According to a new study from the United Kingdom, people with lupus report feeling better when they’re making purposeful food choices. The majority of survey respondents (79%) undertaking a dietary change reported benefitting from their new eating pattern. Dietary changes varied from increasing vegetable intake to reducing intake of processed food, sugar, gluten, dairy or carbohydrates. Based on respondents’ reports, dietary changes involving more vegetable consumption, but fewer processed foods and animal products may be of greatest benefit for reducing the severity of lupus symptoms.

Researchers collected data based on an anonymous online survey, which asked people about their experiences regarding their lupus symptoms and their diets. Of the 420 survey respondents who reported their lupus diagnosis, more than half (61%) said they deliberately eat or avoid certain foods to help control symptoms. 

The most commonly reported dietary changes were:

  • Increased vegetable intake (62%)
  • Reduced or no consumption of
    • Processed foods (50%)
    • Sugar (45%)
    • Alcohol (38%)
    • Gluten (36%)
    • Dairy (35%)

Some respondents also reported following low-carbohydrate, vegetarian or vegan eating patterns. 

Additionally, respondents reported improvements in their symptoms after making changes to their eating habits, with many citing reduced muscle/joint pain (49%), improved mood (43%), less fatigue (39%), better sleep (27%) and improved rashes/skin lesions (27%). 

Interestingly, vegetarian eating patterns (which exclude meat, but include dairy and eggs) provided the most self-reported benefits (93%), while vegan diets (which exclude all animal-based foods) provided the lowest, but still substantial, proportion of positive responses (63%).

Previous studies have found that people with lupus are interested in using diet to treat fatigue, heart disease and other symptoms. However, to date, much about the relationship between diet and lupus remains uncertain. While more research is needed, these findings suggest that dietary changes may help in the management of lupus symptoms. Learn more about diet and nutrition with lupus.

Read this study