Lupus, like so many autoimmune diseases, creates changes in your ability to absorb nutrients from your gut, so dietary supplements may help with restoring the balance, especially during a flare. Here are my suggestions, as well as food sources for these important vitamins and minerals:
Calcium is essential to promote healthy bones and lower high blood pressure. It can reduce the risk of cancer of the colon, strokes and even kidney stones. Good sources are all dairy products except butter, lentils, most dark leafy greens and the soft bones of sardines. The easiest way to consume calcium is in mineral water. Supplementation with 800mg/d may prevent osteoporosis when given along with Vitamin D. If you are concerned about bone loss, use a calcium supplement with bicarbonate as the anion or negative charged molecule.
You actually strengthen and increase the amount of bone production in your body by alkalinizing your system.
Folic acid, one of the B vitamins, lowers blood levels of homocysteine, a risk factor for atherosclerotic disease. A simple deficiency of this vitamin can trigger 30 to 40% of the heart attacks and strokes suffered in America. In a study of folate intake and its effect on homocysteine levels, researchers found the current RDA of 180 microg/d failed to maintain low levels of this amino acid and recommended an intake of 516 microg/d to decrease the levels of homocysteine. Folic acid can also protect against cancer by altering DNA changes in your white blood cells. Good sources for folate are liver, nuts, lentils, spinach and other dark leafy greens, oranges and avocados. For the best availability of folate, choose fresh produce from a Farmer’s market or the organic section of your grocery store.
Beta carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, is believed to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. It’s water soluble, which means if you take too much you’ll wind up nourishing your toilet bowl. Food sources such as dark orange fruits and vegetables, like winter squash, pack an amazing amount of beta carotene into a single serving. If you use a supplement, take 5000 iu a day.
Vitamin E or d-alpha tocopherol is a powerful antioxidant which acts like a bug zapper to protect the first line of defense of any cell-its membrane. Vitamin E, which is fat soluble, helps keep the good cholesterol high (HDL) while lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL) and can reduce the swelling from arthritis while slowing down the development of cataracts. Good sources are peanut butter, liver, leafy greens, soybeans and nuts. Dosages above 800iu may cause hypertension. As freezing of vegetables destroys the activity of vitamin E, it’s best to eat fresh food sources or use 200 iu daily in your diet.
Selenium is a trace mineral that functions in concert with Vitamin E to scavenge free radicals and heavy metals. It is thought to help in the prevention of cancer. It’s also important for thyroid function, as it aids in converting T4 to T3. Good sources include Brazil nuts, eggs, lean meats, seafood and legumes. Although the RDA for this mineral is 55mcg, you may need to take 83mcg to insure adequate absorption.
Zinc serves many functions in our bodies. The bitter metallic taste in your mouth when you eat iodinated table salt is caused by the interaction of zinc in your saliva with the iodine. This metal is important to carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism and can assist your immune system in fighting a cold. Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) is a critical element in bone formation and protein metabolism. Low concentrations of zinc were found to cause low levels of IGF-I. In another study, animals switched from preferring carbohydrates to fat after developing a zinc deficiency. Diets high in calcium or calcium containing supplements can reduce the absorption and balance in adults andhave a direct effect on hip osteoporosis. Foods high in zinc include meat and poultry (especially dark meat), shellfish and legumes. Just 35 mg a day should do the trick.
Vitamin C has been viewed as the miracle vitamin, curing everything from the common cold to cancer in various doses. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) can reduce the risk of gallbladder disease and stones by altering the breakdown of cholesterol. Vitamin C levels are associated with a reduction in heart disease and stroke. Postmenopausal women who take at least 500mg of calcium a day with Vitamin C have better collagen formation in bone and tissue. Good sources are fresh fruits, melons, strawberries, broccoli, sweet red and green peppers, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, cabbage and dark leafy greens like chard, kale, collards, spinach, mustard and turnips. The darker or brighter the green pigment, the greater the Vitamin C content. If you take a supplement, you only need to add 350mg a day.
