Hello my precious Lupus-ees! My name is Sheena Ogando, I’m a born and raised New Yorker, part-time yoga instructor, and full-time rheumatologist working in California. I have worked with the Lupus Research Alliance since 2015 and am coming home to New York for the 2018 NYC Marathon, running for the organization’s Team Life Without Lupus. I am writing this blog to share what I’ve learned caring for people with lupus, as well as to pay homage to my roots with the Lupus Research Alliance in a way that is meaningful to the patient community.
I know that managing lupus can be a challenge: you have a new body that you are learning with unpredictable flares that come and go without warning. My patients want to feel empowered over their disease and have asked me questions on what they can do to reduce their lupus flares. Most of their curiosity revolves around diet and exercise, which I think is wonderful because, although lupus can be very challenging, YOU HAVE MORE POWER THAN YOU THINK! Here are some of their questions and my recommendations.
What diet is best for me?
Any extreme fad diet is not a good idea; they are short lived and difficult to sustain. Instead, focus on changing your lifestyle with a well-balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, and salt. Certainly if you have medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney involvement or heart involvement, your diet can be adjusted specifically for you. See your doctor for your personalized recommendations!
What type of exercise is best for me?
Some of my lupus patients find it challenging to exercise because of joint pain. I would recommend low impact exercises like swimming or yoga. Not only is exercise important because it is good for your health, but it also reduces stress, which we know can increase your lupus flares. Exercise can come in many forms, so do something that you can start and stick to. If dancing reduces your stress, do it – it’s exercise too! Don’t forget to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Can diet or exercise reduce my lupus flares?
This is a complex question with a complex answer, so yes and no:
Yes – because a poor diet can lead to the development of other medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These conditions complicate your health and can make it challenging to manage your lupus flares. So, stay healthy, as best as possible, so that your doctors can concentrate on your lupus.
No – because your diet and exercise are not enough for managing your lupus with organ involvement. Trying to manage 100% holistically with diet and exercise can be harmful to your health. Consult your rheumatologist!
To sum up, in addition to taking your medications regularly, eating healthy and exercising are important lifestyle changes that YOU CAN CONTROL to manage your lupus. If finances or personal situations are holding you back from healthy eating and exercising, please confide in your rheumatologist your concerns: there may be resources available to you. And don’t forget, the Lupus Research Alliance forum is also a great community platform for you to ask about resources!