What You Need to Know About Lupus
At Cali’flour Foods, Lupus disease is an issue close to our hearts. Our founder, Amy, is one of 1.5 million people in the United States suffering from the autoimmune disorder. After being diagnosed, Amy realized she needed to change some of her dietary habits. “I quickly realized that if I was going to have long-term health and success, I would need to make food that was both healthy and tasty,” she says. “With that in mind, I set out to create food that could be enjoyed by all. I measured the success of the product by my inflammatory reactions and finally came up with healthy and delicious alternatives to some of my favorites!”
This is exactly how Cali’flour Foods was born. To celebrate Amy, her journey, the roots of our company, and Lupus Awareness Month, we created this guide to Lupus to both educate and encourage dialogue.
Experts at The Mayo Clinic define Lupus as, “...a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs.” Here’s what this means: As you probably already know, our immune system (when working properly) protects us from invading infections and viruses. But with lupus, our immune system attacks our healthy tissue and organs. Seems counterintuitive, right? (It’s kind of like when a supposed “good guy” in a movie turns out to be a “bad guy.”) This is why Lupus is known as an “autoimmune” condition.
When our immune system attacks our body, inflammation occurs everywhere from the skin and the heart to the brain and the lungs. This results in a wide variety of symptoms. The Mayo Clinic reports that the following symptoms may occur:
Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
A butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose or rashes elsewhere on the body
Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure
Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods
Shortness of breath
Headaches, confusion, and memory loss
The majority of individuals experience Lupus “flares,” when symptoms might get worse for awhile then improve or disappear. But here’s the thing: No two cases of Lupus are alike. This makes Lupus tricky to diagnose. Blood and urine tests, the appearance of symptoms, and findings from a physical examination are used to diagnose Lupus.
What even causes these symptoms?
Great question. Unfortunately, neither we nor the medical community has an answer yet. The Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) says that some doctors think a combination of factors can cause Lupus, like genetics, hormones, the environment, medications, and infections.
For example, researchers have identified over 50 genes associated with Lupus. While most of these genes have not been shown to directly cause Lupus, they may contribute to it. Lupus is more common in women than men. Additionally, people of African, Asian, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Island descent have been shown to be at greater risk. However, genes aren’t fully to blame: When one of two identical twins has Lupus, there is only a 30 percent increased chance the other twin will develop it. While this percentage is significant, it suggests that genetics likely only tell a part of the story.
Experts believe that things like blood pressure and anti-seizure medications, ultraviolet light exposure (from the sun or light bulbs), drugs that make you sensitive to ultraviolet light, stress, exhaustion, and infections and viruses like the common cold can also trigger Lupus.
Let’s talk long-term impact and treatment
The prognosis of Lupus is better today than ever before,” says the LFA. “With close follow-up and treatment, 80 to 90 percent of people with Lupus can expect to live a normal lifespan.” (Of course, this is assuming they pay close attention to their symptoms, understand when to seek help, follow the instructions of their physician, and take any prescribed medications.) While this paints a bright picture, it’s important to keep in mind that some individuals have more extreme cases of Lupus. If Lupus attacks one’s organs, blood, or heart, for example, life-threatening conditions like kidney failure, blood clotting, or cardiovascular disease can occur.
Right now, there’s no cure for Lupus. But many medications like anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant drugs can help, depending on one’s symptoms. Additionally, wearing sunscreen when outdoors, eating a healthy anti-inflammatory diet, getting plenty of exercise, and not smoking can prevent flares.
Learn more at the National Resource Center on Lupus.
What you can do to help
Of course, donating to the Lupus Foundation of America is an option. All proceeds help to make Lupus a public health priority, provide support to those impacted by this devastating disease, and fund innovative research for safer, more effective treatments. Purchasing items from Cali’Flour Cares, like our adorable tote bags and tees, benefit Lupus LA, a Lupus foundation in Los Angeles. If a loved one has Lupus, gestures such as listening or letting them know you’re there for them can be kind and supportive. Sharing this article is a simple yet effective act, too. While many people have heard of Lupus, we suspect that few know what it actually is or just how many people it impacts.
Though it’s easy and natural to focus on the negative (after all, Lupus is a devastating disease), we’re also grateful to and continually inspired by individuals like Amy, who went on to create something positive — not to mention tasty — as a result of their diagnosis.