Patient Blogs | Lupus
What My Diet Looks Like for Me With Lupus
photo of woman's hands cutting fresh kiwi

I love food. Eating and cooking are some of my favorite activities and truly bring me much happiness. I am fortunate to have no allergies or intolerances but have explored various diets to see if they would help with lupus symptoms or flare-ups. I’ve learned that the best diet for both my physical and mental health is one of balance, intuitiveness, and no restrictions.

About 4 years after my diagnosis, I was struggling with my symptoms and decided to see a naturopathic doctor to try supplements and dietary changes in addition to my existing treatment plan. The doctor had me cut out gluten, dairy, and refined sugar. I stuck to the diet religiously for a few months but saw no major changes in my symptoms. I had a difficult time with the restrictions and was constantly worrying about planning my meals and finding something satisfying to eat when I wasn’t home. When I realized the diet was not significantly helping with my pain, I knew it wasn’t worth the stress I was feeling trying to stick to it.

Up until about 3 years ago, I intermittently tried things like a plant-based diet, juicing, and cutting out all processed foods. I never saw a huge decrease in symptoms due to any of these changes but found myself becoming influenced by diet culture and starting to see certain foods as “good” and “bad.” I knew I did not need this extra anxiety on top of managing my disease on a day-to-day basis.

I now eat a nonrestrictive diet. I have worked hard to unlearn some of the damaging views I had about food. I focus on listening to my body and giving it what it wants. I am lucky to have grown up with access and exposure to nutritious food. I've loved vegetables and fruit from a young age, so I naturally crave and incorporate them into my diet. I enjoy dessert when I want it and eat a lot of pasta, my favorite food, which makes me really happy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I fell in love with cooking, and I now look forward to planning out and cooking a delicious meal every night. During this time when I can’t do much outside of my house, cooking helps me feel like I accomplished something each day.

I know for many people, especially with autoimmune disorders, their diet greatly impacts their symptoms. I know many people don’t have the choice to have a nonrestrictive diet. Food and our relationship to it, even without illness, is complicated, and everyone’s journey will be different. You have to do what works best for you and your body. After years of trial and error, I understand what works for me now and have so much more peace with food, which I am eternally grateful for. I hope you can find a diet that nourishes your body and also brings you joy and satisfaction.

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Photo Credit: NemanjaMiscevic / iStock via Getty Images

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Erica Lupinacci

Erica Lupinacci

Diagnosed since 2009

Erica Lupinacci was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus in 2009. She is the co-founder of Suffering the Silence, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to leveraging the power of art, media, and storytelling to raise awareness and break the stigma surrounding chronic illnesses and disability. Lupinacci has spoken about life with chronic illness for the Yale School of Nursing, Weill Cornell Medical College, Awesomeness TV, The Mighty, and more. She is an actor and producer living in Los Angeles and most recently co-created & produced Trust Me, I’m Sick, a short docuseries about life with chronic illness. Learn more about her work on her website.

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