the kidney’s ability to filter waste from the blood. This is labeled as Lupus Nephritis and may eventually require dialysis. In severe cases, a kidney transplant may be required.
- Pulmonarycomplications are also common in systematic Lupus, but are of varying types. Chronic inflammation can cause problems with the sack surrounding the lungs (Pleuritis), Inflammation of the entire lung (Pneumonitis), the lining of the lungs, and blood clots in the lungs (Pulmonary Emboli).In the case of lung involvement, the physician will order chest x-rays or a CT-scan to assess the amount of inflammation and possible damage. Additionally, test such as a pulmonary function test will be conducted to assess the lung capacity of the patient. It is not uncommon for a Lupus patient to have reduced lung capacity relative to a healthy person.Anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids are used to treat most lung problems, but in the case of infection or excess fluid in the lungs, drainage or antibiotics may become necessary.
- The MusculoskeletalSystem describes the network of bones, joints and muscles in the body. With lupus, any of these areas may be attacked by antibodies to varying degrees. 90% of Lupus patients complain of joint or muscle pain over the course of their illness and for approximately 50%, chronic joint pain is the first clue that something may be seriously amiss.Arthritisthat is usually associated with Lupus may be less severe and potentially deforming than rheumatoid Arthritis, but it can be very debilitating nonetheless. Lupus arthritis occurs when the joints and tendons become chronically inflamed, causing warmth, tenderness, stiffness and pain. Treatment for joint pain is usually comprised of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (SNAIDs), low dose steroids or anti-malarial drugs, such as Plaquenil.Lupus sufferers are also at risk for Osteoporosis, a disorder which affects bone density. Certain medications prescribed for Lupus can weaken bones and reduce the body’s ability to rebuild them. Also, nutritional deficiencies in Calcium and Vitamin D can contribute to Osteoporosis. Smoking, hormonal fluctuations and being of Asian or Caucasian heritage also increase your risks of developing this disease.Musclepain due to inflammation is common in Lupus and especially more noticeable during a Lupus flare. Approximately 50% of patients complain of muscle tenderness or pain. This condition is often treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and possibly muscle relaxers to provide temporary relief. Muscle pain and weakness can also unfortunately be induced by some of the drugs used to treat Lupus, such as Plaquenil and prednisone. Discontinuing the medication and undergoing a period of physical therapy can help to restore muscle strength and function.
- Heart complications from Lupus include inflammation of all areas of the heart, including the lining (Pericarditis), blood vessels (Coronary vasculitis) and heart tissue (Myocarditis). Pericarditis is the most common heart complication for Lupus patients and its symptoms include chest pain that changes with movement, improving when you lean forward and intermittent shortness of breath. Heart problems are most commonly diagnosed through a combination of blood test and chest x-rays or electrocardiograms. Common treatment consists of anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids.
- Blood Disorders can be present in those with Lupus. These include:
- Anemia which is often characterized as a low red blood cell count, but more specifically speaks to a reduction in Hemoglobin, which is the protein inside blood cells that transport oxygen to various parts of the body. Anemia can cause chronic fatigue. Anemia can be prompted by some drugs used to treat Lupus, a lack of iron, or malfunctioning kidneys. If anemia is confirmed, the patient may be prescribed iron supplements, their Lupus medication may be adjusted, or they may be prescribed medication to stimulate an increased production of red blood cells.
- Thromobocytopenia is the term for a low blood platelet count. Blood platelets are housed in the bone marrow, but can be attacked by antibodies developed by a Lupus patient. As a result, the patient is more susceptible to nosebleeds, bruises and easy bleeding through the skin. Treatment for severe cases may include intravenous administration of gamma globulin or a spleenectomy. In most cases, the patent’s medication must be reevaluated to ensure it does not further stimulate bleeding.
- Leukopenia is the reduction of white blood cells and can lead to infection if not treated. This condition is often prompted by immunosuppressive drugs prescribed for Lupus. If a patient experiences Leukopenia, the doctor will likely temporarily reduce the medication dosage to allow the white blood cell count to be replenished.
- Thrombosisoccurs when the body’s normal clotting mechanism goes into overdrive, causing blood to thicken when there is no sign of an injury. These clots can potentially travel to the lungs, heart or brain and cause major blockages and ruptures of the blood vessels.Thrombosis is especially worrisome for pregnant Lupus patients, as the clots can travel to the placenta and disrupt blood flow to the fetus, resulting in low birth weight, abnormalities or even preterm death. This is often the result of antiphospholipid antibodies in the mother and it is critical for pregnant Lupus patients to be tested for this antibody. Thrombosis is usually treated with blood thinners, such as the prescription drug Warfarin, but it is not safe to use in pregnancy. Pregnant women will likely be prescribed heparin instead.
- Neurological InvolvementAs with any other body system, the Nervous System is also susceptible to damage from the chronic inflammatory characteristic of Lupus. The nervous system is comprised of three distinct parts and while symptoms may vary depending on location, treatment is usually comprised of anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid treatment or anti-malarial drugs. Neurological symptoms of Lupus can often occur, and then disappear. However, if the same area sustains too many inflammatory bouts, permanent damage is possible. It is promising to note that with early detection and treatment, long term complications can be avoided.
