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Alternative Medicine and Lupus, Part 2

About 5 to 10 percent of those with lupus suffer from other conditions that affect the connective tissues as well, such as scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis, and when this occurs along with a positive blood test for the autoantibody anti-RNP, lupus is generally diagnosed as part of a Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD).

A definitive cause for lupus has not been determined, but research indicates that the onset of this disease may be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Lupus may affect any segment of the population, regardless of age, gender, or race. However, women in their childbearing years (ages 15 to 45) make up 90 percent of those diagnosed with lupus, a fact that has led some researchers to believe that sex hormones play a role in this disease. In general, estrogen seems to stimulate autoimmune activity, so some doctors advise women with lupus to avoid any form of hormone therapy, including birth control pills and the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used to treat menopausal women (women with lupus who test positive for the antiphospholipid antibody should definitely not take hormonal supplements because they are known to cause them to develop blood clots).

African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and American Indians are more likely to develop this condition than Caucasians, and people with a history of lupus in their family are at a slightly increased risk of developing this disease. In addition, there is some evidence that people with lupus may have a defect in their Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) genes, which causes the body to produce more antibodies and promotes an inflammatory response.

To date, there is no known cure for lupus. It is a disease typified by flares and remissions, and treatment generally focuses on controlling uncomfortable symptoms and preventing the flares that may be triggered by a wide variety of factors, including exposure to chemicals or excessive UV light, physical injury, infection, or emotional stress. Traditional allopathic treatment for lupus may include a combination of prescription drugs such as serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressants, anti-inflammatory corticosteroids, blood thinners, and drugs used to treat malaria (which have been found to have a suppressive effect on the immune system).

Unfortunately, sometimes the very medications used to ease symptoms of lupus can have unintended side effects. Corticosteroids may cause fat clots to build up and interfere with the blood supply to the bones. The result is usually some degree of bone deterioration, usually in the hip, shoulder, or knee. In severe cases, the use of steroid drugs advances beyond osteoporosis and actually causes the bone to die, a condition known as avascular necrosis or osteonecrosis. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to help lupus patients manage pain and inflammation, but long-term use of these medications can also cause stomach bleeding, and has even been reported to trigger a lupus flare in some patients.

Those with lupus that have had trouble tolerating prescription drugs may want to consider alternative forms of treatment, and there are many natural supplements available that have been reported to be beneficial for treatment of pain, inflammation, and depression. What follows is a brief overview of the supplements that some lupus patients may find to be helpful for management of their symptoms; however, keep in mind that lupus is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness. Anyone with this disease should consult with a physician for proper diagnosis and advice before embarking on a treatment plan.

Certain vitamins may be useful for treatment of lupus, particularly those that help to counter the potential harmful effects of long-term corticosteroid use. Corticosteroids can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by elevating cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and may also cause early onset of osteoporosis or osteonecrosis and water retention. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is a natural diuretic, and works together with vitamin B9 (folic acid) and vitamin B12(cobalamin) to fight heart disease by preventing the formation of blood clots and lowering blood pressure. In addition, vitamin B12 and vitamin B9 have been used to treat some forms of anemia that sometimes occur in systemic erythematosus patients, and may be helpful for treatment of mental confusion, depression, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), and severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS), conditions that commonly coexist with lupus.

Alternative Medicine and Lupus, Part 3

Return to Alternative Medicine and Lupus, Part 1


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