Lupus is an example of an autoimmune condition where investigation for potential triggers that may be aggravating a persistent autoimmune state may be warranted.

Lupus symptoms and treatment

 Lupus is classified as a chronic auto-immune disease, which is a descriptive term that means the immune system is attacking the body's own tissue. Almost any organ system can be affected, and thus lupus symptoms vary in how they present, and how to start. It can range from a slow onset to a rapid progression of illness.

A typical presentation may include joint pains, fever, and then a classic (butterfly) rash that usually appears over the cheek bones. 

Other lupus symptoms that can present include:

- fatigue

- muscle pains

- light sensitivity

- respiratory symptoms like chest pain, cough

- nausea, abdominal pain

- chest pain related to heart inflammation

- changes and abnormalities in red and white blood cell counts

Conventional treatment of lupus may involve trying to control the inflammation with "disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs" and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

A naturopathic approach may involve a search for any treatable causes that may be causing the immune system to be unbalanced. A work up for food sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies may be recommended. A search for toxins that may be attributing to immune system dysregulation may be done, this may include heavy metals, solvents, and/or other chemicals or toxins. Potential infectious attributing factors may be explored as well.

Infections & lupus 

Much of my practice involves assessing and treating patients for chronic lyme disease and coinfections. The Road Back foundation is a great resource that describes how antibiotics may be useful in autoimmune illness. There is significant controversy in risk with such treatments, and it is only a subset that seems to respond.

The basic premise involves the recognition that the immune system has a clear goal to fight infection. If the immune system is attacking its own tissue, infectious organisms that can live inside your own cells may be evaluated and treated, because the immune system may simply be trying to clear the infection. In the process, there may be collateral damage and thus the autoimmune presentation.

In my experience, I have treated patients with autoimmune diseases like lupus and scleroderma successfully with antibiotics, both natural and drug based. Some of these patients are positive for lyme disease, and some are positive for other infections like mycoplasma. The testing for lyme disease is controversial.

Alternative lupus treatments

Some useful natural treatments for lupus that have been helpful in my experience include vitamin E, vitamin A, selenium, essential fatty acids, herbals and vitamin D. Vegetarian diets can be useful.

If toxicities are found, then reduction of the toxins with treatments such as chelation therapy or sauna therapy may be recommended.

Addressing the infections that are found is paramount in my opinion, since the infections, if they are in fact persisting, may be driving the underlying immune system attack. Usually antibiotics that also have anti-inflammatory properties are recommended, including minocycline or doxycycline. Second opinions should be sought as well as having a discussion of the risks and possible benefits. Lyme treatment is more complex.

Ozone therapy may be useful in my experience, with the aim to balance the immune system as well as serving as a good adjunct to the antibiotic treatment of lupus.

Dr. Eric Chan (ND)