5 Steps to Reverse Lupus
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or lupus) is an autoimmune disease that can impact multiple systems in the body. This debilitating and sometimes life-threatening condition affects an estimated 5 million people worldwide. It can be a burden to the skin, joints, internal organs, and nervous system.1
As with all autoimmune conditions, lupus is a disease of the immune system. Your immune system has a sophisticated mechanism to identify foreign substances, such as allergens, toxins, infections, and even food. If your immune system deems anything dangerous, it produces antibodies to ward off the harmful intruders.
Lupus can develop when your immune system does not successfully differentiate between intruders and your own tissues. Mistaking your tissues for foreign substances, your body turns antibodies against itself, wreaking havoc on your organs.
Most autoimmune diseases affect a specific system. For example, Rheumatoid Arthritis involves the joints, and Multiple Sclerosis affects the brain and spinal cord. People with lupus may find that the condition affects different parts of the body simultaneously. Despite differences in what organ or body system is being attacked, all types of autoimmune disease are a response caused by systemic inflammation that leads your body to attack itself.
By supporting, rather than suppressing your immune system and restoring it to optimal function, you can reverse autoimmune conditions such as lupus and eliminate your symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Lupus
Symptoms of lupus vary widely and range from mild to severe or even life-threatening. Nicknamed “The Great Imitator,” lupus can mimic other diseases, impacting multiple bodily systems and leading to symptoms that often come and go or change entirely.
The most common symptoms of lupus are:
- Joint pain and swelling
- A butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks
- Hair loss
- Ulcers in the nose and mouth
- Edema (water retention) in the hands, feet, and face
- Photosensitivity (sensitivity to light, especially sunlight)
- Raynaud’s Disease (extremities turning white or blue when exposed to the cold)
How is Lupus Diagnosed?
Lupus is often overlooked or misdiagnosed because the symptoms may match those of other conditions. Usually, a doctor will review your medical history and your family history and look for signs of systemic inflammation. They rely on observation as well as laboratory testing in order to make a diagnosis because lupus can involve internal and external organs. There is no one test for lupus—many different aspects need to fit together, and it can take years to reach a diagnosis.
Conventional Treatment for Lupus
Conventional medicine focuses on managing the symptoms of lupus rather than finding the root cause. It views the body in terms of isolated systems, with specialized doctors for each one. For example, a nephrologist for the kidneys or a dermatologist for the skin. For this reason, treatment is based on medications. Drugs are prescribed for specific symptoms, such as diuretics for fluid retention, or aspirin for pain.
A doctor usually prescribes a corticosteroid such as prednisone, which may lead to unpleasant and dangerous side effects. If the steroids stop suppressing symptoms, a host of other medications are prescribed that either modulate or suppress the immune system as a whole.
On the other hand, functional medicine looks at the entire body based on the fact that the health of one organ affects the function of others. Rather than suppressing symptoms, functional medicine aims to get at the underlying root cause of disease.
5 Underlying Root Causes of Lupus
If you suspect that you have lupus, I recommend taking a functional medicine approach to uncover what provoked your immune system to attack your own tissues in the first place. Below are the top five underlying causes of lupus.
Your gut is semi-permeable to allow very small molecules (micronutrients) to pass through the intestinal wall to absorb the nutrients from your food. The intestinal wall can be damaged by factors including food intolerances, infections, medications, and stress. When the wall is damaged, larger food particles and toxins “leak through” your gut and enter your bloodstream, triggering an immune response and leaky gut. We know from the research of Dr. Alessio Fasano that leaky gut is a precursor to autoimmunity. So lupus is also associated with a leaky gut, and in order to overcome it, you must first repair your gut.
Gluten is one of the leading culprits behind leaky gut and chronic inflammation, linking to more than 55 diseases.2 Symptoms of gluten intolerance are not digestive in nature—they can appear as neurological issues such as pain, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, behavioral issues, fatigue, and depression.
