What is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus? Symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Natural Remedies

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a common condition with over 200,000 cases in the United States per year. While there are many forms of lupus, SLE is the most common and is often called simply “lupus.” In this blog, we will answer the questions: what is systemic lupus erythematosus? What are the symptoms systemic lupus erythematosus can cause? What systemic lupus erythematosus natural treatment options available that may help?

What is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus?

SLE is a form of lupus that is caused by an autoimmune disease that attacks a person’s body because it believes it’s foreign. 

The majority of people will live a normal life with proper treatment, but there are phases where the symptoms can worsen, and then there may be periods where the symptoms subside.

Many cases go undiagnosed, and the Lupus Foundation of America believes that there are at least 1.5 million people in the US suffering from some form of lupus.

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Causes of Systemic Lupus Erythemsystemic lupus erythematosus

Scientists still don't know the root cause of SLE, but there are some factors that are thought to be associated with the condition. The key causes include:

  • Environment. Some environmental triggers are thought to be associated with SLE, including medications, viruses, emotional stress, physical stress, or other forms of trauma.
  • Genetics. While there’s not a certain gene that causes SLE, there’s evidence that people suffering from lupus often have family members that have autoimmune conditions.

Women are more susceptible to SLE than men. Scientists theorize that estrogen may play a role in SLE forming. The evidence for this theory is lacking and additional studies need to be conducted to verify these claims.

Symptoms Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Diagnosing SLE requires knowing the symptoms systemic lupus erythematosus causes. Symptoms tend to change over time and can vary from one person to the next. The main symptoms are:

  • Anemia
  • Headaches 
  • Hair loss
  • Issues with blood clotting
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling of the joints
  • Rash 
  • Severe fatigue

SLE exhibits symptoms that are common with other conditions, so it can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms can vary depending on where in the body the disease is present. For example, the symptoms of someone that has SLE in the digestive tract will be different than those that have SLE of the skin.

Diagnosing SLE

SLE is diagnosed by going to the doctor and explaining the symptoms a person is experiencing. The doctor will evaluate the symptoms, looking for signs of hair thinning or loss, ulcers of the mucous membranes, or sun sensitivity rashes.

Multiple tests can be performed to help the diagnosis, including urinalysis, chest X-ray, and blood tests.

The antibody or complete blood counts will be taken to determine if the person has lupus. Specialists can also help with diagnosis. Typically, a rheumatologist will be recommended because they specialize in autoimmune diseases.

Proper diagnosis allows for the traditional form of treatment to take place. It's important to follow doctor recommendations even when seeking natural treatments for SLE.

Traditional Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Treatment

Doctors will discuss what lifestyle changes to make to help alleviate symptoms. The most common treatments will depend on the symptoms that a person is experiencing. A few of the treatment options that may be recommended are:

  • Immune system agents for the most severe cases
  • Corticosteroids that can help with joint and skin problems
  • Steroid creams to help with skin rashes
  • Anti-inflammatory medications

SLE requires precision treatment because of the many symptoms associated with the disease. When a person takes the right approach to treatment, they’re able to manage their lupus and keep the symptoms under control.

Management can lead to a normal lifespan without debilitating symptoms in the process.

Along with traditional treatment options, there are also natural treatment options that work well alongside traditional treatments and can improve symptom relief.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Natural Treatment

Natural treatments can help assist with lupus, especially when traditional treatments are used in conjunction with natural treatments. Studies are lacking on a lot of treatments, but the following have some studies backing their efficacy.

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Ginger

Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that can be added to teas, tinctures, or food. Teas containing ginger and turmeric can help amplify the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger. Ginger can reduce pain and swelling, which are two of the main symptoms of lupus.

Turmeric

Curcumin in turmeric has been the focus of numerous studies on inflammation and pain.  Studies suggest that this ingredient, which can be added to food, taken in supplement form, or added to a cream, can help reduce inflammation and help with arthritis pain. 

When taken orally, turmeric is often rapidly metabolized, reducing the effectiveness of the spice.

Topical application reduces the risk of turmeric not producing the beneficial results needed to alleviate lupus symptoms. Initial studies suggest that turmeric can help with multiple forms of pain. 

The studies mentioned above can be found (here, here, and here) to learn more.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A review of complementary treatment options for lupus looked at the beneficial properties of omega-3 fatty acids on SLE. Fish oils, found in cold-water fish or in supplement form, were shown to curb inflammation in people with lupus.

Increasing daily intake is possible through either supplement or diet. Salmon is a great source of fatty acids and has an abundance of health benefits, too.

People that are allergic to fish or don’t want to eat fish can opt for supplements, or they can also eat flaxseed.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium and vitamin D go well together because they’re needed to boost their own absorption rate in the body. While neither of these remedies will help with direct symptoms of SLE, they are important for anyone that is taking a corticosteroid. These steroids increase a person's risk of osteoporosis.

Maintaining bone strength while on steroids is possible with calcium and vitamin D. Exercise, especially resistance training, can further reduce the risk of bone thinning.

DMSO

DMSO is a solvent that helps with the absorption of compounds or nearly anything into the body. Adding DMSO to a gel or cream with turmeric or ginger can help boost the absorption rate in the body and amplify the benefits that turmeric, ginger, or other ingredients provide.

Studies on DMSO have been conducted on a very specific treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus. Sometimes, SLE will cause lupus interstitial cystitis. One very small study on two individuals found that DMSO was able to successfully treat interstitial cystitis.

While much more research is required to determine if DMSO can be effective for large-scale SLE sufferers, it is a promising step forward when other forms of traditional treatment have failed.

CBD

CBD oils and tinctures are one of the most common forms of natural pain relief, and a lot of anecdotal evidence exists to the efficacy of CBD on pain. The laws governing CBD have been relaxed, allowing scientists to better study the beneficial properties of CBD.

The studies that indicate CBD may be beneficial for SLE sufferers is linked to other conditions that have similar symptoms. One study found that CBD may be able to help with T-cell activity after a spinal injury. Since lupus is believed to be linked to abnormal T-cell activity, CBD may be beneficial.

In terms of pain and inflammation, anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties of cannabidiol have been noted.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a serious condition that should be treated by a professional. Natural treatment options can help augment traditional treatments and can also provide better results for some sufferers.