9 Diet Tips for Managing Lupus and Other Autoimmune Diseases


Diet can have a huge effect on the symptoms of lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Many have found that certain foods can trigger flares. Conversely, eating a healthy diet can help keep lupus flares at bay. The question is: what foods should you be eating?

MORE: Nine tips to help you to better manage your lupus symptoms

Barbara Mendez is a registered pharmacist and nutritionist and thinks of food as medicine. In this video, she talks viewers through some of the foods she believes are good for people with autoimmune diseases (including lupus) to help manage the symptoms and stay well. Barbara shares her top nine tips for eating well which include ditching the junk food, getting vitamin levels checked regularly and watching which type of supplements you take so you don’t boost your immune system.

MORE: Five lupus complications you might want to know about

Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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  1. Tara Brooks says:

    Dr. Mendez, Thanks for all the advice, I have Lupus SLE I get so mad sometimes because I just don’t know where to start im always up and down and I feel alone even though my family is right here trying hard to help I’M JUST SCARED 😱.

  2. Great video, great tips — and I was skeptical within the first minute or two. When it started with “get junk food out of your diet” I was kind of like, here we go again by stating the obvious. Then Barbara got going and the 9 tips are really good, worth watching for anyone with autoimmune, any one who KNOWS anyone with autoimmune, and in many cases for anyone especially women.

    Best take-away here was getting your vitamin D checked and I loved when Barbara said “I am always shocked at the number of physicians who order blood tests and do not test for this.” In fact, unexplained anemia and crazy low vitamin D were one of the ways my rheumatologist zero’d in on lupus, and I now take vitamin D. Not the over the counter, it flushes out of the body too fast. If you need vitamin D you may need a pharmaceutically compounded version, which is what I get. Insurance doesn’t cover mine anymore but it’s $11 a month, I can swing that. I take 50,000 IU and my doctor tests it regularly so sometimes my doses is once a week, other times bi-weekly. SO important. My friend who has no autoimmune problem had to BEG her doctor to add vitamin D to her blood test, qnd guess what, it’s super low which goes a long way to explain her extreme fatigue lately.

    I totally agree with the elimination diet approach. A relative of mine was just diagnosed with diabetes, and the thought of him having to give up all his favorite foods is more than he can handle. He’s so overwhelmed that so far he has made zero changes. The bonus of an elimination diet is that you are making one change at a time, and it doesn’t feel hard.

    I also like to use a reward system in watching what I eat, especially as I wage war against the 70 pounds I gained while on high dose long terms steroids (20 off so far and I’ve been through this before, the weight will come off). I use MyFitnessPal app and I set my goals. In my case, getting enough protein is always an issue. So as I check the app throughout the day, I know if I have to choose a protein to hit my mark. By the time I do that, there is less time for bad choices. Just a thought.

    I did want to address some of the specific foods that were mentioned. Although I’ve heard many times to eat vibrant colored food, many believe that nightshade vegetables cause inflammation. I did cut out peppers including the red ones I roasted over the stovetop and I cut out tomatoes except for cooked ones (cooked are better for you anyway). I have little interest in potatoes and I’m allergic to eggplant so who knows if it really works, but it works for me and nightshades are mentioned in so many lupus diets. Just a heads up.

    Wheat. How many people out there have gone gluten free? I did, HARD CORE, for 18 months. And I mean I read every single label. Do you know how many items have barley and soy sauce? MSG? A LOT. And being gluten free did absolutely nothing for me. My top level gastroenterologist did a biopsy to find out if I have gluten intolerance. A resounding no. So I eat wheat. White foods are not great for you, so I choose carefully. As I write this, I just had some very plain biscuits (like tea cookies, but not sweet) for lunch because it was bedlam here with the neighbors’ two dogs visiting and it was the quickest thing I could reach. Bad choice, so I’ll make up for it later with something good. I think whole wheat pasta is disgusting, personally, so I have the good stuff and as I got used to not having it, not very often at all.

    Dairy. Lots of people have a problem with it and are told to avoid it. Me, my body loves it. I thrive on whole milk (fresh, from local vendors, from grass-fed cows only). Eggs are an easy way to get protein a few times a week. I love really good cheese, but it’s expensive so that limits my intake A LOT.

    Meat. I’m from Los Angeles. I know more vegans than I can count. Not a one of them looks healthy but I digress. I myself was a vegetarian for 26 years. I was a terrible vegetarian (!) I just didn’t eat meat but I didn’t compensate nutritionally in any way. When I was so anemic I needed an all-day IV infusion of iron, my rheumatologist told me to get over it and get some animal protein into me. I talked at length to the manager of the butcher department at the supermarket, got a list of the vendors and called them. I found the ones who treat the animals humanely and I asked hard questions about how the animals are slaughtered. IT MATTERS. A terrified animal being led to slaughter is filled with adrenalin, and that sits in the meat you are eating. I eat less meat than others, but what I do eat is carefully chosen. My iron is perfect, and it works for me.

    And one thing that Barbara did not mention is, AVOID SPROUTS. Alfalfa sprouts specifically must be avoided by people who have lupus. They are also easy contaminated and difficult to wash, so just avoid them. Moreover, be careful about produce. I’ve had less than pleasant bouts of salmonella from salads at perfectly clean nice restaurants. I may have been more prone being on immunosuppressants, and the illness took a toll on my immune system for sure.

    Whole foods. Not the store, the actual foods. A lot of people don’t know what this means. It means the food in its most raw pure state, and then you can cook or prepare with that. For example, hummus. I buy chick peas and soak them overnight (used to use canned til I heard about BPA lining the metal). Then literally throw in the blender or food processor with tahini, salt and pepper, fresh herbs, whatever you want. I often use artichoke hearts and fresh rosemary. Garlic, chives, truly anything works. SO easy, SO much cheaper than replenishing the plastic containers every 3 days which gets really pricey really fast. And you will be shocked at how quickly your palate adjusts to the simpler tastes of food because you will be tasting the real food.

    Stress kills. We all know that. And we’ve all been told to manage stress. But I have learned that while we cannot always manage stressful situations, because s*** happens and life is hard… we can manage stressful people and how we respond to them. My mom is a yeller, and it means nothing. She grew up in a loud family where they yell “OF COURSE I LOVE YOU” so although her version of yelling is way less, I don’t care for it. Now that I have lupus, raised voices set my adrenalin racing. Now, she’s my mom. I didn’t write her off. But if she raises her voice to me I say “sorry, I don’t do this anymore” and rejoin when things are calm. I took up meditation and after a lifetime of being a super-achiever top notch multi-tasker, I stopped wearing those things as a badge of honor and learn to focus on one thing at a time. When I listen to music, I really hear it. When I play with my dog, I watch his joy and get caught up in just being in the moment.

    I split my time between Los Angeles and New York, and you’d think I could find one nutritionist who knew one thing about lupus. Barbara is the first one I have seen who really seems to get it. Lots of great advice here. And now I’m going to contact her for more personalized advice!

    • Donna says:

      Thank you for your powerful message and information. I have Sjorgrens. I battle GI issues and infections that knock me down for months! Thank you for your video!

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