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July 7, 2009, Last Updated May 8, 2016

By Susan M. Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Lupus diet recommendations have emerged from many studies
over the years. Some of the foods recommended to decrease
the inflammation and pain of lupus (systemic lupus
erythematosus)  are generally agreed upon by medical
authorities and researchers. Others are the subject of intense

In making our recommendations, we have excluded informal
and anecdotal evidence that certain foods decrease lupus
inflammation or pain. For example, some informal anecdotes
from arthritis and lupus sufferers indicate that
coconut oil
decreases lupus and arthritis inflammation, citing evidence
that Polynesian populations suffer less from lupus than
European populations. However, in our survey of research
studies, the opposite is true. Polynesian people suffer far more
from lupus than white people in all countries where the
question has been studied.

There are 3 types of lupus. In addition to systemic lupus
erythematosus, the disease also includes "discoid lupus",
which only affects the skin and drug-induced lupus. Currently,
about 1.5 million people suffer from the 3 types of lupus in
America, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.


The number of lupus sufferers has now reached 2 million in
the US, according to the latest figures from the Lupus
Foundation of America.]

Drawn from university research studies and hospital research
studies, below are the current diet recommendations for
decreasing the inflammation and pain of lupus. Based upon
these recommendations, we have compiled an
ideal breakfast
for lupus and ideal dinners for lupus.

Top 10 Foods That Reduce Lupus Inflammation and Lupus

1.        Flax seeds.  Several studies have found that flax seeds
decrease the symptoms of lupus. A 2001 study from
researchers at the University of Western Ontario found that
participants who ate
flax seeds suffered less kidney damage
from lupus. In the study, 23 patients with lupus nephritis ate
30 grams of ground flax seeds every day for a year. After a
year, these patients had experienced no additional kidney
damage, while patients who had not eaten flax seeds suffered
additional kidney damage.

Fish Oil.  Fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids has been
found to reduce the symptoms of lupus. A 1994 study by
doctors at Victoria Hospital in Toronto found that omega-3
fatty acids even at low doses (6 grams a day) inhibited
inflammation of lupus. At higher doses (18 grams), it inhibited
inflammation and decreased plaque in arteries.  In fairness,
the evidence that fish oil counteracts inflammation in lupus is
mixed. Some studies which have examined patients who took
fish oil over a longer period, such as 2 years, found no
appreciable effect on reduction of lupus inflammation and
pain. Still, the recommendation to eat more fish with omega-3
fatty acids is supported by the greater weight of medical

For example, another study in 1991 from Bloomsbury
Rheumatology Unit of University College in London examined
27 people with lupus. The participants were either given 20
grams of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA ((eicosapentaenoic acid)
or 20 mg of olive oil. Only 17 people completed the study.  Of
those, the participants who had taken EPA reported a
significant improvement in their lupus symptoms, while those
who had taken olive oil reported that their symptoms had
either gotten worse or had not changed at all.

How much omega-3 is best?  A 1993 study by researchers at
Massachusetts General Hospital found that you reduce
inflammation optimally if you eat a diet that balances the
certain omega-3 acids in a 3 to 1 ratio.  Two diets containing
approximately 3:1 mixtures of EPA-E and DHA-E alleviated the
kidney disease in lupus patients more than any other
combination. So, you really have to read the labels of any
omega-3 supplement carefully. Use an omega-3 supplement
that contains 3 times more EPA than DHA for best results in
reducing lupus pain and inflammmation.

DHEA.  Several studies have found that DHEA greatly
reduces the inflammation and pain of lupus.  A 1996 study
from Stanford University Medical Center’s Division of
Immunology and Rheumatology found that DHEA reduces
specific lupus symptoms, such as inflammation and pain,
reduces lupus flares, and reduces reliance on steroids for the
treatment of lupus. DHA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a
natural hormone produced by your body’s adrenal glands and
to a lesser degree by the ovaries in women and the testes in
men.  Inside your body, DHEA is something of a chameleon,
general-purpose hormone, which the body can convert into
other steroid hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen.  
DHEA appears to play a key role in how we age.  Your body’s
natural levels of DHEA peak at age 25 and then steadily decline
with age. By the time you are 70 years old, your natural DHEA
level is 80% lower than it was when you were 20.

There are no good dietary sources of DHEA, although trace
amounts are found in animal meats such as chicken, turkey,
steak and pork. All of the studies which have found a
beneficial effect with DHEA have used DHEA supplements.  To
add DHEA to your diet, you have to therefore rely principally
on supplements. Under your doctor’s supervision, you may
wish to add DHEA in doses recommended by the University of
Maryland Medical Center---start at 5 mg three times a day and
work up to 100 to 200 mg per day for 7 to 12 months.

[Editor's Note:

Because  DHEA is synthesized as estrogen or testosterone in
your body, taking it may increase facial hair and cause other
side effects such as acne and
excessive sweating. You should
ofcourse check with your doctor before taking DHEA.]

Green, Leafy Vegetables. Spinach, collard greens, broccoli,
kale, cabbage. These contain high concentrations of
phytochemicals which act as anti-oxidants and anti-
inflammatory agents in the body.

Blueberries. Rich in anti-oxidants and inflammatory agents.

Pomegranates.  One of the world’s highest concentrations
of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.

Beans. Beans are rich in calcium which of course is needed
for bone health. Osteoporosis is common among lupus
sufferers. The big caveat however, is for alfalfa, which is
technically a legume but which increases inflammation, as we
discuss below.   (
Read more to learn natural remedies that
fight osteoporosis.)

Olive Oil.  Olive oil and other unsaturated oils such as canola
oil contain anti-oxidants which have been found beneficial in
reducing the inflammation of lupus.

Cherries. Among fruits, third only to blueberries and
pomegranates in concentrations of anti-oxidants and anti-
inflammatory agents.

Canola Oil and Grapeseed Oil. Second to olive oil in anti-
inflammatory agents.

Foods to Avoid for Lupus Sufferers

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Flax seeds may be a superfood in
fighting lupus.