Dear Pharmacist: I have Lupus, and I've been on medicine for 22 years. My symptoms are not well controlled and I have lost ability to live life due to all the daily complications. Please offer advice to help me regain quality of life, while I am still breathing on this Earth. J.S., --Dayton, Ohio
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or “lupus” currently affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans and 90 percent of those afflicted are women. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system attacks itself. There are a few types of Lupus, and the whole body or “systemic” type is the most common. Symptoms can vary tremendously and include a butterfly-shaped rash on the face, headaches, fatigue, swollen joints, iron deficiency anemia, sun-sensitivity, hair loss and fingers that get so cold they could turn white (Raynaud’s phenomenon). Physicians manage symptoms with corticosteroids like prednisone or hydrocortisone, immunosuppressants, acetaminophen or ibuprofen and various ointments.
First, consider vitamin D, it’s an immune modulator so it helps keep your system in balance. Take supplements until your serum D levels climb above 50 ng/dl, ideally get them between 70 - 80. Supplements of vitamin D are sold nationwide, and a typical dosage is 2,000 - 5,000 IU each day but you may need more in the beginning to get those serum levels up. Probiotics are another immune modulator, and extremely important for people with autoimmune conditions. In addition, ask your physician about the following herbs which can help manage Lupus symptoms:
Pau D' Arco- This South American herb can be taken as a supplement or tea. It has anti-inflammatory properties, so helpful for joint pain. It’s also a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-viral.
Reishi Mushroom- Medicinal mushrooms have been used for eons and boost immune function by warding off bacteria and viruses, and boost activity of natural killer cells. Reishi can be taken as a supplement or hot water extract; it may also lower blood pressure.
Red Clover- This wild plant contains beneficial isoflavones which aid in skin inflammations and improving circulation. Red clover is also a source of many nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, potassium, and vitamin C. It helps with detoxification.
Burdock- Burdock has been used for centuries as a powerful detoxifier, and can be applied topically to skin inflammation. This herb also improves digestion when taken orally (as a tea or tincture) and is shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Stinging Nettle- Known botanically as Uritica dioica, this offers major immune-boosting benefits and is great for painful joints; being mineral-rich, it can help anemia, and you can take a tincture, oral supplement or herbal tea.
I know all these remedies seem useful and as tempted as you are, please remember, herbs are plant-derived medications (and have side effects) so ask your practitioner which is right for you. Finally, eat a well-balanced diet and pass on the Martinis, alcohol consumption can lead to increased inflammation which aggravates all the symptoms.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure your disease. Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. To ask her a question or to learn more about your health, visit DearPharmacist.com.