- The Central Nervous System (CNS)is the most well known of the three and is comprised of the brain and spinal chord. The symptoms of this form of neurological Lupus include headaches, seizures, depression, stroke, vision problems, confusion and difficulty concentrating.One of the more serious forms of CNS Lupus is CNS Vasulitis, which is severe inflammation of the brain’s blood vessels. Left unchecked, this can be potentially deadly. Patients who present with CNS Vasculitis are immediately admitted into the hospital and placed on corticosteroid therapy to reduce the inflammation and swelling.It is important some to note that some of the symptoms mentioned above (with the exception of CNS Vasculitis), can be produced as side affects of medication routinely prescribed to treat Lupus. Before a definitive diagnosis can be made, medicinal complications should be ruled out.
- The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) controls sensation and movement of the body. With Lupus, these nerves may become inflamed or compressed by the inflamed tissue that surrounds them. This results in sensations such as facial pain, vision problems, drooping eyelids and ringing of the ears.
- The Autonomic Nervous(ANS) System is the part that regulates many of the body functions that we take for granted, including breathing, sensations of hot and cold, the body’s elimination functions, the release of certain hormones and muscle reaction and movement.The affects of Lupus on the ANS is that is sends confusing hyperactive messages to the body, prompting reactions such as diarrhea, vomiting, tingling and mental confusion. Symptoms usually subside with treatment by means of standard Lupus medication.
Treatment Options for Lupus
There are four main classes of drugs used to treat Lupus, with a fifth that has been introduced to treat the skin manifestations of the disease. They are:
NSAIDS– Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs are used to treat mild cases of Lupus. They help to reduce and control inflammation and include brand names such as Motrin and Aleve.
Corticosteroids– are a powerful class of drugs, which work to reduce inflammation and to suppress an overactive immune system. Oral corticosteroids, which is the form most prescribed for Lupus have the most side affects. They include glaucoma, weight gain, elevated blood pressure, cataracts, reduced bone density, and the slower healing of wounds.
Anti-malarial Drugs– it has been found that one of the benefits of drugs that treat malaria is that it can help control the inflammation caused by a Lupus flare. The most commonly prescribed anti-malarial is Plaquenil.
Chemotherapy- is used in severe cases to combat a severely overacting and damaging autoimmune response. However, similar to cancer patients, chemotherapy can cause a number of side affects in Lupus patients, such as hair loss, nausea, skin problems and exhaustion.
Alternative & Holistic Remedies for Lupus
In Alternative Medicine, illness is classified as the representation of an imbalance in the body, mind or spirit. In the case of Lupus, the body has become extremely toxic, to the point where the immune system sees it as an enemy to be attacked. Toxicity can be of the following types:
Diet– With the current Standard American Diet (SAD), people consume extremely large quantities of antibiotic injected meat, sugar and other simple carbohydrates, unhealthy fats and a myriad of artificial sweeteners, preservatives and coloring agents.
Over the years, this type of diet wears on the digestive system and the body as a whole. Everything that humans consume becomes building blocks for cells, tissue, blood and organs. If the food that is being consumed is more man made and chemically laden than natural and wholesome, it will affect the body over time. The nourishment that the cells receive is compromised, thus resulting in the formation of tissue that is compromised. When this gets to epidemic proportions in the body, the immune system will attack what it sees as compromised tissue. This brings about the inflammatory response in Lupus.
Environmental Toxins/Medication– In an industrial, high tech society, we inhale and come into contact with multiple toxins everyday. From toxins in the air to your favorite perfume, these chemicals are taken into your body and can have an adverse affect.
Additionally, most over the counter and prescription medications contain a number of synthesized chemicals. In addition to all of the side affects listed in small print, prolonged use over time can literally poison the body. By continuously infusing the body with chemical cocktails, it becomes like a cloudy fish tank. The body instigates an autoimmune response in a desperate effort to clean house.
Chronic Stress- In our hyper connected society, many people are unknowingly suffering from chronic stress. It may be from a high pressure job, a rigorous academic load, or obligation to family or the community. The tendency to overbook and overload ourselves leads the body to continuously remain in stress mode, with its fight or flight sense activated. This pumps a continuous stream of stress hormones into the blood stream, such as Cortisol and Adrenalin. These hormones are extremely useful when dealing with danger or temporary stress. However, is they are used continuously, they can poison the body.
How to Detox the Body
There are many ways to go about removing accumulated toxins from your system and replacing them with much needed nutrients. Among the most popular and effective methods are:
Juicing/Green Smoothies are often used as a detox mechanism. By combining the juice of pure and organic fruit and vegetables you give the body a liquid infusion of nutrients. Also, because you are not consuming solid foods for the most part, the body is able to save energy normally used for digestion and more easily assimilate nutrients through the colon walls and eliminate stale waste.
Depending on the individual, a juice/smoothie cleanse can last from 3 to 21 days. Some will incorporate a small amount of raw nutritious foods, such as salads along with the liquid juices, while others will stick to fluids such as vegetable broth. It is important for first time cleansers to do so under the guidance of a cleanse master and to understand that it may take multiple cleanses to fully rid their body of toxins and restore optimal health.
