|Dawn Isherwood, Health Educator|
Even with the best medical technology available, true wellness must come from within. Genetics, environmental factors and hormonal factors can all be influenced by our everyday lifestyle choices. As we all know, current medication therapies for lupus can be difficult and may cause nausea, weight gain or loss as well as possible bone thinning. Learning to complement your treatment with healthy lifestyle choices may help decrease symptoms and may lead to minimizing the need for difficult therapies.
So why are lifestyle factors so important when treating the whole person who has been diagnosed with lupus? Lupus is a disease of the immune system which can result in inflammation and the pain and symptoms associated with it. The immune system is very sensitive to lifestyle factors and responds very favorable to healthier choices particularly when it comes to diet, exercise and stress management.
Eating for health: While there is no special diet for lupus, it is recommended that those with lupus should try to eat a nutritious, well-balanced and varied diet that contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (barley, brown rice, flaxseed, whole wheat pasta), moderate amounts of meats, poultry, and oily fish (salmon, trout, sardines), as fish oil has been found to help reduce inflammation. Try to avoid processed foods, like flour and high sugar items.
Let’s get moving: I encourage you to exercise regularly or engage in some kind of movement. Most people with lupus can take part in some form of activity. Making exercise a regular part of your life has been shown to decrease heart and joint issues and control weight gain caused by the use of corticosteroids. Studies indicate that exercise can be as effective as anti-depressant medications in controlling depression and anxiety that are often associated with chronic illness such as lupus.
Inflammation from lupus in the muscles, tendons and ligaments can lead to stiffness, pain and decreased mobility. Non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming, biking, tai chi and yoga can help decrease pain and stiffness, increase cardiovascular health and decrease stress and anxiety. Weight bearing exercise such as the elliptical machine, treadmill, walking and light weight lifting can help maintain muscle strength and bone density.
STRESS: There is no getting around the fact that there is stress in life and living with a chronic illness like lupus only piles on to those everyday stressors. Managing stress can have a significant impact your life and your lupus and improve your overall physical and emotional health.
Some simple ways to start are to identify the stressors in your life. Remember that there are things in your life that you can control and things that you cannot. Place your energy in those things you can control such as asking for help, learning to say no when you have the choice (don’t let those around you make you feel bad about saying no), listen to your body and rest when you need to, and don’t expect too much from yourself all the time (give yourself an emotional break). If your feel really overwhelmed, you may want to talk to your doctor or a counselor.
At the Lupus Foundation of America, we encourage everyone to take a look at their overall health. True wellness has been shown to have a very positive impact on lupus, along with your overall well-being. Always remember to check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise routines. For more information or if you have any questions, we invite you to call one of our health educators. You can also visit the Lupus Foundation of America’s website at lupus.org to learn more.
Dawn E. Isherwood, RN, BSN, is Health Educator for the Lupus Foundation of America. Dawn can be reached at 800-558-0121 or by filling out this contact form.