Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. The body’s immune system normally makes proteins called antibodies to protect the body against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign materials. These foreign materials are called antigens. In an autoimmune disorder such as lupus, the immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between foreign substances (antigens) and its own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies directed against “self.” These antibodies, called “auto-antibodies,” react with the “self” antigens to form immune complexes. The immune complexes build up in the tissues and can cause inflammation, injury to tissues, and pain. Although much is still not known about the nutritional factors in many kinds of disease, no one questions the necessity of a well-balanced diet.
Alfalfa sprouts are in the legume family and contain an amino acid, L-canavanine. It can stimulate the immune system in people with lupus and increase inflammation. Other legumes are safe to eat as they have a much lower concentration of L-canavanine compared to alfalfa sprouts.
In a 6 month study, Dr. Emeir Duffy from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Ulster studied the effect of fish oil supplements in 52 lupus patients.
The results are promising for sufferers of this disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue throughout the body, causing painful or swollen joints, unexplained fever, skin rashes, kidney problems, cardiovascular complications and extreme fatigue.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils are of real interest because they are thought to fight inflammation and affect immune function.
Participants in the study took either fish-oil supplements three times per day, a copper supplement, copper plus fish oil or a placebo. Duffy’s team found that the copper was of no benefit. But, all the participants who took the fish oil saw improvements in quality of life, inflammation and fatigue, which is one of the most debilitating symptoms of lupus.