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natural supressing of immune system

Discussion in 'Complementary therapies' started by Sunshine4, Dec 21, 2009.

  1. Sunshine4

    Sunshine4 Registered

    Hi all,

    I have been reading this site and being a new lupie have realised that I have a few things wrong, I have been thinking we need to boost the imune system but we need to suppress it ?? is this right? so in other words we should be eating foods that tame it not rev it up? so to speak. Dose anyone know of anything that might help in this way.

    gosh this is a real learning exercise this lupus thing isnt it? I really am so confussed and my Dr's are just more confussing to me to be honest they just say Take the drugs end of story. Surely we can fight this better with better nutrition and exercise etc..

    would love ot hear of what others do

    thanks again you guys are great
  2. mooks

    mooks Registered

    hey sunshine,

    I think the problem is that no one wants to suppress their immune system(apart from those with crazy ones like us!) so all complimetary/herbal therapys discovered are aimed at boosting the immune system...However, I am also confused because I think we are meant to try and look after our immune systems (even though we hate them and they are not our friends!) so perhaps we should be eating things to boost them?? Especially us on immunosuppressive therapy? Basically I don't know but interesting question hahaha :love:
  3. Katharine

    Katharine Registered

    Hello there,

    I think the answer lies somewhere in between. Although we have "faulty" immune systems some of us are susceptible to the slightest infection going and seem to have trouble battling it off. Despite that, it is still definitely not recommended to go about boosting the immune system as the part that is necessary for that infection may not be working while another part may be turning against us without mercy.

    Foods in general do not suppress the immune system, in fact I've never heard of anything that does so except the immunosuppressant meds that some of us take (it is not automatic, it depends on your level of disease activity).

    Eating healthily is essential. A varied diet in general. Some people may need to avoid gluten or other foods but that it not lupus dependent, it is usually due to another overlap disease that they have in conjunction.

    There is some evidence to support that nightshade vegetables increase inflammation but it seems to be a very individual thing and I'm not about to give up tomatoes without actually seeing that difference (it's bad enough being ill; I don't want all life's pleasures taken away).

    What is truly very important (you asked in another thread) is sun avoidance. The sun can cause inflammation (not just on the skin) and trigger disease activity. Top rheumatologists recommend high factor sunscreen all year round.

    All the best,

  4. sam101360

    sam101360 Registered


    I never knew that about tomatoes...I have been "allergic" to them all my life, but only in the raw form = no reaction if they are cooked.

    Maybe it was lupus all along but I never knew.

  5. Maia

    Maia Registered

    I have read that eating a lot of sugar suppresses the immune system slightly, but certainly we don't want to do that for a multitude of other reasons. My best advice is to eat a healthy diet, with fruits and vegetables, whole grains (if tolerated), lean meats, a good amount of water, etc.

    I tend to avoid supplements and go the natural route (eating "healthy"), because really you never know what is actually in those "natural" pills/supplements; and with little to no evidence of benefit I would rather spend my money on something else and not risk additional harm.
  6. Jmaca

    Jmaca jmaca

    So, would you say that people with lupus are susceptible to more infections because of the meds, or because of the lupus itself? I've always thought it was the meds since they suppress the immune system.

    I agree that eating a healthy diet, preferably one similar to a Mediterranean or Asian diet, is the way to go. I do find that limiting my gluten intake keeps the myositis in check.
  7. Clare.T

    Clare.T Registered

    Hello Sunshine

    I suppose we could naturally suppress our immune systems by stopping eating :) if that can be described as natural. Suppressing our immune systems means we are not able to combat infections, couldn't produce antibodies, and lupus might become the least of our problems. Suppressing the immune system is highly undesirable, unless the risks to health, life and wellbeing from the disease are greater.

