August 06, 2013

Health Educator's Perspective: The positive effects of true wellness with lupus

Dawn Isherwood, Health Educator
We hope everyone is having a great summer and enjoying time outside with friends and family.

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 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.


MissCass said...

Thank you Dawn. It is easy to stray from exercise when the heat is 'on'. I have to remind myself to look for opportunities. Great article

Anonymous said...

Learning to ask for hard for me to do.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dawn, timely article for my family.

Anonymous said...

This post does a disservice to many lupus sufferers. It has shades of "blaming the victim." Sometimes you can do everything in your power to fight and do everything "right," but it doesn't help. The disease will have its way with you. Mostly, this blog post only serves to give others without lupus a reason to minimize the disease. So tired of hearing, "If you just did this, that or the other, you'd be cured, get better, have less pain, etc." I "unliked" the Lupus Foundation's Facebook page as a result of this post.

parkerburke10 said...

I can understand the last post since so many people judge us by our appearance already. Although I look bad right now, when first diagnosed I did not look like I had anything bad wrong. I tried to do all the right things and still exercise at least 4 out of 7 days a week. It is frustrating since there is nothing one can do that will stop this disease from going to my kidneys as it has already done. That is the nature of the disease. There are also times it does not matter how much one rests, it will do no good. I do not want to sound negative but some of us have severe problems.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous. I have problems with Sjogrens as well as Lupus and I have blood issues and stomach issues. I can not swallow what is healthy, everything sticks in my throat. I cannot tolerate raw veggies and the healthy foods you are supposed to load up on. I can not run I can hardly walk and as far as asking for help there is no one in my life who wants to listen to those kind of requests except my husband of 53 years who is currently on oxygen 24/7. My stomach problems,my legs with a permanent blood clot & blood thinner issues all these things are preventing me from taking most meds that would help. Exercise other then keeping my house, trying to get to 7 docs offices, bi monthly blood work and just trying to get up in the morning are about all I can do. This lady with her sunny approach is fine but I really dont think she "gets it! She once again makes me feel guilty and like what most people seem to see when they look at you a fat lazy woman who doesnt take care of herself. I am glad for her that her Lupus has not reached the point where it causes her the pain mine does, She does not lose sleep because the pain is so bad in her legs that she can not sleep and just getting to the bathroom is more than she can do at this point.I am always in pain,a day does not go by that I am not in pain and now it affects my legs.So I agree completely with Anonymous. This piece once again makes the Lupus patient feel guilty,guilty for not being able to help themselves with the natural approach to all their ills.I doubt her Lupus has reached a stage where she really "gets it"

Anonymous said...

Count me in as agreeing with Anonymous too! That's the problem...the article sounds as useful for john q. Public as it does for anyone with lupus. Majority of ads and commercials are generic. I want commercials and public education to show the true dirty on Systemic Lupus! No more powder puffing this terrible disease!