Saturday, March 15, 2014

Should I Avoid Eating Alfalfa if I have Lupus? The answer is yes!

There is a lot of talk about special diets for people with Lupus.  Some people say to go gluten free, other people say to eat vegan, and there is very little evidence to say that any particular diet is a sure bet for a Lupus patient, because Lupus is a disease that affects everyone a bit differently.  What works for one person might not work for another.  However, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on, is that people with Lupus should NOT eat alfalfa.

The John's Hopkins Center for Lupus (a VERY reliable source!) states the following:
Alfalfa sprouts contain an amino acid called L-canavanine that can increase inflammation in people with lupus by stimulating the immune system. As a result, people with lupus and similar autoimmune conditions should avoid alfalfa sprouts completely.

This is very important because a lot of herbal products and healthy foods contain alfalfa even if you don't realize it!  Alfalfa can be included in shake mixes, energy bars, etc.  It's also important to check ingredients for L-Canavanine, which is the amino acid that can increase inflammation.

As a whole, there's a misunderstanding that people with Lupus should take products or foods that boost the immune system.  It's quite the opposite!  We have over-active immune systems and should avoid immune boosting foods and supplements!

That's why in addition to Alfalfa, we should avoid the following:

  • Sunlight (we all knew this!)
  • Bactrim & Sulfa Antibiotics (because it can make us more sensitive to sunlight).  I have taken Bactrim for infections, because I am allergic to some other antibiotics, but I was careful to avoid the sun.  Talk to your doctor about this and use your own discretion.
  • Garlic.  It can rev-up your immune system, and while I don't avoid this completely I try to order foods without added garlic and if a recipe calls for it, I either omit it or add just a tiny bit.
  • Melatonin.  I used to take this, but once I got diagnosed with Lupus I stopped.  Melatonin is a hormone that can stimulate the immune system.
  • Echinacea.   This dietary supplement is used to boost the immune system in healthy people who want to avoid getting a cold, but boosting the immune system in Lupus patients may cause a flare...so we should avoid it all together. 
I'm not a doctor or a health professional, but I have wonderful doctors that I trust who support the above statements made by John Hopkins Lupus Center.  My doctor isn't a fan of specific diets like going vegan or gluten free for Lupus.  She suggests avoiding the above mentioned foods (garlic and alfalfa) but her suggestion is to eat a healthy, clean, organic diet that is rich in veggies, fruits, and lean hormone-free protein and dairy.  This is a diet that is healthy for everyone though!  

Hope you are all having a great day!  Here in Massachusetts we are starting to see signs of spring!  Finally!  Even though it snowed yesterday.  The real estate market is starting to get very busy, and I'm hoping more warm weather is around the corner!

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