4 Foods to Avoid While Following a Lupus Diet

The lupus diet can help you. After receiving a lupus diagnosis, you must change your diet to prevent inflammation flare-ups and overactive immune responses to perceived threats. Your new lupus diet plan likely boosts your consumption of anti-inflammatory foods that help reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms.

You will also need to eliminate potentially harmful foods that are known to trigger an abnormal immune response in lupus patients. Although fine-tuning your diet will require much trial and error, you can learn from other patients’ experiences to keep yourself from eating problematic foods. Here are four foods you should avoid to keep lupus symptoms from flaring up.

A sign with a butterfly in purple at the top that says World Lupus Day is May 10th

Alfalfa Sprouts

L-canavanine compounds in alfalfa sprouts can trigger an aggressive immune response similar to the effects of lupus. This response can occur in individuals with healthy immune systems when consuming the sprouts in large quantities every day. For individuals with lupus, however, eating any quantity of alfalfa sprouts tends to trigger a flare-up.

When the plant-derived amino acid, L-canavanine, is introduced to your system, it replaces arginine in protein structures, causing your immune system to attack your body in response. Total avoidance of alfalfa is the only way to prevent this reaction.


Garlic has long been utilized for its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and antiparasitic properties. These properties allow garlic to jump-start the immune response when foreign substances invade your body. When you are afflicted with lupus, however, outside triggering of your immune system can result in attacks on your bodily tissues.

You should avoid eating garlic as much as possible to keep your immune system from receiving these outside signals. To totally avoid this pervasive ingredient, you likely need to stop eating out at restaurants as much as possible.

Cloves of garlic bunched together sitting on a cutting board.Avoid restaurants to avoid garlic

Red Meat

Because of its high omega 6 content, frequent consumption of red meat dramatically increases inflammation at the cellular level.

An inflammatory response can worsen lupus symptoms that affect your joints, skin and internal organs, including your heart, brain and kidneys. To keep inflammation at the lowest levels possible, switch to fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, as your main protein source.

Fatty fish provides your body with omega 3 fatty acids that significantly reduce chronic inflammation when consumed on a regular basis. If you do not want to fully cut red meat out of your lupus diet, eat beef from grass-fed cattle, which has a lower level of potentially inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids than the grain-fed variants.

Three red steaks on a cutting board with a clove of garlic in the front and a red bell pepper in the backHigh Omega 6s contained within lead to inflammatory conditions.

Nightshade Veggies

Patients with lupus frequently report an increase in joint pain after eating vegetables in the nightshade family. Although scientists have not confirmed this link, you can potentially avoid this frustrating symptom by removing potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers from your daily diet. If you do consume these foods at any point, make sure to pay close attention to how you feel in the hours afterward. You might find consuming these foods in quantity causes increased joint pain, while moderate consumption does not make a difference either way.

A bunch of bright red tomatoes in a group on a flat surfaceAvoid tomatoes

Identifying Troublesome Foods While Following a Lupus Diet

As you adjust to your lupus diet, you may notice other trigger foods that make your symptoms worse. Write down the exact symptom changes you experience alongside your food log to identify specific ingredients to avoid. Continue to refine your diet by increasing your consumption of beneficial foods and cutting out the ones that make you feel worse. Through the years, you will be able to create a customized diet plan that works well for your own particular set of symptoms. A well-controlled diet will also help mitigate damage to your organs, joints and the other bodily structures commonly affected by lupus.

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