Can A Ketogenic Diet Help Lupus Symptoms?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that impacts approximately 5 million people across the globe. According to the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), an estimated 1.5 million individuals in the United States live with this diagnosis. There are approximately 16,000 new cases each year.Have you tried to understand how changes in your diet might help you live with lupus? It is likely that the popularity of the ketogenic (“keto”) diet has you wondering how it might compare to other diets in easing the troubles of this autoimmune disease. We will briefly review what autoimmune diseases are and what causes them. Then we will explore lupus, symptoms, causes and how to choose the best lupus ketogenic diet.

autoimmune diseases

The immune system is responsible for attacking the bacteria and viruses that do not belong in your body. What happens when it can’t tell the difference between foreign cells (those that don’t belong) and your own cells (ones that belong)? This is exactly what happens when autoimmune diseases occur. It tries to protect you from illness but instead causes it. The immune system attacks the body in response to something going on inside it.

The cause of autoimmune diseases is not entirely clear. Medical professionals believe there are a few things that may be contributing to autoimmune diseases including diet, infections, and exposure to chemicals. Research has found that healthy people have a different combination of bacteria in their intestines than those with some of these autoimmune diseases. For this reason, the microbiome of the gut could be a key. There are trillions of bacteria that reside within your body. Some are good and promote healthy digestion and others cause problems and make for an unhealthy gut. With this plethora of information, you might be asking yourself, what things should I eat? Or perhaps, more importantly, what should I avoid eating?

With this information, you can see there are several problems that can occur when your immune system decides to attack cells within your body. Here we will be focusing on lupus, symptoms, and a lupus ketogenic diet.


Lupus causes inflammation throughout your body as the result of an autoimmune response. Recall, from the information above, that this means the body is essentially turning on itself and attacking healthy tissues. The organs and tissues that can be affected by lupus include joints, skin, heart, blood, lungs, brain, and kidneys. It can be life-threatening, and it can cause permanent damage to your organs. There is no known cure as of today.


Lupus can present itself in individuals in many different ways. It is unlikely that two people with this diagnosis experienced the same exact symptoms. The symptoms can also come and go quickly so sometimes people dismiss them and don’t realize they are part of a greater problem. It is important to be aware of any symptoms and talk with your doctor should you experience them.

Lupus can exhibit various symptoms depending on which part of your body is affected: fever, fatigue, hair loss, gastrointestinal problems, body aches, joint pain, rashes, skin lesions, shortness of breath, chronic dry eyes, chest pain, headaches, confusion, and memory loss. The most common of these symptoms is fatigue. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, approximately 90 percent of individuals diagnosed with lupus experienced fatigue.

There are four types of lupus categorized by doctors:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus: The most common lupus type, this condition can range from mild to severe. The condition causes symptoms that may get worse over time, then improve.
  • Cutaneous lupus: This type of lupus is generally limited to your skin. It may cause rashes and permanent lesions with scarring. The cutaneous form of skin lupus that causes scarring is called discoid lupus.
  • DILE: Long-term use of certain prescription medications can lead to drug-induced lupus. It mimics the symptoms of systemic lupus, but in most cases, the condition doesn’t affect major organs.
  • Neonatal lupus: This condition is extremely rare and affects infants whose mothers have lupus. Symptoms of this condition may include a skin rash, low blood cell counts, and liver problems after birth. While some babies may have heart defects, most have symptoms that will go away after several months.


As  noted earlier, the cause of lupus is not entirely clear but research shows that there are a few things that may contribute:

  • Environment – toxin exposure
  • Genetics – family history
  • Hormones – abnormal hormone levels could contribute
  • Infections – certain ones might be contributing factors
  • Medications – long term use of specific ones could be linked to lupus (as mentioned above)
  • Gender – women are more likely than men to receive a lupus diagnosis

lupus ketogenic diet

It is hard to say that there is one “best lupus ketogenic diet.” Your diet should include as many wholes, all natural foods as possible. Based on research, the best lupus ketogenic diet should improve your healthy gut bacteria and reduce inflammation. As mentioned, you will find better results if you eliminate foods that are highly processed and those that contain artificial ingredients. It is recommended to keep a food journal as some foods can trigger the symptoms or increase the pain. If a particular food causes a flare up every time you eat it, you should eliminate that from your diet. If you can track your diet, you are likely to see where patterns may occur and what foods should be avoided based on that data.

What can a Keto Diet do to help?

It is essential to be aware of what contributes to autoimmune diseases, particularly lupus in this case, and be proactive if you are having issues. With all this information, you might be wondering what you should eat, or perhaps what you should avoid. Here is an overview of the ketogenic (“keto”) diet. This type of eating is fueled by ketones instead of glucose. This diet is focused on decreasing carb intake, increasing your fat intake, and moderating your protein intake. The liver produces ketones which cause your body to burn fat as an energy source, rather than just burning up the glucose (carbohydrates and sugars). Your body runs on glucose when you are not on the keto diet. When glucose is being used for energy, fats are not needed and become stored. On the keto diet, lowering the consumption of glucose sources makes your body use the fat as fuel, burning it naturally.

