By Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Disseminated or systemic lupus is a chronic, usually severe disorder occurring more often in females ages 15-40. Lupus strikes about one in a thousand white women and one in five hundred black women worldwide. Men are about one-tenth as likely to get the disease. It is a disease characterized by general symptoms of feeling bad, arthritis, and skin lesions, with gradual or rapid progression to serious manifestations, such as pneumonia, disabling arthritis, and kidney failure. The disease is caused by an alteration in the chemical structure of collagen, a type of connective tissue fiber especially common in blood vessels, lungs, kidneys, skin, and the lining membranes of joints and body cavities.
A characteristic butterfly-shaped rash or inflammation may occur over the nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin. Other parts of the face may be free from inflammation. Frequently there are additional symptoms which involve the joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, heart, brain, blood vessels, red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. A common sign of lupus is mouth ulcers lasting longer than two weeks. The disease can involve any one or any combination of organ systems. Chronic systemic lupus has been shown to be associated with a family history of autoimmune diseases, a history of shingles, and a history of allergies. American Journal of Epidemiology 140:63242; 1994.
The cause of lupus is unknown, but has been thought by various researchers to be of toxic origin, or allergic in nature, autoimmune, infectious, or inflammatory. Our treatments attempt to address all of these issues.
- Charcoal taken by mouth may help remove toxins from the body. Charcoal can be used internally as well as externally. One teaspoon of the powder stirred into a glass of water taken four times daily may be the appropriate dosage, or 8-10 tablets (4 capsules) daily for a sufficient length of time to expect the toxic substance to be adsorbed. This may last a month or more. The charcoal is capable of assisting somewhat in taking up the causative agent by using charcoal baths or charcoal whirlpool (a cup of charcoal to a whirlpool tank), or one-half cupful to a bathtub of hot water (103-104° F).
- Fever treatments should be given three to five times a week until 15 treatments have been received. The mouth temperature should be raised to 102-103° F so that a profuse sweating may occur, if the general condition of the patient will allow it; but as little as 100° mouth temperature is beneficial. Keep the temperature elevated for 20-30 minutes, using care to keep the head cool with cloths wrung from ice water. If the patient does not tolerate heat treatments, use the short cold bath, filling the bathtub with water from 60-90° F and soaking for one to three minutes. Use the warmer temperatures for more debilitated patients. The physiological effects are similar to the longer heat treatments. If the disease is due to a virus, the higher temperatures promote phagocytic activity of the white blood cells, improve the defense mechanisms, and stimulate the immune system to normal function. If the disease is due to a toxin the treatment will assist in the removal through the process of sweating, phagocytosis, and increased urine production. Whole body heating, such as in a hot tub bath, causes the body to increase the production of soluble necrosis factor receptors which are helpful to persons suffering from a variety of rheumatic diseases. Whole body heating produces endorphins which provide some relief of pain as well as an increased rate of healing. Journal of Rheumatology 26:2513,1999.
- Massage is a good form of treatment, preferably using total body massage. The enhancement of immune function encourages a return to normality in producing blood proteins.
- Avoid direct sunlight, getting out in the sun only with a protective hat or parasol, and while completely clothed. While not all patients with collagen diseases are sensitive to sun, heavy sunning has been found to reduce the sensitivity of the immune system. Be sure to get plenty of sunshine in your home, every room in the house being open to the sun during some part of the day. While sunlight should be used lightly, it should be in very small quantities at first, particularly in acute exacerbation. When the acute part of the disease has subsided, begin with very small doses of sunshine, perhaps five minutes in the broken sunlight of a shade tree. Before that, the patient is given five minutes out of doors in deep shade, daily progressing until five minutes can be tolerated in light shade, then advancing to a screened sun porch for as many hours daily as possible. We believe the very fact of being outdoors can be beneficial.
