Lupus is a rheumatic autoimmune disease, which affects either just the skin, or the skin and other organs and joints.
Lupus occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells, causing inflammation in various parts of the body. It is more common in women than men, and is seen more frequently in people of Chinese, African and African-Caribbean origin.
Subacute Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (SCLE), and Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE), are forms of lupus that only affect the skin. These are chronic skin conditions that cause red scaly patches on the face, head, ears and body, usually resulting in permanent scarring.
The term lupus typically refers to the more severe form of lupus, known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Symptoms of SLE can occur sporadically, and vary greatly in their severity from person to person. The main symptoms of SLE are:
- Joint pain and swelling
- Skin rashes on the face and body
The exact reason for lupus is unknown, although it is thought to be the result of multiple genes and an unknown environmental trigger. There is a definite link to genetics as lupus has been shown to run in families, but no specific gene has been pinpointed yet. Instead, it is thought that numerous genes are responsible for increasing the likelihood of lupus occurring.
Lupus is the result of an immune system problem. When a pathogen is detected, the immune system sends antibodies to destroy the foreign agent. In the case of SLE, for an unknown reason autoantibodies are created which attack the tissues of the body, causing inflammation and pain.
Lupus is a lifelong condition that has no cure. Various medicines are needed to help the symptoms. Although diet hasn’t been shown to cure or prevent lupus, eating a balanced diet is important to ensure you don’t exacerbate symptoms, to combat the side effects of medications and for overall wellbeing.
As lupus is an inflammatory disease, it may be possible to treat symptoms by including foods that fight inflammation.
- Oily fish: salmon, tuna, sardines, halibut, bass and mackerel all contain large quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduces inflammation. 
- Whole grains: brown rice, bread and pasta contain more fibre than their white counterparts, which have been shown to reduce C-reactive protein levels (an inflammation marker in the blood). 
- Cruciferous vegetables: cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and similar green leafy vegetables all contain large amounts of vitamin E, which plays a pivotal role in protecting the body from cytokines (a pro-inflammatory substance).
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds contain inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. They are also rich in fibre, vitamin E and various other vitamins and dietary elements which are essential for healthy functioning.
- Fruits: strawberries, tomatoes, acai berries, oranges, cherries and blueberries are high in antioxidants which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.