Keto, Lupus, and Inflammation

Because lupus is directly responsible for inflammation in the body, one key is to minimize other instigators of it. Here are some common foods that cause inflammation: sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, genetically modified foods, artificial sweeteners, and processed meat.If you are following keto diet protocol, most inflammatory foods will be removed or dramatically reduced. Many people end up naturally experiencing a decrease in inflammation in their bodies.

Also, recall that inflammation and a healthy gut are connected. Therefore, if you have a healthy gut, you will likely have less inflammation in your body. The following foods are known to improve your gut health which often minimizes inflammation. These foods are also on the suggested ketogenic diet food list:

  • Vegetables: Arugula, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, zucchini.
  • Fermented vegetables: Kimchi, sauerkraut.
  • Fish: Salmon, mackerel, trout, herring.
  • Fruit: Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.
  • Meats and eggs: Chicken, lamb, turkey, eggs.
  • Sprouted seeds: Chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds.
  • Healthy fats: Avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil.
  • Beverages: Bone broth, teas, kombucha, water.
  • Nuts: Pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts.

We also recommend avoiding foods that can cause issues with your gut flora and intestinal lining. Just a few of these foods are: baked goods, junk food (chips, candy, fast food, etc.), wheat based products, grains with gluten, and artificial sweeteners. Promoting healthy bacteria growth and reducing inflammation are benefits of a lupus ketogenic diet.

Specific Dietary Recommendations for Lupus

  • Limit trans fats – Artificial trans fats are highly processed and for the most part are not good for your health. It is advised to keep trans fat as low as possible by major health organizations including The American Heart Association and the Institute of Medicine.
  • Increase Omega 3 fatty acids –fish are an excellent source. Salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are all great choices. Omega 3s are known to reduce inflammation as well as lower the chances of stroke and heart disease.
  • Be mindful of sodium intake – your blood pressure can raise when you consume too much salt. This increases your risk for heart disease. If you have lupus, you are already at a higher risk, therefore, you will want to minimize all other risks.
  • Increase calcium-rich foods – include cheese and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli in your diet.
  • Avoid alfalfa and garlic – they are known to cause flare-ups in people with lupus.
  • Be careful with nightshade vegetables – some individuals with lupus report sensitives to things like potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes.
  • Decrease alcohol intake – if you are taking prescribed medications, alcohol can interact with them negatively.

healthy lifestyle

What else can you do to lower your risk of an autoimmune disease such as lupus? We’ve already learned about how your diet plays a part in creating a healthy lifestyle. Any changes that you can make to improve your well-being will go a long way in keeping your internal body healthy. We face many external negative things that are beyond our control. For this reason, it is imperative to remove things within our control that can negatively impact your health. It is important to acknowledge these things that encourage good health in your body:

  1. Exercise – move your body on a regular basis. Sedentary lifestyles can lead to a plethora of problems.
  2. Reduce stress – stress can take a huge toll on the body. Take time to unwind and release stress. Some examples are to: meditate, yoga, go for a walk, read a book, etc.
  3. Supplements – make sure that you are getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals into your body. Sometimes it is hard to find all of it in your diet.
  4. Sleep more – allow enough time for sleep. This is the time that your body rests and repairs itself.
  5. Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol use, illegal substances – these things can wreak havoc on your body and cause many other problems.
  6. Journaling is another tool for your toolbelt. If you have a record of your day, week, month, etc. you can look for patterns or trends when you might not feel well.

Exercising, reducing stress, supplementing your nutrition, and getting enough rest can all improve the health of your body, which will then lower the risk of autoimmune disease.


We know that the benefits to finding a healthy, balanced diet are great and that the decision is one that needs to be made based on your overall goals, health history, and in consultation with your primary care physician. Remember that what you eat nourishes all the cells and organs in your body and can play a part in the possibility of dealing with an autoimmune disease. Not everyone will have the same experiences with their diet, so it may take some trial and error to find what will work the best for you. Because of this, a lot of work can go into finding a sustainable diet that will not only produce results but also help in managing lupus. Many people have found increased well-being, better health, and improved energy when following keto protocol. Our goal is to help you evaluate the possibilities regarding lupus ketogenic diet so that you can make an educated decision when it comes to your health journey. In knowing the potential causes and issues that may be triggered within your body, you can be proactive and potentially minimize the possibility of being diagnosed with lupus. If you have lupus, you may find great success in implementing the keto diet into your life.

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