- Exercise has been shown to be an excellent treatment for persons with lupus. Exercise outofdoors in the early morning is the most advantageous. Exercise is essential to keep the immune system healthy and to avoid depression, fatigue, and physical degeneration. Of course, the good physical conditioning features of fresh air, sunshine, pure water, habits of regularity, abstemiousness, and trust in divine power, are essential to the treatment of lupus.
- Warm clay baths have been used at temperatures about 102° F, more or less, the patient remaining in the tub for three or four hours. We have taken an old bathtub, lined it with a plastic liner, and made the soupy clay paste in a protected outdoor area to facilitate disposal of the clay after the series of treatments is finished. The plastic liner is optional. At least five one-hour treatments have been suggested, and as many as 15 or more treatments can be tried to see if the patient benefits.
- Echinacea tea will boost and normalize the functioning of the immune system. Use daily one tablespoon to a quart of water, gently boiled for 10-15 minutes. Take the quart in four divided doses each day for 21 days.
- The use of drugs should be very carefully avoided. Contraceptive pills, penicillin and sulfonamides, cimetidine, and corticosteroids should all be avoided. If you are currently taking any cortisone-like medicine, do not discontinue without the help of a professional. There is no alteration in the course of the disease with the use of steroid drugs, only in the symptoms, and these drugs should be avoided if at all possible as the side effects are serious, and dependency develops easily.
- Also to be avoided are hair coloring agents, hair sprays, cosmetics to which the person is sensitive, perfumes, and cleaning agents - which may cause sensitivities.
- There are certain dietary substances known to either aggravate or relieve lupus symptoms. Aggravating substances include Lcanavanine found in alfalfa tablets and immature alfalfa sprouts younger than five days old. These should be avoided strictly by collagen disease sufferers. Dietary measures found to relieve lupus symptoms include reducing the total number of calories and making the diet low in protein while increasing vitamin E and vitamin A containing foods as well as foods containing selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Some deficiency states, particularly a deficiency of manganese, have been indirectly implicated in lupus. This idea arose because of observations in chronic hydralazine (an older blood pressure medication) poisoning in animals. Lupus and the hydralazine syndrome in man may be related to manganese deficiency.
- Dr. Joel Fuhrman, of New Jersey, has reported the novel treatment of fasting for lupus patients. He has fasted patients, even some with fairly severe kidney disease, for up to 21 days, with excellent improvement. He cautions that this must be done only with strict medical supervision. This is a treatment that deserves more extensive trials.
- Bee venom has been reported by apiarians to be antiinflammatory for lupus. Three stings three times weekly have been used with very good success by some naturopaths. It seems worth a trial. Six bee stings per week for six months have shown good effect in many persons with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis according to Dr. Christopher Deatherage of Brush Creek Health Institute in Missouri: Rt. 5, Box 806, Ava, MO 65608.
Dietary Factors in Treatment
- Use a diet high in plant sterols, and avoid dairy products and all other animal products. Persons with collagen diseases do much better on a totally vegetarian diet. Those with arthritic symptoms should avoid members of the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, paprika, and pimento, and tobacco) for a test period of six weeks. If there is improvement, continue avoiding these foods. An Elimination and Challenge diet, usually provided to help patients relieve food allergy symptoms, has been found beneficial to some lupus patients to discover any foods that may be causing symptoms. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 95:A31;1995.
- The diet is best when free from refined sugars, free fats, and all spices. A trial diet of foods high in natural plant sterols may be useful, and are listed below. Some of these foods, although high in plant sterols, may be foods to which you have a food sensitivity. If so, simply omit those and use others on the list. There are beneficial effects from reducing the intake of visible or free polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet for one year in patients with lupus. Annuals of the Rheumatic Diseases 49(2):134, February 1990. These include margarine, mayonnaise, fried foods, salad oils, and cooking fats. The following foods have been found to be high in naturally occurring plant sterols similar in chemical formula to estrogens. Some of these should be eaten daily in liberal quantities if you do not have sensitivities to them: Apples, Cherries, Olives, Plums, Anise seed, Wheat germ, Food yeast, Barley, Garlic, Whole grains, Corn, Parsley, Oats, Rice, Wheat, Sage, Coconut, Carrots, Peanuts, Yams, Soybeans, Alfalfa leaf tea, Licorice root tea, and Foods of the nightshade family (bell pepper, paprika, pimentos, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes).
