Food intolerance with lupus or fibromyalgia

Food intolerances are best known for their connection to gut health disorders like irritable bowel syndrome. However, new research shows that they may also be linked to the inflammation that is involved in other conditions like inflammatory skin conditions, for example. Not to mention, that such inflammation is also associated with autoimmune disorders like lupus and fibromyalgia. Let’s learn about what a food intolerance is as well as the inflammatory conditions lupus and fibromyalgia that may be linked with such intolerances.

What is a food intolerance?

People may often use the terms food allergy and food intolerance interchangeably. However, there are major differences between these two conditions. A food allergy involves an immune system reaction with symptoms like hives, itching, swelling of the tongue or lips, trouble breathing, nausea, or dizziness, to name a few.

On the other hand, symptoms of a food intolerance are primarily of a digestive nature. Such symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Stomachache
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea

Other symptoms of as food intolerance may include headaches and skin rashes like hives. Symptoms of a food intolerance may present themselves a few hours after ingesting the food, or up to 48 hours after. If you find that you experience such symptoms often, then it may be time to be tested for a food intolerance.

Causes of food intolerances

Before you have tests done, it may be helpful to know what can cause a food intolerance. Several factors can put you at risk for developing a food intolerance that include:

  • Absence of an enzyme, such as in cases of lactose intolerance: Those with lactose intolerance lack the enzyme lactase that helps break down the milk sugar lactose. Without this enzyme, when people with lactose intolerance consume milk or milk products, they develop uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as those listed above.
  • Food poisoning: Certain foods, such as uncooked beans, contain certain compounds that the body just cannot handle. Also, foods that have gone bad may develop bacteria that can upset the stomach in turn causing food intolerance symptoms.
  • Intolerance to histamine: Histamine is a substance found in certain foods, such as pickled or fermented foods, aged cheeses, or smoked meats. Some individuals may be intolerant to histamine, and in turn may experience digestive symptoms like diarrhea, stomach cramps, or bloating when they consume such foods.

Lupus and fibromyalgia

Lupus and fibromyalgia are both autoimmune conditions. This means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself and causes harm to the body. For example, with lupus, the immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. Symptoms of lupus include:

  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Damage to joints, skin, kidneys, heart, blood, and lungs

Medications prescribed to those with lupus are typically given to lessen symptoms. Such medications may include high blood pressure medications, antibiotics, or antifungals, to name a few. Recent animal research has found a connection between lupus and gut microbiota changes.

On the other hand, fibromyalgia involves widespread muscle and bone pain along with fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. It can be caused by genetics, triggered by an illness or infection, or physical or emotional trauma. Typical treatment of fibromyalgia involves pain relievers, anti-depressants, or anti-seizure medications. However, recent research shows that some diet changes may also help lessen symptoms in those with this condition.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Lupus and food intolerances

Some gut changes have been seen in those with autoimmune disorders as compared to those without such conditions. Therefore, it’s thought that diet changes could help symptoms.

When it comes to lupus, experts suggest a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and moderate amounts of lean proteins like fish, seafood, poultry, and plant-based proteins. Although it may differ for each person, common food intolerances of those with autoimmune disorders like lupus include casein, cow milk, wheat, white of egg, and rice.

Research also shows that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation through foods like fatty fish, plant-based oils, avocado, nuts, seeds, or through supplements could decrease the inflammation associated with lupus.

Fibromyalgia and food intolerances

When it comes to fibromyalgia, research shows that many people with this condition experience gastrointestinal symptoms with foods containing milk, orange, and wheat. Also, other research shows that a diet free of fructose, lactose, sorbitol, aspartame, and MSG can help lessen symptoms of fibromyalgia. However, food intolerances may differ with each individual, so you should meet with a qualified healthcare professional such as a registered dietitian specializing in anti-inflammatory diets to assist you.

Take home message

Autoimmune diseases can greatly impact quality of life. And although there are prescribed treatments that can help reduce symptoms, they may not lessen all the pain involved with such disorders. Changing the diet to avoid certain foods may help those with such conditions to improve gut health and overall quality of life. For more information on gut health resources, be sure to visit the Casa de Sante website.
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