    You are partially right: our immune systems are not deficient but nor are they over active, rather they are not working properly.
    Instead of only combating threats from outside in the form of infections that could destroy the body if unchecked, they have become confused and started attacking the body's own cells too as if they were harmful invaders. Normally the only foreign cells our bodies will tolerate are those responsible for the survival of the species : food, sperm, the developing fetus and then there are certain parasites which manage cleverly to trick the immune system into thinking they are 'Self'. The essential need of our immune system is to distinguish between 'Self' and 'Good for Self', and 'Non Self'. Failure of this recognition causes auto immune disease with the production of auto antibodies

    If we really could "boost" our immune systems we would also boost the autoimmune disease activity, rather as if you attempted to mend a misfiring motor engine by putting in higher octane fuel. If, as the marketing hype suggests, we really could boost our imune systems by consuming ever huger amounts of whatever supplement they are selling, nobody would ever be ill. In fact very few substances will really boost the immune system - if they did, they would be used to treat immuno deficient diseases like AIDs. There are one or two substances that probably do strengthen the immune system: echinacea and alfalfa come to mind but they should be avoided because they can cause flares. By the way echinacea shouldn't be taken for more than a few weeks by healthy people either - it can have long term bad effects, liver damage I think.

    Natural or plant medicines take a longer time to work maybe several months and also have side effects just like pharmaceuticals. They are sold without the sellers taking responsibility, liability or accountability.

    But some people really are deficient in essential nutrients. This might be due to a medical problem, like malabsorption of nutrients for some reason. Pernicious anemia is a good example when the body can't absorb B12 from food however much is consumed. Not so very long ago, the natural treatment for PA was consuming huge amounts of raw minced ox liver which only delayed inevitable death. Other reasons for measurable dietary deficiency might be inadequate diet or depletion of essential nutrients by life style habits, or some medicines. Deficiencies will make people ill and if they have an autoimmune disease make them more ill, damage their general health and weaken their resistance to infections.

    When the immune system revs up to combat infections we often experience a whole host of flu like symptoms. Fever, joint and muscle aches and pains, loss of appetite, fatigue, headaches and so on. It's the same when we experience an autoimmune systemic disease like lupus. These symptoms are signs of the immune system revved up, what's called active disease, and are known as an inflammatory process. More often we understand the term inflammation to be what we can actually see, as when there is visible infection in a wound, but this is systemic widespread chronic inflammation.

    There might have been changes in the cells so that our immune systems can no longer recognise them and autoimmune disease is triggered - such likely changes have now been identified as a result of sun exposure in genetically predisposed people, other triggers are mainly suspected at the moment.

    Another possible immune problem in a multisystem autoimmune disease like lupus, is that the body is failing to rid itself of the immune complexes formed from the combat between the defending cells, the antibodies, and whatever cells are being fought, the antigens. Both the goodies and the baddies get locked together in a death embrace which should normally dissipate throughout the system. It's thought that this fails to occur in lupus so these immune complexes circulate around and around and sometimes get stuck and then start damaging the tissue they stick to such as skin, kidneys, blood vessels or nerves.

    Clearly it is essential to put a stop to autoimmune disease activity if possible and deal promptly with the resultant inflammation that causes so many of the symptoms. If disease activity can be halted then inflammation/ symptoms will be reduced as well as the risk of permanent damage or further damage.

    Suppressing the immune system is highly undesirable unless the risks from the disease are greater. When the immune system is suppressed the body can't make the essential antibodies either
    The antimalarials are not immunosuppressants but often they are not enough to get the disease under control as soon as possible. Prednisone plays a vital role in many cases until the other meds with fewer side effects have time to work.

    The immunosuppressant medicines developed in the past half century for treating transplant and cancer patients have transformed our lives But they are a rather crude tool and more recent 'smart' drugs try to target specific malfunctioning areas of the immune system, such as the B cells, without blatting the whole system. The more the immune system is suppressed, the more vulnerable we are to infections. In fact a major cause of death in lupus patients these days is infections which their immune systems can't fight because they can't make the antibodies necessary. Some people need a couple of flu vaccinations for the same reason.
    Immunosuppressed people have to take great care to avoid infections.

