It is with the heaviest of hearts that I recently learned of the loss of a young, athletic lady, taken by complications of her disease activity. I really don’t believe there is anything that grabs the attention more of those afflicted with lupus, than the unexpected death of a fellow lupus fighter. My deepest sympathy and heartfelt wishes to the McHale family as they mourn the loss of their 23 year-old daughter, Sasha.
Straight-up, lupus is cruel. It doesn’t distinguish between someone who has lived a full life to that of someone who is just beginning theirs. One day you can be moderately fine, the next you’re battling a flare that is raging out of control … and why? Why is there such discrepancy between individuals with this autoimmune disease and within their personal course of flare management? Why are we able to pull ourselves out of an attack on our bodies, only to go through it all over again?
In lupus, the immune system has several dysfunctional tendencies – one which is primarily related to the inflammatory response. The medical definition for this reads: “Inflammation: a protective tissue response to injury or destruction of tissues, which serves to destroy, dilute, or wall off both the injurious agent and the injured tissues. The classical signs of acute inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function.” With lupus being an autoimmune disease, our own bodies mistakenly create the attack response on both infected and healthy tissue. Depending upon which bodily system and organ involved, and to what degree, the disease can become life-threatening, rather quickly.
We leave the scientific theories and research to the doctors who are currently working steadfast at finding the exact cause and cure of lupus and its inflammatory response. Within our own reach, we need to look at things that contribute to inflammation and see if we can make some improvements to our health. It is thought that underlying food sensitivities create an allergic reaction, which in turn leads to chronic inflammation in the body. It is even believed that this process may directly lead to rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease, which sometimes overlaps in lupus patients. For me and my daughter, we can not eat gluten. There have also been times when dairy and red meat have caused GI issues for us. After doing a little research on this, I found that those three are among the top food allergen culprits – and most people aren’t aware of this food/allergy-autoimmune connection.
Dairy, red meat, nightshade plants, like tomatoes, white potatoes, and peppers, wheat, corn, sugar, eggs, nuts and coffee lead the list of inflammatory foods. Interestingly enough, pizza contains many of these ingredients and is listed as America’s favorite food, with 94 percent of the world having a piece of that pie. Cheeseburgers with ketchup, french fries and a shake contain several, also.
Whether you find that you are sensitive to one or more of these foods and attempt an elimination diet, or not, it certainly doesn’t hurt to cut back on them and incorporate more foods from the “good” list. Foods that make a difference and fight inflammation are: steamed broccoli, wild-caught salmon and tuna, walnuts, tart cherries, onions and garlic, pineapple, spinach, ginger and turmeric. The benefit to eating these foods, too, is in their high levels of vitamin content, especially vitamins D and C, which are extremely important in both lupus and connective tissue diseases.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple juice and in the pineapple stem. Although eating pineapple is a delicious way to receive this source, enzyme supplements can be purchased and taken to reduce arthritic pain and inflammation. It is even touted to reduce fluid buildup in the lungs and repairing of tissue after surgery. Please check with your doctor before taking this supplement, it may interact with your medications and can affect the way your blood clots. In fact, check with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.
Okay, so now you know a little bit about inflammation and food connections … December is NOT the time to try eliminating a bunch of food from your diet! You will be miserable, resent the thought and feel deprived of all the goodness of traditional treats you would normally nibble on. Meanwhile, use these few weeks to prepare for a go at it. Read about elimination diets, start looking carefully at labels, create a game plan and give it a shot for the New Year. If there is a food item or two that is bothering you, within two to three weeks you will feel the difference in pain and energy. What a great way to start 2013, by eliminating sources of inflammation and increasing foods and spices that continue to decrease it.
Good luck and take care of your precious selves.
Hugs to the lupus community and warm, loving thoughts to the McHales.