Systemic lupus erythematosus more commonly referred to Lupus is an immune-mediated systemic disease. More than 90% of this autoimmune condition occurs in women and frequently starts at childbearing age. Autoimmune disease is defined as a condition with tissue destruction or organ malfunction caused by autoimmune mechanisms. Lupus results in diverse abnormalities of the skin, kidney, and haematological and musculoskeletal systems. It is characterized by the production of antibodies to the cell nucleus (Antinuclear antibodies).
It mainly affects women, especially from certain ethnic groups. Symptoms of Lupus are not specific and they can vary widely, but fatigue is the most common symptom and patients also experience varying symptoms such as:
- unexplained fever
- shortness of breath
- heart or kidney problems
- swollen painful joints
- unsightly skin rashes
- incapacitating headaches
Conventional Medicine Struggles to Treat Lupus
The major issue in treating Lupus is that conventional medicine does not understand what causes it. Disease management of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is guided by the individual patient’s manifestations. So drug treatment can be through one or a combination of:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs
The Answer is Integrative Therapies
Due to the side-effects of pharmaceuticals and with no cure in sight many people are turning to alternative medicine treatment or integrative medicine to help manage their symptoms of Lupus. These therapies include homeopathy, using nutritional supplements, chiropractic care, acupuncture, tai chi, ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, besides massage therapy, meditation, and spirituality.
For example, it has been shown that Omega -3 DHA protects against lupus in mice predisposed to lupus by stopping a toxic mineral called crystalline silica from triggering the disease. Other nutritional supplements that may be useful in treatment are Vitamin D,N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and Turmeric.
Ayurveda often uses a combination of traditional Integrative medicine treatments of massage, diet, and herbs e.g. ashwagandha to treat Lupus patients. Ashwagandha also known as with aniasominfera is immunosuppressive has been shown to inhibit proinflammatory cytokines, NO, and ROS in mice. With aniasomnifera was found to have a potent inhibitory effect on proteinuria, nephritis and other inflammatory markers in SLE animal models.
A 2013 study by Zhong et al showed that Zi Shen Qing is safe and effective herb for decreasing SLE disease activity and withdrawal dosage of corticosteroids in the mild to moderate SLE patients with “Deficiency of Qi and Yin” Pattern.
Mooven than et al 2014 published a study showing that a combination of traditional Integrative medicine treatments helps symptomatic management of Lupus. These treatments included:
- Acupuncture (GV-20, GV-6, LI-11, HT-7, GB-34, and KI-3)
- Massage therapy (touch, stroking, friction, kneading and joint movements to bilateral foot etc)
- Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables
Other evidenced-based alternative medicine treatments for Lupus include mind-body treatments such as meditation and CBT.
This is only a snippet of alternative medicine treatments that have been shown to help Lupus patients. Therefore, it follows that the way forward to treating Lupus is through the Integrative Medicine approach. Using structured methodology rather than the mix’ n match approach in conjunction with conventional pharmaceuticals (depending on the gravity of illness) is the key to successfully treating Systemic lupus erythematosus. The Integrative Medicine therapeutic protocol should be tailored to the individual.