Alternative Lupus Treatments and Therapies
In our blog, Lupus Treatment Options: Lupus Medications
,we covered many of the most common pharmaceutical treatments for lupus. Because we recognize that there are also alternative treatments to biomedicine and pharmaceutical drugs, we will be addressing these alternative medications and therapies in this blog.
Complementary medicine can be of assistance for both managing the symptoms of lupus
and bolstering the immune system. The word “alternative” might sound strange or even exotic to some, but you may be surprised to learn that many of these alternative treatment options and/or therapies are more familiar than you think. Alternative therapies can be of benefit, and are often used in conjunction with traditional medications. A better term than “alternative” is perhaps “complementary” since these therapies are typically used as a complement to traditional pharmaceuticals.
It is very important to discuss these options with your doctor before initiating any treatment or complementary therapy on your own, as they may interfere or adversely react with your conventional medications.
Complementary and Alternative Supplements and Treatments for Lupus
Flaxseed contains a fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, which may decrease inflammation in the body. Some studies have found that kidney function may improve in lupus patients who have kidney problems, such as like lupus nephritis
. Abdominal pain and bloating can be side effects of taking flaxseed.
Fish Oil- Fish oil supplements that contain the Omega-3 fatty acid, may be beneficial for people with lupus. Preliminary studies have shown some promise but more study is still needed. Nausea, belching, and a fish taste in the mouth are some side effects you may experience while taking fish oil supplements. Read more about this topic in our blog, The Lupus and Diet Dilemma.
Vitamin A- Vitamin A is an antioxidant and is commonly found in whole milk, liver, and some fortified foods. Beta-carotene is a pro-vitamin found in carrots and many colorful vegetables that are then converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A protects against free radicals (harmful substances in your body) which can damage DNA and lead to cancer and other diseases, and has anti-inflammatory effects.
A lack of enough vitamin A has been linked to inflammation in the intestines, lungs, and skin. For some people, taking vitamin A supplements could reduce the inflammation that contributes to conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, acne, and lung disease.
Vitamin D- People with lupus have shown some benefits from taking Vitamin D supplements In recent testing, high doses of vitamin D were safe and appeared to temper some of the destructive immune system responses believed to cause lupus. Research is pointing to an immune-regulating role for vitamin D.*
Vitamin E- This vitamin supplement comes in several different forms. The alpha-tocopherol type of Vitamin E may help prevent heart disease by slowing the release of inflammatory substances that damage the heart.* Alpha-tocopherol also might be effective for easing lung inflammation related to allergies. However, because studies were conducted on animals, it’s not yet clear whether the results will translate to humans.
Evening primrose oil- Used to treat inflammation, evening primrose oil is associated with alleviating rheumatoid arthritis.*
*The NACCM advises that both herbs can have side effects, and as with many supplements, their efficacy has not been confirmed by scientific research. We recommend consulting a physician prior to taking herbs or supplements to treat lupus, especially if traditional medicine has already been prescribed.
Alternative Lupus Therapies/Treatments
Some of the most important issues that specifically relate to lupus patients in regard to diet and nutrition are: reduction of inflammation and swelling, prevention of nutrient deficiencies, maintaining strong bones and muscles, combating medication side-effects, reachng or maintaining a desired body weight, and reducing the risk of heart disease. Read more about some anti-inflammatory diets in our blog: The Paleo and Anti-Inflammatory Diets: What you should know.
Massage can be beneficial and therapeutic to those with chronic joint and muscle pain due to lupus. Massage can improve circulation and help relieve joint stiffness. However, if you have cutaneous lupus, or lupus primarily affecting the skin
, then you may want to avoid intense massage that can lead to bruising or even bleeding underneath the skin. Be sure to use a licensed massage therapist and, if possible, one familiar with lupus if you do decide to try professional massage as part of your lupus treatment and management.
Chiropractic- Chiropractic care is the manipulation of your spine and other connective tissue, to improve the mobility of joints and reduce pain. Practitioners are required to go through extensive training and licensing exams, and chiropractic care is often covered by insurance. The effectiveness of chiropractic therapy for lupus remains controversial, although many have found relief with this type of therapy.
Acupuncture- Data suggests that acupuncture may help in treating lupus symptoms, although evidence is limited. Studies have shown that acupuncture may be useful in alleviating pain associated with lupus.
The ancient practice of yoga can help people with lupus maintain limber joints and help alleviate stress. Stress is the enemy of lupus sufferers
as it can increase inflammation and therefore increase pain. Before starting a class, talk to the instructor about any special restrictions you may have because of your joint symptoms.
Also an ancient practice, meditation makes use of the mind’s ability to control the body
and can be used in lupus treatment to control pain, reduce stress, and improve your sense of well-being.
Some additional alternative therapies can include:
Herbal Medicine- Echinacea, feverfew, goldenseal, and pau d’arco are just a few of the helpful herbs one can use.
Hydrotherapy- Cold or hot compresses can be used for pain relief
Creative visualization, spirituality, relaxation techniques, biofeedback, and other mind/body treatments can strengthen the immune system, as well as reduce joint pain and easy accompanying depression.
Traditional Chinese Medicine- Treatment may involve acupuncture, herbal therapy, dietary alterations, and exercise.
Complementary/Alternative Lupus Treatment: Precautions
Lupus patients should always consult their physician before using any complementary or alternative therapies, especially herbs and supplements, as there is limited evidence available on their benefits and side effects. As mentioned before, some of these have the potential to react negatively with drugs or cause other toxicity problems.
By working closely with your medical provider(s) and being upfront about any complementary therapies you want to explore, together you and your medical provider can formulate a plan. In addition, let your medical provider know about any supplements you are currently taking in order to avoid preventing the efficacy of any proscribed medications.
We hope this blog has been able to help you on your journey of lupus management and direct you to some options you may not have considered. We welcome and encourage your comments and/or personal stories, please do so by clicking the link below.
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This blog is not intended to replace the advice and counsel of a physician or medical professional, but to provide a general listing of information.Please seek a doctor of medicine for guidance specific to your medical needs.