Lifestyle and Exercise Change with Lupus

Healthy lifestyle and exercise choices are essential to good health, and while every Lupus case is different, these choices can be made your own by becoming health mindful and not symptom managed.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

Getting to the root of the cause is most effective in relieving or even causing remission of autoimmune symptoms, and for people with lupus, the root of the cause lies within the gut. Health, stress, and diet are triggers of inflammation in autoimmune disease, so it is important to find out what triggers affect you. Consider these lifestyle suggestions commonly known to reduce triggers:

Low Stress

A low-stress life is key to reducing flares, as symptoms increase with stiffness of the body. Some steps to reduce stress are to identify stress-inducers and identify exercises that work best for you to get rid of them. The key is to relieve the cause of your stress and not the symptom, so meditating, exercising and practicing breathing exercises on a regular basis may help to prevent flares.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet can reduce and even cause remission of the painful symptoms that people with autoimmune disease suffer from. Trans fats, gluten, pasteurized dairy products, and certain legumes have been known to trigger the disease while organic, gluten-free foods have been known to be anti-inflammatory. It is important to see which foods work for your diet, as every case of autoimmune disease is unique.

Sleep

Enough sleep can reduce fatigue and pain sensitivity. A common disability metaphor for fatigue is the Spoon Theory, which compares levels of energy to spoons as a tangible measure of unit. While people without lupus can do everyday tasks without worrying how many spoons of energy they use, people with lupus have to carefully plan their activities to conserve their energy, or spoons. 80% of people with lupus experience fatigue, so it is important to get around seven hours of sleep at night with the possibility of a nap or two throughout the day. Exercise can also help with fatigue so it is important to start moving once you have slept a healthy number of hours.

Avoid the Sun

Limit time in the sun to avoid a lupus flare if you are one of the two-thirds of people with lupus who have increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light. It is important to note that a share of medications used to treat lupus can increase sun sensitivity so make sure to cover up and use sunblock with a minimum of SPF 30 when you are out in the sun.

Do Not Smoke

Don’t smoke, as smoking has been linked to increased inflammation and increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Smoking also increases the risk of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which people with lupus are already at a higher risk for.

Support

Get some support from family, friends or those going through a similar experience. Anxiety and depression are common symptoms for such a chronic and unpredictable disease, so joining a community in-person or online can provide a valuable source of advice and comfort.

Acceptance

Acceptance is huge as many people with lupus tend to be unhappy because they are mourning over change in their life in addition to loss of control. It is important to learn to live differently, treat yourself better and find new interests. Accept that your life has change and start to enjoy your new life by doing things you have always wanted to do. Paint, write, read, and prove to yourself that you are stronger than ever.

 

EXERCISE CHANGES

As mentioned above, restoring the gut is key to fighting the cause of lupus symptoms. Exercise can help with this, because it helps build stronger muscles, relieves stress, controls fatigue and weight gain, and improves mental health. Too much exercise, however, can cause depletion of the gut. If you overexert your body, your gut’s health will decline and you will experience symptoms. So it is important start slow when crafting your exercise routine. The following are some exercise types to consider:

Yoga

Yoga can reduce stiffness and make you more limber. This stretching exercise can improve posture and balance while reducing stress. Yoga is a great introductory exercise for people with lupus who are experimenting with how much exercise is the right amount.

Pilates

Pilates is an aerobic exercise that improves heart and lung function along with coordination. This exercise may be too demanding for some individuals, so it is important so slowly pace yourself to this point in order to avoid flares.

Walks

Walks also work to improve heart and lung function in addition to coordination and are a great everyday exercise for people with lupus. Walks are great for goal setting because you can gradually increase your distance or pace with each day. This low-intensity exercise is optimal for people with lupus because it has a low risk for flares while reducing fatigue.

 

Here are some tips to get your exercise routine going:

– Find the time of day that is best for you

– Start slow with yoga in the park, Pilates on TV, or a walk around the block

– Set realistic goals

– Keep track of your progress

 

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES

These, used with either conventional medicine or instead of conventional medicine, have not been through rigorous scientific testing and clinical research that conventional therapies undergo, so it is difficult to prove their effectiveness in treating lupus. Common therapies include homeopathy, massage therapy, chiropractic, meditation, herbs and other supplements and more. It is important to consult your doctor before trying these therapies. The following therapies are popular today because of their results with lupus patients:

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a practice popularized in China that has recently been adopted by the United States as a form of complementary and alternative medicine.  In this process, fine needles are inserted into the skin which then stimulate certain acupoints in the body. The ancient Chinese theory states that the needles are used to block life energy called qi, pronounced “chee”, and its invisible channels called meridians.  When this flow is blocked, a pain signal is sent to the brain and the body then releases endorphins, leaving the patient with a feeling of well-being.

Cryotherapy Cryotherapy is defined as the body’s brief exposure to below freezing temperatures for a maximum of 3 minutes. When conducted by a certified cryotherapy technician, the process is safe and can include a number of benefits for people with lupus. When exposed to cold temperatures, the body increases many of its functions to return to a comfortable state. This process improves cardiovascular, pulmonary, circulatory, endocrine, gastrointestinal, lymphatic, and cognitive systems. Cryotherapy is also said to be anti-inflammatory because the process evades inflammatory stimulants from blood vessels and tissues. The benefits of reduced inflammation include reduced or even the remission of symptoms along with improved cognitive health. In addition, similar to the process of acupuncture, the feeling of well-being can result from the release of endorphins when the body experiences an uncomfortable state.