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The amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine appear to aggravate the disease, apparently due to a specific intermediary block in their metabolism. Findings from both animal and human studies have confirmed the efficacy of removing these amino acids from the diet.

Also, studies using an animal model of SLE have found that diets high in fat may promote the onset and progression of the disease by weakening immune responses, suggesting that a low fat diet could be beneficial.

A vegan diet may be ideal, both because beef and dairy products are rich in phenylalanine and tyrosine, and because the diet is usually low in fat. When a woman with SLE and typical skin lesions started a diet recommended by a “well-known food faddist” consisting entirely of fruit and vegetables, the authors were surprised to discover that, within one week, 95% of her facial lesions had disappeared. At the end of 2 weeks, her face was entirely clear. They then tried the diet on a few of their SLE patients. Most showed considerable resolution of skin lesions within 2 weeks.

Nutritional Factors in a Lupus Diet

In SLE, both linoleic acid (omega-6 series) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 series) metabolites are significantly reduced in the plasma phospholipid fraction, suggesting that essential fatty acid metabolism is altered.

Supplementation of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA has been beneficial in both animal and human studies. In a double-blind crossover study, 17 patients with active SLE randomly received MaxEPA (a proprietary fish oil preparation) 20 g daily or 20 g olive oil daily added to a standardized low-fat diet for 34 weeks. Fourteen patients achieved useful or ideal status while they were receiving MaxEPA, while 13 patients were rated as worse or unchanged while receiving olive oil placebo. The difference between the two treatments was statistically significant.

SLE patients sometimes suffer from myalgia (muscle pain) which may be due to a magnesium deficiency. If so, magnesium supplementation should cure the symptom. In discoid lupus, supplementation with beta-carotene may reduce sun sensitivity, even in treatment-resistant patients.

Other nutritional supplements that appeared beneficial in early open trials include vitamin B3. vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, and selenium. Because of abnormal tryptophan metabolism and the possibility of promoting auto-antibody production, SLE patients should avoid supplementation with tryptophan or its metabolic precursor, 5-hydroxytryptophan, until they are shown to be safe for this population.

Lupus Diet - Food Sensitivities

Finally, SLE patients have an increased risk of food sensitivity, and elimination of the offending foods may be followed by remission. For example, when a baby boy with symptoms and laboratory findings suggestive of lupus was found to have antibodies to milk, his symptoms resolved upon milk elimination, and returned on 2 occasions when he drank milk.

Lupus diet warning

Nutritional treatment of Lupus should be supervised by physicians or practitioners whose training prepares them to recognize serious illness and to integrate nutritional interventions safely into the treatment plan.

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