part of the Autoimmune Family of Diseases
Lupus is a member of the auto-immune family of diseases. In addition to multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and others, this includes several diseases and intolerances that strongly affect diet and nutrition..
The immune system is meant to protect the body against invading bacteria and viruses. But for some reason, in auto-immune diseases, the body attacks its own cells and tissues. Auto-immune diseases like lupus and Diabetes are not catching. You can't get them from contact with someone else. But there is a lot of research into the genetic component of these diseases.
The Experts Say:
There is only a 5 percent chance of a person with lupus having a child who will eventually develop lupus. Yet there are suggestions of more subtle genetic factors. Overally, about 20 percent of lupus patients have a first-degree relative (parent, child, or sibling) with some autoimmune disorder (thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc).
-Living with Lupus, Sheldon paul Blau, M.D., pg.39.
Lupus and Food Intolerances
When the immune system turns against the digestive system, the way the body handles foods is affected.
Though exact numbers are not available, it's clear from the experience of lupus patients on the Internet, and in lupus support groups worldwide, that many are affected by food intolerances as well. Let's look at three types of food intolerance that seem to cause problems for significant numbers of lupus patients. These are diabetes, celiac disease (gluten-induced enteropathy), and lactose intolerance.
Diabetes is a disease of the endocrine (glandular) system. It seems that a fever or infection often is the trigger that sets off the immune system. This causes the body to turn against itself, and destroy the insulin-producing cells. This means that sugar builds up in the blood, and eventually this damages the tissues. The hormone, insulin, does not work effectively enough to push the sugar into the cells, where it can do work.
In addition, specific antibody reactions may be at work.
Antiinsulin receptor antibodies are occasionally found in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and other autoimmune diseases.
Celiac Disease, can be thought of as an allergy to the protein found in many grains, which is called gluten. The grains include wheat, oats, rye, and barley. This allergy causes the same kind of digestive complaints we've been talking about. Even more troubling, however, is that over time, the lining of the intestine becomes damaged. This means other nutrients are not absorbed, and weakness and weight loss can result. Avoiding the offender, gluten, ususally provides results. However, this is a very restrictive diet, and special dietary products may be needed to get more variety in the diet.
Lactose Intolerance means that a person has difficulty digesting the naturally-occurring sugar in milk, lactose. And you wondered why they called it sweet milk! Cramping, loose stools, and gas are symptoms of this problem. If this troubles you, you are in good company. An estimated fifty-percent of the world population is lactose-intolerant. The body, for whatever reason, has quit producing enough of the enzyme lactase, which splits the lactose so the body can digest it. Fortunately, many foods are available that have enzymes added, or are naturally "acidified", such as buttermilk and yogurt, which can help control this condition.