A normal, healthy immune system attacks pathogens such as bacteria and viruses that could compromise your health. When you have lupus, though, your immune system is overactive and mistakenly attacks your own healthy tissues and organs as if they were pathogens.
Though lupus is a serious autoimmune disorder and there’s no known cure, you can take charge of your disease by adopting a few important habits that increase your health and reduce your risk for flares and complications.
At Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, our experienced rheumatologists work with you to help you live a full and active life. Following are a few tips on how to make living with lupus as event-free as possible.
Worrying about your disease is perfectly understandable when you have lupus, but worrying at night interferes with sleep and prevents your body from getting the full restorative rest it needs to stay healthy. Ideally, adults should try to get about seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
Don’t stress out if you’re having trouble falling asleep; that’ll wake you right up again. Instead, create a bedtime routine that lets your mind and body unwind from the day’s activities.
Avoid blue light from tablets and TV for an hour or so before bed because blue light stimulates your brain. You might even try wearing amber-tinted glasses indoors that screen out all sources of blue light.
Create a cool, quiet “cave” in your bedroom by blocking LED lights with duct tape, using blackout curtains, and keeping the temperature at about 65 degrees. Wear ear plugs if you have noisy neighbors or traffic.
Avoid eating food or drinking alcohol within a few hours before bed, because the process of digesting can wake you up in the middle of the night. Avoid caffeine after 2pm and try not to drink too many liquids within a couple hours of bedtime.
If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or if you wake up too early, try melatonin to relax your body at night. If you still have insomnia, let us know and we can refer you to a sleep center.
Using food to nourish your body may seem obvious, but many foods available in grocery stores and convenient shops aren’t good for your body at all.
Avoid manufactured and processed foods and concentrate on eating as many fresh vegetables and fruits as possible. The rest of your diet should be composed of whole grains, high-quality proteins such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) and poultry, and healthy fats such as virgin olive oil.
There’s no particular lupus diet, other than focusing on healthy and fresh vegetables and fruit. Similarly, there are no whole, natural foods that everyone with lupus should avoid.
But you may notice that certain foods trigger symptoms in your particular case. For instance, some people with lupus find that nightshade vegetables — tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and peppers — are triggers, while other people can eat them without a problem.
Keep a food diary, both because it helps you keep track of what you’re eating and when, and because it could help you identify a trigger food.
Your doctor may also make recommendations for your diet, which you should follow. For example, if lupus has damaged your kidneys, you may need to limit how much protein you eat.
Rather than trying to fight inflammation and symptoms with supplements, concentrate on making your diet healthy. For instance, instead of taking omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil capsules, eat fatty fish like salmon, or nuts and seeds like walnuts and flax.
Let us know if you take herbs or supplements, because they can cause toxicity, particularly when combined with medications you may need to control your disease. We may recommend a vitamin D supplement if your levels are low, but don’t take an over-the-counter one without clearing it with your doctor first. Too much vitamin D is just as bad as too little.
Exercise helps your overall health and keeps your weight stable. If you’re afraid that exercising will hurt, talk to us about designing a customized exercise program that lets you build strength and flexibility gradually.
Some fun activities that can help you burn calories, strengthen your cardiovascular system, and improve your balance and flexibility include:
If you live with lupus, stay in touch with your rheumatologist to ensure that you get the care you need when you need it. Call us today or click “Request Appointment” to schedule a consultation at one of our four locations.