Lupus is a painful condition that can potentially be life-threatening. It occurs when the immune system begins to attack the body’s tissues, causing inflammation and damage. Almost any part of the body can be affected and, at the same time that the damage is occurring, the immune system may “forget” to fight infection, meaning that you are prone to illness. The most well known symptom of lupus is the red rash that appears on the cheeks. The exact cause of lupus is unknown; however, genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a part. Conventional treatment involves the use of drugs such as anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants. However, you do not have to rely on conventional treatments as there are natural therapies that may prove to be useful in the treatment and management of lupus.
There are several herbal remedies that may be of help to lupus sufferers. Pycnogenol is an extract that is taken from the French maritime pine, and it contains oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) and other bioflavonoids that help to reduce inflammation in the body. Taking pycnogenol as an oral supplement may be helpful for minimising the redness that occurs as a result of ultraviolet light. Other herbs that may help with inflammation include yucca, nettle, turmeric, bromelain, and feverfew. Feverfew may be especially useful as, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties; it also mimics the effects of conventional anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroids.
St Johns Wort is useful for depression, a condition that is often experienced by lupus sufferers. Valerian and passionflower are good for the central nervous system, helping to calm and sedate it.
When the body is in a state of inflammation, more free radicals will be produced. These free radicals can harm cells. To counteract these free radicals, antioxidants are needed. Some of the best antioxidants are vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, selenium, zinc, and bioflavonoids. It is best to get your antioxidants from a varied, healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables. However, if you choose to take supplements, 1000-3000 milligrams of vitamin C, 400-600 international units of vitamin E, 200-400 micrograms of selenium, and 15-30 milligrams of zinc should be adequate. To help the body make its own antioxidants, it may be helpful to take 1-2 milligrams of copper and 5-15 milligrams of manganese a day. To get further advice on this, please choose a practitioner to work with.
Vitamin B6 is a natural diuretic and works with folic acid and vitamin B12 to fight heart disease by preventing blood clots forming and lowering blood pressure. This is important as the corticosteroids used by many lupus sufferers can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin B12 and folic acid can also be used in the treatment of anaemia, which can occur in some lupus patients.
Vitamin D along with calcium and magnesium is important for the health of the bones. Calcium and magnesium are also important for heart health. An amino acid called carnitine can help the function of the heart by reducing the triglycerides and bad cholesterol in the blood, as well as increasing the levels of good cholesterol. Another amino acid known as l-tryptophan can help relieve stress and anxiety, which may lead to a flare-up of lupus.
Changing the types of fats that you eat can also help you to reduce the amount of inflammation in your body. Meat and other animal products provide the body with a certain type of acid that allows it to make inflammatory chemicals. If you eat fish or other foods that are high in essential fatty acids (EFAs), the inflammatory chemicals will not be produced in as high a number.
Topical preparations can also be used by lupus sufferers in order to help relieve their symptoms, especially those that occur as a result of inflammation. Painful muscles and joints are a characteristic of lupus and topical preparations such as creams or oils can contain anaesthetic or anti-inflammatory ingredients. Creams that contain hyaluron, aurum or quotane may be useful.
Massage with essential oils such as peppermint oil, tea tree oil, or camphor oil can help to relieve pain and improve circulation to the area. Cayenne creams can also be used in massage to serve the same purpose.
Applying sunscreen and staying out of the sun is also vital for lupus sufferers as the sunlight can make the symptoms of some types of lupus worse.
Lupus can be affected by the fluctuations of hormones in the body. In some people, an imbalance of female and male hormones will cause lupus symptoms to worsen. DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a hormone that causes chain reactions as it is deposited in certain tissues. When the chain reaction is completed, sex hormones are produced. Therefore, taking supplements of DHEA can help the body to produce more sex hormones, bringing the male and female hormones into balance.