Eating is a part of life. Certain diets may claim to cure lupus, but currently there is no research to fully support such claims. What we do know is that a well-balanced diet, rich in vitamins, minerals, and whole grains, may help reduce some of the symptoms associated with lupus. Having lupus may also increase the risk of developing other conditions. Patients may benefit from specific nutritional recommendations to decrease these risks. Our goal is to help you feel your best. Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed, are in remission, or experiencing a flare, use this downloadable nutrition tool kit as a starting point on how to nourish your body and start feeling like you again.
Download our "Nutrition Tool Kit" which includes helpful shopping lists, delicious recipes, and tools to help you manage and live a healthy lifestyle:Nutrition Tool Kit
When it comes to grocery shopping, our Registered Dietitians recommend a few helpful shopping tips. When heading to the store, try some of the following suggestions to create a smoother shopping experience.
- Use the Lupus Shopping List and Meal Plan to help keep you organized and prepared.
- Look for food promotions, coupons, or store discount offers to keep more money in your wallet.
- Shop online to save time and energy. Many grocery stores have in-store pick-up or at-home delivery options available.
- If planning on leaving the house, take proper precautions in the sun. Wear UV-resistant clothing, always carry a hat, and apply a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 70 and broad-spectrum coverage for both UVA and UVB protection.
At the Store:
- Take the Reading a Food Label handout to the store to make reading food labels easier.
- Be careful of tricky ingredients, like salt and sugar. These ingredients can go by many different names so check the food label for the percent daily value (%DV). Aim to have the %DV less than 5% for added sugars and sodium.
- When purchasing grain foods, look for the word whole as the first ingredient on the ingredient list. This ensures that the product is a whole grain food.
- Eating a heart-healthy diet is important for those with lupus. To make heart-healthy selections easier, look for the Heart-Check mark on food packages.
- Bring a trusted friend or relative with you to lend a hand with shopping and help carry the groceries.
- If feeling particularly fatigued, utilize the availability of motorized carts.
- Ask for assistance when reaching items on top shelves, or if items are too heavy to pick up.
- Look for pre-washed or pre-cut fruits and vegetables to minimize food preparation.
- Purchase frozen fruit, vegetables, or grains for added convenience.
- Ask for assistance for carrying groceries and loading the car. Most stores offer services to assist customers.
- Bring a cooler or cooler bag to keep frozen and refrigerated items cold on the drive home.
- Use a cooler with wheels to minimize pain when transporting groceries from the car to the house.
There’s no specific diet that will cure lupus, but eating certain foods may help to minimize symptoms. See below for tips.
Limit or avoid inflammatory foods
- Garlic: certain enzymes in garlic have been shown to trigger lupus symptoms
- Alfalfa: certain enzymes in alfalfa have been shown to trigger lupus symptoms
- Red meat
- Processed meats: hot dogs, bratwursts, sausages, deli meats
- Refined grains: white-flour based products (white bread, pasta, bagels, etc.)
- Sugary foods: sugar-sweetened beverages, pastries, cookies, candies, ice cream, cake
- Fried foods
- Nightshades: specific plants, including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers, that may cause an inflammatory reaction and worsen symptoms. Some patients with lupus may find that they are sensitive to these plants
Choose antioxidant-rich foods (foods with nutrients that help to protect healthy cells)
- Fruits: strawberries, blueberries, cherries, blackberries, prunes, raspberries, pomegranates
- Vegetables: spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, beets
- Herbs and spices: dried or ground turmeric, ginger, cinnamon
Include healthy fats that help to lower inflammation
- Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, ground flax seed, chia seeds
- Fruit: avocado
- Oil: extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil
Add fiber-rich foods to your plate to help lower inflammation, improve digestive and heart health, and keep blood sugar in control
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
Lupus can affect the kidneys in some patients. It’s important to work with a dietitian to determine specific nutritional requirements for the following:
- Salt – patients often follow a low-sodium diet
- Protein – patients often follow a low-protein diet
Heartburn, also known as GERD, can be common with lupus. For prevention, try the following tips:
- Reduce intake of fried foods, full-fat dairy, and high-fat foods
- Limit intake of red and processed meats
- Reduce or avoid spicy foods, for some this may also include reducing or avoiding cinnamon, ginger, and cloves
- Consume smaller meals spaced throughout the day
- Reduce intake of caffeine
- Wait 3 hours after eating before laying down
Eat a diet balanced in:
- Whole grains
- Legumes and beans
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean protein
Probiotics may be beneficial for those with lupus. Probiotics are living microorganisms that are eaten or taken in supplement form for possible health benefits. Even though bacteria are usually thought of as harmful “germs,” our bodies need certain bacteria to function properly. For example, there are large amounts of bacteria in our digestive system that help break down food, destroy disease-causing germs, and make important vitamins.
Probiotics can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, or drinks, like kefir and kombucha. You can also take supplements that contain probiotics. For more specific information on which probiotic supplement to choose, check out the US Probiotics Guide.
When buying a probiotic there are many things to look for, including:
- Brand Quality: Do your research. Look for the NSF and/or the USP seal on products to determine safety and quality. For more information click here.
- High CFU (Colony Forming Units) Count: Choose a probiotic that has a higher number of CFUs, anywhere from 15 BILLION to 100 BILLION.
- Strain Diversity: Look for a probiotic supplement with at least 10 to 30 different strains of bacteria. Certain strains may be more helpful for some conditions than others. Using a tool like the US Probiotics Guide can help you find out which strain is best for you.