Systemic lupus erythematosus – What to eat?

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or Lupus is a type of autoimmune disease, one in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. Such attacks cause widespread inflammation and affect almost any body part, including the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, lungs, and others. Hence, the symptoms of Lupus vary from person to person and from one flare-up to another [1]. As such, the symptoms of Lupus are non-specific.

Butterfly rashes from SLE. M. Sand, D. Sand, C. Thrandorf, V. Paech, P. Altmeyer, F. G. Bechara, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A patient can develop joint pain and skin rashes at one time, extreme tiredness and fatigue at another time, and even blood clottings that can be life-threatening. This condition affects women predominantly, with a striking female-male ratio of 9 to 1 [2]. The non-specific nature of Lupus makes the diagnosis difficult. Many young women who had it are simply unaware [3].

Lupus is a chronic condition, and there is no cure. Diet plays an important role in the prevention of Lupus flare-up. Research has found the following dietary factors to be beneficial to Lupus :

  1. Reduce caloric intake, especially don’t overeat.
  2. Increase intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet especially omega-3 fatty acids.
  3. Moderate intake of protein to prevent overloading the kidney.
  4. Increase fibres in the diet – eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  5. Ensure enough intake of vitamin D, E, C, A, and B complex.
  6. Reduce intake of sodium.
  7. Bioactive components of a wide range of plant-based food are highly beneficial.
Eat more fruits and vegetables!

To find out more about what food to eat and what to avoid, please download the handout attached below:


[1]         Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lupus Basics, (n.d.). (accessed March 22, 2021).

[2]         C.E. Weckerle, T.B. Niewold, The unexplained female predominance of systemic lupus erythematosus: clues from genetic and cytokine studies., Clin. Rev. Allergy Immunol. 40 (2011) 42–49. doi:10.1007/s12016-009-8192-4.

[3]         A.E. Johnson, C. Gordon, F.D. Hobbs, P.A. Bacon, Undiagnosed systemic lupus erythematosus in the community., Lancet (London, England). 347 (1996) 367–369. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(96)90539-5.

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