    The antimalarials could be described as very smart drugs indeed. Their role in treating lupus as disease modifiers without suppressing the immune system has been known for over 100 years since the infancy of lupus as a recognised systemic disease. They were being used to treat skin lupus by the way and those patients reported how much better they felt in other ways too.
    It is now thought that they work by altering the acidity of the cells so they appear less foreign to the immune system and do not act as autogens which stimulate the production of autoantibodies. The anti malarials also have an incredible number of beneficial side effects.

    They are chemical replications of the medicinal properties of the bark of the chinchona or quinine tree so I suppose they are as natural as you can get, unless you wanted to get hold of some bark and brew your own. If you did that you would also get heavens knows what else substances in your infusion including some that are toxic, and assuming you could be sure it wasn't bark from any old tree stump just down the road. You would also have no means at all of knowing exactly how much medicine you were taking.

    Very little is known for sure about natural anti inflammatories or the role of diet in reducing systemic inflammation although many claims are made and there must be thousands of theories. Aspirin is one of the oldest anti inflammatories and also derived from plants. Some people have other diseases like celiac ( gluten intolerance) so naturally they avoid gluten. It is agreed that some people react badly to certain foodstuffs. One theory is that the nightshade plants like tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, potatoes and all that family are bad for people with lupus. Another theory is that tomatoes are excellent for reducing inflammation. The main thing is to check as best possible that whatever you try has no unwanted side effects, interactions or contraindications. Many of the herbs or plants with medicinal properties for example slightly thin the blood which might not be desirable in all cases.
    Some common theories are: eliminate all dairy; red meats; all meats; all animal products; all cooked items.

    Some of the diets promoted as cures are so extreme that anybody who manages to follow them has a vested interest in feeling better. My theory is that they would have felt better anyway just by eliminating the unnatural manmade in diet: junk, all processed foods including refined sugars, additives & preservatives, natural animal fats, transfatty acids
    (hydrogenated fats). This can't do anybody any harm. There's a terrible in built failure factor in extreme measures of any sort.

    Otherwise I wouldn't know where to draw this line as to defining what is 'natural' or what is not. Natural for my ancestors meant short lives of unremitting toil in Irish bogs and if starvation didn't finish them off, childbirth and tuberculosis would.
    In my childhood we were only too familiar with diseases that hardly exist in the west these days.
    I took the bus to school past the 'isolation' or fever hospital on one side of the road. It was an imposing Victorian building that looked like a prison with 20foot high walls, glass shards on the top.

    That dread place was for scarlet fever and any other highly contagious diseases. The TB wards were on the other side with south facing verandas so the patients could get as much sun as possible, not very easy in north east England. The wealthy of course went to the high clean air of the Swiss alps. We lived in unimaginable pollution of heavy industry: coal mining, coal fires, ship building and the ironworks. Bronchitis and other chest complaints were universal. Our library books had the warning that if anybody in the household got a notifiable contagious disease the books had to be burnt and on no account returned to the library
    We got all the usual childhood diseases with the risks of serious long term side effects. Most GPs had seen cases of diptheria. Polio was common. No antibiotics. My grandaughter would probably have been dead at least three times in the first six weeks of her life if we had to rely on natural. My husband would have been dead at least ten years ago or seriously handicapped physically mentally or both if it wasn't for modern medicines, those awful pharmaceuticals. I myself am very keen on my lupus pharmaceuticals.

    Lupus is a seriously unnatural disease, potentially fatal. I have found no evidence that there are any naturally occuring disease modifiers or immunosuppressants meaning plant medicines, but I am sure its effects can be reduced by a healthy diet and lifestyle.

    It's a sobering thought that 60 years ago, 50% of those diagnosed with lupus were dead within 5 years. Heaven knows how many were living lives of relentless pain and misery, even if they got diagnosed.

    I am deeply grateful for modern medicine.

    Huskystella likes this.

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