Story of Using Green Smoothies to treat Lupus:
Colon Cleansing and Colonic Irrigation are two methods for removing impacted fecal matter that may have been stored for years and is now poisoning your body. With herbal colon cleansing, the individual usually takes some form of fiber supplement, usually mixed with juice or water in the morning. The fiber expands in the colon and works to gather old waste and push it through the intestines. Later that night, you may be directed to drink an herbal tea which usually contains Senna leaf, which has a laxative affect. This works to push out the consumed fiber and the waste it has gathered. Individuals will usually experience a strong urge to eliminate during the night or first thing in the morning.
Colonic Hydrotherapyis the practice of allowing water to flow into the body through the anus and provide a deep cleansing to the intestinal tract. The amount of water can range from a few liters in an enema bag, or a few gallons using a professional hydrotherapy kit. The water gently, yet forcefully enters the colon, and when it drains out, brings waste with it. If the hydrotherapy session is being performed by a professional, often there will be a drainage system that immediately removes the waste. For optimal cleansing, it is recommended to schedule 3-6 hydrotherapy sessions, as each one will be able to reach further and pull out waste lodged deeper in the intestinal tract.
Colon cleansing aids your health due to the fact that the nutrients from food are released into the blood stream and cells through the walls of the intestines. However, if you consume a large amount of chemically laden food, the body instinctively tries to protect itself. Instead of releasing the toxins into the blood stream, it cocoons them in what is known as mucoid plaque- a jelly like substance, which can harden over time. This sticks to the walls of the intestines and over time festers, poisoning the colon and gut. Also, if this continues over a period of years, eventually some of the toxins begin to leak into the blood stream, where they are consumed by cells and can eventually compromise them, prompting an autoimmune response. Cleansing the intestine and colon regularly provides many benefits to Lupus patients, as well as the general public.
Other Holistic Lupus Remedies
While cleansing is the best way to minimize or eliminate Lupus symptoms, there are also other things that can be done to aid in providing relief.
Yoga is a beneficial exercise, especially for those that suffer from joint pain. Learning to breathe correctly, gently stretch and flex joints can provide much desired increase in flexibility and pain relief. There are specific yoga routines that can help reduce back pain, tension in the legs and arms and provide an overall relaxing experience.
Flaxseeds and Fish Oils both provide Omega fatty acids which help to reduce inflammation, lubricate joints and regulate the digestive tract. Flaxseeds can be added to salads and yoghurt, or the oil can be taken by the spoonful as a supplement.
Reducing Meat, Dairy and Sugar from your diet has also been shown to benefit lupus patients. The reason for this is that these items are relatively harder on the digestive system than other foods and they also have an acidic affect on the body, which throws off the bodies PH balance. In the case of sugar, it also causes problems with the pancreas and is stored as fat in the body. Many natural practitioners classify white sugar as a dietary poison which in its highly refined state, compromises the body’s ability to function correctly. Most meat on the other hand contains the antibiotics and growth hormones routinely given to factory farmed animals. When eaten, these chemicals transfer to your body and are integrated by your cells.
Reduce Stress and Establish a Support Network
One of the leading triggers of a Lupus flare is stress. A major component in reducing Lupus flares is to eliminate stress as much as possible from your life. While some amount of stress is normal, many individuals operate within an unhealthy zone. To reduce the impact stress has on your health, this may mean changing jobs, pulling back from community involvement, or learning how to say “no”. Often women diagnosed with Lupus are typical Type A personalities and are used to being in the lead. Once diagnosed with Lupus, however, it is important to your health to take a step back.
Also, Lupus has the ability to reduce the mobility of the individual and limit the tasks they are comfortably able to do on their own, especially during a flare. For these reasons, it is critical to have a good support network. Allowing others to help run errands, mind children, or just provide emotional support goes a long way in providing comfort in an illness that is often misunderstood and isolating. Because many of the symptoms of Lupus go undetected by the eye, it is important to establish boundaries for yourself and let others know when you are unwell.
Although Lupus is a chronic illness, there is hope for greatly improving your quality of life or even eliminating the disease altogether through integrative diet and lifestyle changes.
- Lupus Foundation of America: http://www.lupus.org
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Neonatal Lupus: http://www.neonatallupus.com/neonatal-lupus.html
- The British Medical Journal. The lupus syndrome induced by hydralazine: a common complication with low dose treatment: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1442447/
- British Journal of Rheumatology. Systemic Sclerosis Complicated by Procainamide Induced Lupus and Antiphospholipid Syndrome: http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/37/11/1236.full.pdf
- Annals of Rheumatic Disease. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Induced by Isoniazid http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1004845/
- Drugs.com. Isoniazid Side Affects: http://www.drugs.com/sfx/isoniazid-side-effects.html
- Lupus Foundation of Colorodo. Questions and Answers: http://www.lupuscolorado.org/q&a.htm#children
- Lupus.org. Childhood Lupus: http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_aboutindividualized03.aspx?articleid=315&zoneid=87