Treatment for Lupus
The sooner you know what you are dealing with the quicker you can work out how you would like to approach it and how you will manage it.
Natural therapies can do so much for autoimmune diseases including Lupus and I have seen many favourable outcomes for people who thought they were a lost cause and there was no hope.
A combination of pharmaceuticals and herbal medicine, supplement’s, lifestyle changes and dietary adjustments can do wonders for your quality of life and hopefully send your disease into remission. Below is some information on the types of medication you may be offered by your specialist and some herbs and supplements which may benefit you.
The pharmaceutical approach
Since 1949 corticosteroids (prednisolone or methylprednisolone) have been used for Lupus. Steroids have been life saving for many and they are excellent in an acute situation when we need to reduce inflammation immediately, unfortunately this doesn’t come without a cost. Steroids can cause brittle bones and in high doses psychotic episodes.
Cyclophosphamide, methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), mycophenolate (CellCept, Myfortic), or azathioprine- immune suppressants used in severe causes of Lupus.
Antimalarial such as hydroxychloroquine (plaquenil), or chlorquine (Aralen).
TNF inhibitors rituximab (Rituxan), belimumab (Benlysta).
Metformin this is a drug currently used for diabetics and is showing promise for use with Lupus according to a recent research paper published in February 2015 ‘Normalization of CD4+ T cell metabolism reverses lupus’.
The complementary medicine approach
As an alternative medicine specialist I would be doing myself a disservice to think I could possibly outline all of the possible supplements and herbs which can be useful for someone with Lupus. Firstly there are many and secondly part of the Naturopathic way of practicing is to be very individual and treat the person not the disease, however in saying this there are some general rules of thumb which I will share. It is important to note that complementary medicine can be used in conjunction with pharmaceuticals to both lesson the side effects and to help you lower your medicine dose with the hope of removing them completely from your daily regime.
Vitamin D I would highly recommend anyone with an autoimmune disease is tested for Vitamin D and supplement if their level is low. Vitamin D is essential for the immune system and even more important if you are on steroids as it improves the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
B Complex a good quality B complex is advised if you are low on energy, losing your hair or have brittle hair, feeling stressed or are experiencing peripheral neuropathy.
Bone supplement any steroid use will warrant you being on a bone supplement to help protect your bones from becoming brittle. I caution you not to take solely a calcium supplement; bones are made up of many things not just calcium. Choosing a supplement, which also has magnesium, vitamin D3, zinc, manganese, boron, copper and vitamin K1, is going to be a much better choice. If you are taking nexium you will need to ensure you take your mineral supplements two hours away from the antacids.
Fish Oil one of the supplements used for Lupus in 1864 was cod liver oil. We know today that cod liver oil is rich in omega 3 and vitamin A and vitamin D. These properties give it its anti inflammatory effects, fat soluble vitamin A is essential for immune health, skin, good vision and cell development. The balance of these nutrients has to be correct in order for it to be beneficial, therefore I recommend fish oil instead of cod liver oil and supplementing with vitamin D and A (if necessary) separately. Fish oil can also be useful if you have Sjőrgens syndrome a common overlap condition.
SAMe S-adenosyl methionine may help relieve joint pain.
Flaxseeds these nutritious seeds are rich in essential fatty acids and have also been shown to have some protective effects on the kidneys. A really important factor for anyone with lupus.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone, which has been shown to help lupus symptoms namely fatigue, alopecia, bone density, joint pain and brain fuzziness. DHEA does have some side effects and is not suitable for everyone, so I would recommend discussing this with a naturopath before taking it.
Curcumin is the active constituent of Turmeric. It’s a great anti-inflammatory herb and can be used if you are experiencing arthritic pains or headaches.
Rhodiola a herb used to improve brain sharpness. Perfect for those with brain fog.
Slippery elm taken as a powder, this herb is very safe for most people even those on multiple medications. It can be used for any stomach problems including gas, IBS, nausea, ulcers. Reflux is a common side effect from Lupus medications and sometimes slippery elm can be a helpful alternative to an antacid.
Boswelia (frankincense) an herb used for joint pain and specifically arthritis.
Green tea has some anti-inflammatory properties and is full of anti oxidants. A therapeutic dose would be 3 cups a day.
Herbs should always be taken with caution and under the guidance of your naturopath. There are some herbs such as Echinacea, Cat’s claw, Siberian ginseng and Andrographis which are not recommended as they stimulant the immune system.