How Selena Gomez Fought Back From Lupus (And How You Can Too)

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Originally published in 2014

She’s young, beautiful and her career is on fire as a singer and dancer who performs around the world, so Selena Gomez’s millions of fans were shocked when she cancelled a world tour in 2016 and revealed to the world that she had been battling lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases occur when your body attacks healthy cells. This means your immune system can’t tell the difference between your body’s healthy tissues and harmful foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria and germs. It creates a type of protein called autoantibodies that attack and destroy the healthy tissue. This causes inflammation, pain and damage in various parts of the body.

Lupus is also a disease commonly found in young people. According to the National Resource Center on Lupus, most people develop the disease between the ages of 15 to 44. It can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. Causes of lupus can be genetic and/or environmental.

Ninety percent of the people affected by lupus are women, reports the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

Gomez has been very candid about her battle, which included undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy, which you know is often used for cancer treatments, is also used as an immunosuppressant to treat lupus. It slows your immune system down from attacking those healthy cells. Anti-inflammatory medicines are also used to manage lupus.

Gomez also shared that she suffered from bouts of depression and had panic attacks due to dealing with lupus.  

“You’ll have it (lupus) forever,” said the 24-year-old while making an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. “You just gotta take good care of yourself.”

The latter part of her statement is like music to my ears. She cannot control that she has lupus, but she can take proactive steps to help her live her healthiest and happiest life.

And one of the most powerful ways to be proactive about lupus is through diet.

A study by researchers at Michigan State University, published in 2016, found evidence that consuming an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, may prevent lupus in the first place.

“What we discovered was when lupus was triggered by crystalline silica, a toxic mineral also known as quartz that’s linked to human autoimmunity, DHA blocked the activation of the disease,” said Melissa Bates, one of the lead authors on the study.

“Quartz is the most common, and most dangerous, form of crystalline silica and is often found in the agriculture, construction and mining industries where workers can breathe in the mineral dust,” according to the study.

DHA can be found in fatty, cold-water fish including salmon, mackerel, cod and halibut.

Since lupus causes chronic inflammation in the body, it is important to eat foods, especially fruits and vegetables, that contain vitamins and minerals that help fight inflammation. Some of these nutrients include:

  • Vitamin C. This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It provides protection against free radicals, which cause inflammation, we are all exposed to in the environment.
  • Lycopene. Some veggies and fruits, such as tomatoes and watermelon, contain Lycopene, a major anti-inflammatory compound.
  • Magnesium. This must have mineral helps with blood pressure regulation and also has antioxidant properties. Several studies have also shown an improvement in the severity of symptoms of depression when study participants were given 125-300 mg of magnesium with each meal and at bedtime. When you are battling a chronic disease, it is important to take care of your mental health. Gomez had to take a break from the spotlight as a singer and make not only her physical health a priority but also her mental health. Foods containing magnesium include spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, kefir, almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, dark chocolate and bananas.
  • Selenium. This mineral has great antioxidant properties and is often praised for its anti-aging benefits. It is also an anti-inflammatory. Foods high in selenium include Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, halibut, sardines and chicken.

Lupus is also a systemic disease, meaning it affects the entire body. So having this disease puts a person at a greater risk of developing conditions such as high blood pressure and osteoporosis. On top of that since lupus is common in women, who are already more prone to osteoporosis, women with lupus have to be especially diligent about diet.

Calcium is another mineral that needs to be a regular on the list of nutrients a person with lupus needs. Calcium helps build and maintain strong, healthy bones and teeth. It may also help prevent osteoporosis. You can get calcium from salmon, turnip greens, kale, broccoli and more.

Magnesium, sodium and potassium all help regulate blood pressure. To learn more about dietary guidelines for managing lupus, click here.

People with lupus also tend to either gain too much weight or lose too much weight. Working with your doctor and getting nutritional testing is key in maintaining a healthy weight.

When you eat healthily, you gain some control over those things in life that you cannot fully control. This is empowering and motivating.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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