Magnesium is a mineral which acts to balance the solubility of calcium in urine and tissues. It is vital to metabolism and activates more than 300 different enzymes in the body, particularly those that need the B vitamins for action. It helps to prevent tooth decay by binding calcium to teeth. Good sources are avocados, green vegetables, chocolate (70% cocoa), legumes, nuts and seeds. You should take half as much magnesium as calcium in your supplements, so just 3 60mg a day should balance your calcium intake.
Vitamin D is God’s gift from sunshine. It regulates phosphorus and calcium metabolism which is important for strong bones.
Good sources are cod liver oil, dairy products, butter, eggs, liver, fish such as salmon and of course, sunshine. You only need to add 33 i.u of cholecalciferol (Vitamin D ) to your diet.
Biotin is a highly sulfur containing B vitamin which plays a key role in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. It’s what gives rotten eggs their odor! Biotin is important for healthy nails, hair and skin. Good sources are egg yolks, meats, liver, milk, nuts, legumes, peanut butter, chocolate and cauliflower. If you don’t eat eggs, consider adding 33 mcg to your diet.
Pantothenic acid, by its Greek name, means “do anything” and that’s just about how it works. It’s a key component to Coenzyme A which is important to your metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Good sources are most fish but all food groups contain some pantothenic acid. As a result, you only need 166 mg as a supplement a day.
Riboflavin is nature’s way of giving you the benefits of niacin without the “hot flashes.” It’s an important B vitamin in the metabolism of tryptophan and has been found to help prevent migraines. Riboflavin is water soluble and works with B6, folate and niacin to maintain the integrity of red blood cells. It also helps to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Good sources are liver, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, dark green vegetables, spinach and broccoli. Look for adding just 66 mg a day.
Potassium is an important mineral in maintaining fluid balance. It also helps our body breakdown carbohydrates and protein. Good sources include fruits, vegetables, dairy products, fish, lean meats and poultry. Supplement with no more than 50mg a day.
Chromium helps to regulate cholesterol and fatty acid production by making the body more sensitive to insulin. It also aids in the digestion of protein. Good sources are unpeeled apples, oysters, nuts, peanut butter, liver and meat. Supplements should be 83 mcg in the form of an amino acid chelate.
Manganese is a trace element that appears in a variety of plants and animals. Our bodies use it to activate enzymes that are important in the metabolism of glucose and fatty acids. Good sources are tea, leafy vegetables, nuts, fruits and legumes. Just balance your diet with 41 mg.
Pyridoxine or B6 is essential for the metabolism of protein as it helps to convert glycogen into glucose which can be used by your muscles for energy. It is an important cofactor in the regulation of 26 aminotransferases, enzymes that regulate the proper pathways for our neuroendocrine system. If you are deficient in B6, you may form kidney stones when you eat sugars such as fructose or galactose. Women need higher doses of B6 than men because we lose more B6 in our urine. Women taking birth control pills can become depleted of B6, which results in disturbances in the metabolism of tryptophan. This can cause depression, anxiety, decreased sex drive and impaired glucose tolerance. B6 is important in lowering homocysteine levels in blood. Pyridoxal-5-phosphate, the liver metabolized form of B6, is the active component. However, if you have problems with gastric emptying, you may not be able to absorb B6 from standard vitamins unless it has been treated for absorption in the small intestine or duodenum. Look for 20mg enteric coated tablets of Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate and take it twice a day. If you are prone to herpetic outbreaks, don’t take B6.
Iron deficiency can alter cholesterol metabolism and predispose you to gallstone formation. If you have heavy monthly blood loss, you can create a deficiency. However, once menstruation stops, higher levels of iron become stored as serum ferritin, which has been shown to be a risk factor for coronary disease. People with autoimmune disorders often are low in ferritin. Sources of iron include liver, dried lentils, meat, poultry, broccoli, kale and spinach. Soy products can block the absorption of iron. You should discuss supplementation with your doctor as there are many variables to consider in finding the appropriate dosage for you.
As you can see, one “dose” does not fit all, so tailor your supplement plan according to your own needs when dealing with Lupus.