Gluten molecules resemble many of your body’s tissues, particularly thyroid tissue. If you have Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or a leaky gut, your immune system releases antibodies every time you eat gluten. These antibodies mistakenly attack other organs, which may precipitate full-blown autoimmune disease.
Toxic molds (mycotoxins) and heavy metals are the two primary toxins in those with autoimmune conditions. Only about 25% of the population carries the genes that make them susceptible to the effects of mycotoxins.3 Unfortunately, conventional environmental mold testing only tests for the levels of mold spores and does not test for mycotoxins.
The heavy metal mercury is toxic to our bodies. We’re exposed to mercury in our air and water, the fish we eat, amalgam fillings, cosmetics, and vaccines. I recommended heavy metal testing to all of my patients with autoimmunity, using a pre- and post-DMPS urine challenge test.
Scientists suspect that infections from bacteria, viruses, and other toxins are behind the development of conditions such as lupus. While they have not been able to identify one single culprit, there are strong correlations between a number of bacteria and viruses and the development of lupus. For example, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been shown to trigger lupus in some individuals.4
Stress-related illnesses are on the rise. Both emotional and physical stressors trigger and intensify autoimmune disorders such as lupus. Chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation and suppresses your immune system. This can trigger or worsen autoimmune conditions, and lead to the reactivation of latent viruses linked to lupus.
5 Steps to Reverse Lupus
1. Repair your gut
The connection between leaky gut, autoimmunity, and your immune system makes repairing your gut the starting point in reversing an autoimmune condition. I use the 4R approach to repair gut health.
- Remove. Remove the bad. Eliminate factors that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract. That includes inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs, as well as toxic foods, such as sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Finally, you’ll want to eradicate any kind of bacterial overgrowth (Candida overgrowth, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, and parasites).
- Replace. Replace what’s missing. Add digestive enzymes to optimize digestion, and include nutrient-dense foods.
- Reinoculate. Restore beneficial bacteria in your gut to re-establish a healthy microbial balance. High-quality probiotics help repair your gut and support your immune system. I recommend 100 billion CFUs (colony forming units) while reversing leaky gut, and 30 billion CFUs as a maintenance dose.
- Repair. It’s essential to provide the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself. My most comprehensive weapon against leaky gut is Leaky Gut Revive®. It contains powerful ingredients to support gut health including L-glutamine, aloe, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm, and marshmallow root. Leaky Gut Revive® nourishes and soothes your gut cells, restores your gut’s natural mucosal lining, and maximizes gut-mending fatty acid production.
2. Optimize your diet
Gluten is an inflammatory food that wreaks havoc on the gut through molecular mimicry. It is critical for anyone with an autoimmune condition to eliminate it from their diet. Instead, include whole, real foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meat and wild-caught fish, and healthy fats. My cookbook, The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook, contains over 150 specially designed recipes to help make following an autoimmune-friendly protocol easy and delicious!
3. Find and treat infections
Have your doctor test for infections such as herpes simplex virus (HSV) and EBV. Monolaurin from coconut oil help combat both HSV and EBV. Lysine and a lysine-rich diet is effective against HSV infection.
4. Test for heavy metals and mycotoxins
I recommend having your MTHFR genes tested. This genetic mutation can impact how well your body is able to detoxify heavy metals. If either heavy metals or mycotoxins are a concern, work on minimizing your exposure to these toxins, and support your detox pathways while you work to flush them out.
5. Relieve your stress
I believe that we ALL benefit from regular stress relief! Adopt stress-relieving strategies such as exercise, meditation, yoga, or art. Choose something that you will enjoy and stick with. Even giving yourself five minutes to sit quietly can work wonders for your adrenal glands.
Whether you’re dealing with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s or another autoimmune condition, you have the power to beat your symptoms, regain your energy, and feel like yourself again. Following these steps will help you uncover the root cause of your illness and reverse your disease.
Ready to get started? The Myers Way® Autoimmune Solution Program shows you how to make dietary and lifestyle changes that will support your immune system. That way, you can achieve your goals and take back your health.