A Recipe for a Successful Lupus Diet

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This may sound crazy, but I feel so blessed that I got lupus early. In the early '80s, people could barely pronounce lupus erythematosus, much less tell you what to do about it. So, back then, the doctors did the best they could. They put me on steroids, an aspirin a day for the blood clotting and they gave me a strict diet and exercise regimen. As I result, I gained 30 pounds and didn't feel well most of the time. 

My mom, on the other hand, took what the doctors said seriously, totally redid my diet and helped me develop an exercise regimen. Twenty-nine years later, I still follow the diet and exercise routine my mom put in place:

  • Lean white meats – only chicken, turkey and seafood. 

  • Nothing fried. Never. 

  • Vegetables – as many as possible – grilled or baked. 

  • Fruit – I eat blueberries while friends eat potato chips.

  • Olive oil should replace butter – and use this as your opportunity to grow rosemary or thyme outside your front door and use it in your dishes!

  • Eat rabbit food. You would be amazed at how many different ways I can make a salad.

  • No dairy

  • As much as possible, eat gluten-free.

These dietary changes, accompanied by a strict exercise regimen, brought me to where I am today. I weaned myself off the steroids. I lost those 30 pounds – though it took me through college to get them off. And the swelling in my hands and around my eyes went away.

It's not a perfect fix. I still struggle with migraines, which can really kill a good business day. I remember meeting with a really important client (AKA if I told you the name of this client, you'd scream, "O-M-G Elyse!") and I just couldn't keep my eyes open, my head hurt so badly. It was so embarrassing – for the client, my business partners and me.  Oh – how I wish I could turn back time some days. But with lupus, there are good days and bad days.

In addition to the dietary tips, here's a few things I recommend to maximize those good days:

  • Keep your fingers and toes painted.  A good mani/pedi never hurt anyone, and they do a world of good for covering those hideous white spots lupus gives many of us in our nailbeds.  Plus, you can pick a color that looks good when the Raynaud's syndrome decides to visit.

  • A girlfriend of mine who's being treated for lupus with methotrexate referred me to a Benefit cosmetics product called, "Posie Tint." It's 29 bucks a bottle, but it's priceless.  It takes the butterflies on my face and performs a chrysalis. My cheeks look vibrant and pretty, without looking like I caked on heavy make-up. I love it!

  • Get outside and breathe. Put on your baseball hat, your sunglasses and your sweatshirt and go! There is nothing like this wonderful earth where we live. Walk if you can, for as long as you can. Raise your arms. Dance. Just move. 

Elyse Hammett is a partner in a public relations firm, the mother of a teenage daughter and lives with her husband in Atlanta, Georgia.

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