Andrei R/ShutterstockA new study brings encouraging news to the roughly 1.5 million Americans suffering from lupus: A simple diet tweak may be the key to reducing some of the common symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and pain.
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body and creates body-wide inflammation. It strikes women ten times more often than men and not only damages the organs over time, but also causes uncomfortable side effects like joint pain or swelling; fatigue; fever; and skin rashes. (Pay attention to these other lupus symptoms.)
Previous studies have shown an association between omega-3 fatty acids (essential fats the body can’t make on its own) supplementation and reduced disease activity in some patients; but now, researchers have discovered dietary intake of omega-3s may have a similar effect.
A study by researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor found that when nearly 500 lupus patients ate more omega-3 rich foods (such as fatty fish or these other foods), they experienced better sleep quality, a decrease in depression, and less pain than when their diet contained lower levels of the healthy fat. Researchers also looked at what happened when subjects increased their dietary intake of omega-6 fatty acids (found in meat and oils made from sunflower, corn, or sesame) and observed lupus symptoms worsen. Researchers believe the difference is due to omega-3s having an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, while omega-6s are thought to induce inflammation.
Besides adding more omega-3 rich foods to your diet (and limiting your sources of omega-6s), there are other lifestyle habits that can help keep lupus symptoms and flare-ups at bay.
“Regular exercise, stress reduction, sun avoidance, and maintaining a regular medication regimen can help,” says Olivia Ghaw, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.