Lupus is an example of an autoimmune condition where investigation for triggers that may be causing a persistent autoimmune state is 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.
The usual presentation includes joint pains, fever, and then a classic rash that usually appears over the cheek bones.
Other lupus symptoms that can present include:
- muscle pains
- light sensitivity
- respiratory symptoms like chest pain, cough
- nausea, abominal pain
- chest pain related to heart inflammation
- changes and abnormalities in red and white blood cell counts
Conventional treatment of lupus involves trying to control the inflammation with "disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs" and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
A naturopathic approach would typically involve a search for any treatable causes that may be causing the immune system to be unbalanced. Very commonly, if a patient is presenting with lupus symptoms a work up for food sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies is done. A search for toxins that can be causing the immune system dysregulation is typically done, and could involve a search for heavy metals or solvents / chemical build up. I also add onto this approach a search for infectious causes.
Infections as a possible cause of lupus
Most 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 can be useful in autoimmune illness.
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 must be evaluated and treated for because the immune system may simply be trying to clear the infection. In the process, there is the collateral damage and thus the autoimmune presentation.
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, but the testing for at least one strain of mycoplasma can be done in the local lab with good results.
Alternative lupus treatments
Some useful natural treatments for lupus that have been helpful include vitamin E, vitamin A, selenium, essential fatty acids, thunder god vine herb, and vitamin D. Vegetarian diets can be useful, and there may be some benefit of hormones like estriol (an estrogen).
If toxicities are found, then removal of the toxins with things like chelation therapy or sauna therapy can be very useful.
Addressing the infections that are found is paramount, since the infections, if they are in fact persisting, can be driving the underlying immune system attack. Usually antibiotics that also have anti-inflammatory properties are used, and include minocycline or doxycycline. Lyme treatment is more complex.
Ozone therapy can be very useful to balance the immune system as well as serving as a good adjunct to the antibiotic treatment of lupus.