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Using nutrition in lupus management

Proper nutritional support can improve patient’s lupus symptoms, lower health-related costs and reduce the risk of other chronic illnesses.

May 15, 2024

Using nutrition in lupus management

Find out more on the health and economic impact of lupus. Learn about several studies that reveal how incorporating a healthy, well-balanced diet can play an important role in managing the disease, reducing the severity of lupus symptoms and minimizing other health complications.

Facts about lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue. This can lead to inflammation in many parts of the body, causing extreme fatigue, swelling and joint pain. Some people have mild symptoms, while others are affected more severely, disrupting their regular day-to-day lives. Among lupus patients, 65% list chronic pain as the most difficult part of living with the disease. There are four kinds of lupus with systemic lupus accounting for 70% of all lupus cases.

Individuals with lupus also have a higher risk for other medical conditions, including heart and kidney disease and osteoporosis. Statistics from the Lupus Foundation of America show how common lupus is and who is most often affected:

  • Around 1.5 million Americans are living with lupus
  • An estimated 16,000 new cases are diagnosed each year
  • People with lupus typically develop the disease between age 15 and 44
  • 90% of people living with lupus are women
  • 1 in 3 lupus patients suffer from multiple autoimmune diseases
  • Lupus is two to three times more prevalent among Black, Hispanic/Latina, Asian American, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women than among white women
  • People who have a family member with lupus or another autoimmune disease are at a higher risk for lupus

Economic effects of lupus

Lupus can be a life-changing disease that sometimes takes a while to diagnosis correctly and find a suitable treatment plan. Due to complications from the disease, around 55% of lupus patients report a complete or partial loss of their income because they could no longer work full time. Other statistics that show the economic impact of lupus include:

Using food as medicine can help improve lupus symptoms

There is currently no cure for lupus, but finding an effective treatment plan that includes medications and lifestyle changes can lessen the effects of the disease and help improve a person’s overall quality of life. Research shows that eating a healthy diet can improve lupus symptoms, minimize flare-ups and support physical and mental health.

Research results

Incorporating plant-based foods, in particular, and limiting sugar, gluten, animal products and processed foods has shown to help patients better manage their symptoms. Research participants said their dietary changes lessened joint and muscle pain, fatigue and helped improve their mood.

Another study showed that following a Mediterranean diet helped support immune function, while reducing inflammation, disease activity and the risk of cardiovascular disease in those living with lupus.

Proper nutrition has been shown to have a positive impact on helping patients manage their condition and improve symptoms over the long term.

  • A healthy diet can help lower the costs arising from hospitalization and administration of drugs to patients with lupus
  • Restricting calories is beneficial to the immune system and lowers fatigue
  • Adding foods high in vitamin C prevents cardiovascular complications and reduces inflammation
  • Diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, protein and polyunsaturated fats may help reduce disease activity and improve lupus symptoms

Lupus patients following a dietary change for several years reported greater help with joint and muscle pain, nausea, headaches, hair loss and decreasing medication than those patients following a nutrition plan for one to three months.

Mom’s Meals® can help

We help take the guesswork out of getting proper nutrition with a wide variety of delicious medically tailored meal options and programs. We offer nine condition-specific menus —including renal friendly, heart friendly, and diabetes friendly — and over 60 meal options to provide valuable nutritional support.

Each meal is designed by registered dietitians and crafted by professional chefs in USDA-inspected kitchens, then conveniently delivered direct to homes nationwide. Nourishing the body with the right foods can make a difference for lupus patients and help them live a healthier, more fulfilling life.