Foods that treat symptoms of lupus
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are especially rich in cold water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines, and found in certain nuts, including walnuts, are known to have an anti-inflammatory impact on the body. On the other hand, omega-6 fatty acids — which are much more common in modern American diets than the omega-3 type and are especially plentiful in refined oils, fast foods, snacks, and sweets, as well as fats from meats grilled at high temperatures — can spark inflammation.
Previous small studies have found an association between taking omega-3 supplements and less disease activity in people diagnosed with lupus. So researchers at the University of Michigan decided to delve deeper into this possibility.
They looked at data collected on of a large group of people with lupus to see if there was a relationship between the research subjects’ intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and patient-reported outcomes, or PROs — meaning how the lupus patients felt and whether their dietary levels of certain fatty acids impacted symptoms, for good or bad.
The research team analyzed information compiled on 456 SLE patients enrolled in the Michigan Lupus Epidemiology & Surveillance (MILES) program who had completed dietary questionnaires and participated in surveys about their lupus symptoms, sleep disturbances, depression, and fibromyalgia symptoms.
The result of the study, presented at the 2017 ACR/ARHP (American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals) meeting, showed lupus patients who ate more omega-6 foods and fewer omega-3s had more disease activity. On the other hand, those with a higher ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s in their diets reported significantly better sleep quality, decreases in depression, and fewer fibromyalgia symptoms, too.
“Many SLE patients suffer from symptoms such as poor sleep, fatigue, and depression,” said University of Michigan nutrition researcher Prae Charoenwoodhipong, who headed the study. “While current treatments have been wonderful at addressing pain, we haven’t been able to offer therapies that really help with these other symptoms.”
“Eating more foods that are high in omega-3 and avoiding a lot of foods that are high in omega-6 could be a low-toxicity intervention that is easily available for SLE patients to help address these symptoms,” he explained. “Recommending daily servings of fatty fish, nuts, and seeds that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids is consistent with the USDA guidance on healthy goals for all Americans. So, it seems reasonable that rheumatologists could be giving out this advice to their patients.”
March 27, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA