How Is Your Weight Affected By Your Lupus Diagnosis?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues and organs in the body. The exact cause of lupus is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors, says the Lupus Foundation of America. Research from a 2019 study published in the journal Biology of Sex Differences suggests that women are more likely to develop the disease than men. It is believed that hormonal fluctuations — particularly estrogen — may contribute to the development of the disease.

The immune system plays a key role in the development of lupus. Normally, the immune system produces antibodies that attack foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. In people with lupus, however, the immune system produces antibodies that attack healthy tissues and organs. This leads to inflammation and damage, per Johns Hopkins Lupus Center. Lupus can affect various body parts, including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain. It is a complex and unpredictable disease that can range from mild to severe, and its symptoms can come and go over time.

How lupus affects your weight

One way in which weight can be affected by lupus is through medications. People with lupus may be prescribed medications such as corticosteroids, which can result in weight gain (via a 2013 study published in the journal lupus). These medications can increase appetite and cause fluid retention, leading to weight gain. Inactivity may also play a role in weight changes for people with lupus. Feeling tired or in pain can make it difficult to engage in physical activity. Lack of exercise can contribute to weight gain and loss of muscle mass, which can further impact overall health. Working with your doctor to develop a safe and effective exercise plan might be a good idea.

Stress is another factor that can affect weight in people with lupus, says Medical News Today. It can impact appetite and lead to emotional eating, which can also contribute to weight gain, explains Harvard Medical School. Managing stress through relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, lupus can impact the digestive system. Digestive symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, and constipation can affect nutrient absorption and contribute to weight loss.

How to manage weight-related conditions

If managing weight issues is becoming a challenge, it's best to consult with your doctor, who can develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all aspects of the disease (including weight management). As a guide, one strategy for managing weight issues is to focus on a healthy diet. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is crucial for people with lupus who are trying to manage their weight. This means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fatty fish. It may also mean limiting processed foods and saturated fats (via WebMD). A registered dietitian can help you develop a personalized meal plan that considers your individual needs and preferences.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, exercise can also help reduce inflammation and strengthen the body. However, it is important to consult with your doctor before starting, as certain types of exercise may not be appropriate for people with lupus. Concerning medications, corticosteroids are often used to reduce inflammation in people with lupus, but they can also cause weight gain. Your doctor may need to adjust medication dosages or switch to alternative treatments to help manage weight issues.