Wolf At The Door: How Integrative Medicine Can Help Lupus Sufferers Manage Their Condition More Effectively

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To say lupus can have a significant impact on the lives of those who suffer from it would be a grotesque understatement, and this systemic, chronic and ultimately incurable condition can cause a wide variety of painful, debilitating and dangerous ailments that can significant reduce a sufferer's quality of life. It goes without saying, then, that undergoing the proper treatments to manage this illness is essential, and lupus patients should work closely with their doctors and immunologists to stave off the worst aspects of this autoimmune disorder.

Unfortunately, the treatments and medications that are most effective at managing lupus, such as anti-malarial drugs and corticosteroid treatments, can themselves cause unpleasant side effects; as such, while avoiding them entirely is a terrible idea that can put a sufferer's life at risk, many lupus patients try to minimise their reliance on these conventional treatments by using complementary remedies. This is where integrative medicine can be so useful to the lupus patient.

What is integrative medicine, and how can it help lupus patients?

Integrative medicine is a medical discipline that combines both conventional and complementary therapies based on their actual effectiveness, and finds the most effective treatments for patients on an individual basis. Unlike many so-called 'alternative' treatments, integrative medicine does not involve cessation of conventional treatments and reliance on quackery; instead, complementary treatments are used to reduce, rather than replace, the amount of invasive conventional treatments a sufferer requires.

This approach can be particularly beneficial for the lupus patient, as it can allow them to avoid many of the worst side-effects associated with over-reliance on conventional treatments. It is particularly useful for treating the following ailments which the average lupus sufferer has to contend with on a day to day basis:

Joint problems

Inflammation of the joints is one of the most common symptoms of systemic lupus, and can be both debilitating and extremely painful. This inflammation is conventionally treated with corticosteroid injections in the affected areas, and when used infrequently these injections can be extremely beneficial; however, overuse of corticosteroids can lead to serious complications, ranging from vision problems to high blood pressure and psychological issues.

A lupus patient using integrative medicine would therefore attempt to minimise their reliance on corticosteroids to treat their joint problems, and a wide variety of complementary medicines can be used to achieve this. Yoga and massages can be particularly effective when it comes to fighting inflammation and keeping the joints supple, while acupuncture can also be effective for some patients in reducing pain and increasing mobility.

Stress

Lupus is a particularly nefarious illness in that it is both stressful to live with and can be worsened by heightened stress levels; without proper stress management techniques, this can quickly become a vicious circle. Using an integrative approach, a lupus patient would reduce stress via conventional means (such as therapy and anti-anxiety medications), but would also seek help from other, complementary methods of relieving stress, such as meditation, yoga and aromatherapy.

Digestion issues

Lupus can also cause severe issues with digestion, and eating a typically modern, processed diet doesn't do a lupus sufferer any favours. Foods containing saturated fats, refined starches and sugars can provoke inflammation in the skin and joints, and may potentially worsen pre-existing skin and joint conditions. Many lupus sufferers also suffer from gluten intolerance, which can take various grains (such as wheat and barley) quite literally off the table.

Managing digestive issues with integrative medicine is a two-step approach. As well as taking conventional digestive remedies, such as antacids and medicines that repair damaged stomach lining, a lupus sufferer using an integrative approach would also modify their diet to reduce the likelihood of digestive issues occuring. Anti-inflammatory diets containing little or no processed foods can be particularly effective. Taking supplements designed to bolster digestive health can also be beneficial.

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2 February 2018

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