- Food should be taken in small bites and chewed to a cream. Eat slowly. It may be that the "leaky gut" syndrome may be a part of the cause of collagen diseases. Care should be taken to eat at regular times and avoid complex mixtures in salads and casseroles. Avoid too great a variety of food at a meal. The menu should contain a simple main dish, a cooked fruit or vegetable, an uncooked fruit or vegetable, bread and spread. The smorgasbord menu is unhealthful.
- It is worth a trial of six months being gluten free. That means no wheat, oats, rye, or barley. You may use rice, corn, and millet. There is a theory that failure to cook grains properly - several hours for rice (3), corn grits (5), rolled oats (1-1/2 to 2), and millet (2) is a cause. Some of these grains you will be leaving off if you try to be gluten free. If you use corn pasta, rice pasta, or bean pasta, those need to be cooked only 20 minutes.
- Nephritis from lupus can be benefited by the high lignin content of flaxseed. It is recommended for its anti-inflammatory properties. For those who suffer from nephritis take two to four tablespoons of flaxseed, freshly ground, each day, sprinkled on cereal, or stirred into juice. Clinical and Investigative Medicine 17(4):B9798, August 1994. Soybeans contain a protein which is very beneficial to kidneys. A quarter cup of cooked soybeans daily will provide the protein. The soy limas are the most tasty of the soybeans.
- Take plenty of garlic, as garlic will help to keep the platelets normal and to prevent the white blood cell count from going too high. Take two to six cloves with each meal. You can lightly steam the garlic in a pan with a little water in it if you cannot tolerate it raw.
- Curcumin, a major component of the kitchen herb turmeric, has a strong effect of reducing platelet stickiness and preventing blood clots from forming inside the heart or veins. Curcumin also changes the metabolism of platelets so that the platelets are more resistant to the adverse effects of various stresses, diet, or lifestyle factors. Curcumin also has very good anti-inflammatory properties. In some people the effective dose can irritate the bowel. Take one teaspoon of the powdered turmeric stirred in one to four ounces of water with meals. Get the powder from a grocery store having a frequent turnover of turmeric in order to get the freshest herb.
A group of researchers believes that, under appropriate conditions of family susceptibility, dental fillings may contribute to immunologic aberrations which could lead to autoimmune diseases. FASEB Journal 8(14):1183;1994; and Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 132(2):299:1995.
One young lady with lupus began to take colloidal silver. Within weeks, her lupus had cleared up which she had had for eight years. Low dose UVA-1 cold light treatment was strongly suggestive of lowering disease activity in a double blind placebo controlled study, and no side effects occurred. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Vol. 60(2)(pp 112-115), 2001.
Pregnancy is often good for people who have lupus, and they often have a remission of symptoms during pregnancy. Unfortunately, it tends to return fairly soon after weaning the child, or even after the pregnancy ends.
Type II diabetes has been shown to be associated with inflammation in persons who will later develop the disease. A study done at the University of North Carolina conducted on 12,330 men and women, ages 45-64, showed that strict weight control could go far toward preventing this outcome since fat cells produce substances that encourage inflammation in the body. Patients with the highest white cell count, the highest fibrinogen, a protein produced in the liver during inflammation and important to blood clotting, and the lowest levels of albumin, a blood protein that decreases during inflammation, had about 30% more diabetes than those not having these blood evidences of inflammation. Lancet, May 15, 1999.
It would be well to take B12 on a regular basis, along with folic acid and cats claw (which in Latin is uncaria tomentosa). These substances have been shown to stimulate the bone marrow which may combat or prevent low platelets. Unless the platelets fall below 40,000, they are not dangerously low, and probably not even until below 25,000. Try to avoid any kind of mechanical trauma that might lead to bleeding.
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