Lupus and The Paleo Diet

Lupus | The Paleo Diet

Hello Dr. Cordain,

I hope this finds you in good health. Prior to 2009 I lost 100lbs and began my career as a fitness professional teaching cycling classes and helping others reach their weight loss goals. 2009 I was diagnosed with Lupus and went into total kidney failure. I spent 8 weeks living a Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC and some how made a miraculous recovery.

Of course I was put on lots of medication and had to go through a sort of chemo for about a year afterwards. Now I find myself struggling to lose the weight I gained back after being on prednisone for years. Now I’m battling moments of depression and exhaustion despite still teaching my cycling classes and trying to eat “healthy.” Also, I’m still taking prednisone but my dose is only 5mg now.

I’ve finally been cleared by my kidney doctor to start taking in more protein and I immediately thought of Paleo. Can you give me a little more insight as to how Paleo may help me? Nobody around me eats this way, including the people I live with, so I would be doing this all alone. But, in my gut, I believe it might be the answer I’ve been looking for. Hope to hear from you soon. Take care.


Dr. Cordain’s Response:

First, let me say that my heart goes out to you for the health problems you have been experiencing associated with your diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). I am not a clinical practitioner, but rather a University Researcher studying diet and autoimmunity. Accordingly, I suggest that you consult a variety of health care professionals who are familiar with SLE, autoimmunity and The Paleo Diet. Competent health care personnel can work with you individually and over time to regularly monitor your signs and symptoms of SLE, your blood chemistry and your overall health if you decide to adopt The Paleo Diet.

The Paleo Diet may help to reduce or even cause remission of autoimmune disease symptoms in certain autoimmune conditions. Our international research group believes that contemporary Paleo diets may be therapeutic for some autoimmune disease patients for a number of reasons. First, this nutritional program eliminates a number of foods which may increase intestinal permeability. Evidence from our laboratory (1) as well as more recent data (2, 3) suggests a “leaky gut” may represent an important environmental/dietary factor which triggers autoimmune disease in genetically susceptible patients.

As with The Paleo Diet for all people, I suggest autoimmune subjects reduce or eliminate cereal grains, particularly gluten containing grains (wheat, rye and barley). Cereal grains contain a number of compounds which may increase intestinal permeability including gliadin (a storage protein found in gluten containing grains), lectins (particularly a lectin called wheat germ agglutinin [WGA] found in wheat, and thaumatin like proteins, as well as other compounds.

Over the past two decades, SLE has frequently been reported to present simultaneously with celiac disease (4-6), an autoimmune intestinal disease caused in genetically predisposed patients by consumption of gluten containing grains. Both SLE and celiac patients share the genetic markers (HLA B8 and DR3) which increase disease susceptibility. Further a recent study indicated that 7 of 24 SLE patients exhibited anti-gliadin antibodies, the same antibodies to gluten containing grains found in celiac patients. A number of case reports have shown that gluten free diets had beneficial and favorable effects in SLE patients (6, 7). Accordingly, the preliminary evidence suggest that SLE patients should adopt gluten free diets.

Check out my former graduate student, good friend and colleague, Robb Wolf’s website and read about an SLE patient who beat the disease with Paleo. There is absolutely no risk to gluten free diets like The Paleo Diet, and the potential for improved health is high (8-15).

Other foods which are not on The Paleo Diet menu are dairy products, legumes, processed foods, refined sugars and vegetable oils. All of these items may adversely affect intestinal function or interact with the immune system in a manner that may promote allergy or autoimmunity. For details about these and other dietary elements that compromise intestinal function see my latest book, The Paleo Answer.

Finally, autoimmune patients may also want to read Egg Whites and Autoimmune Disease which suggests eggs and nightshades sometimes interact with the immune system to promote or aggravate allergy and autoimmunity.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor


1. Cordain L, Toohey L, Smith MJ, Hickey MS. Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis. British Journal of Nutrition, 2000, 83:207-217.

2. Fasano A. Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012 Feb;42(1):71-8.

3. Fasano A. Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer. Physiol Rev. 2011 Jan;91(1):151-75

4. Mirza N, Bonilla E, Phillips PE. Celiac disease in a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus: a case report and review of literature. Clin Rheumatol. 2007 May;26(5):827-8

5. Freeman HJ. Adult celiac disease followed by onset of systemic lupus erythematosus. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008 Mar;42(3):252-5

6. Hrycek A, Siekiera U. Coeliac disease in systemic lupus erythematosus: a case report.
Rheumatol Int. 2008 Mar;28(5):491-3.

7. Zitouni M, Daoud W, Kallel M, Makni S. Systemic lupus erythematosus with celiac disease: a report of five cases. Joint Bone Spine. 2004 Jul;71(4):344-6

8. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A: Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009.

9. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, Branell UC, Pålsson G, Hansson A, Söderström M, Lindeberg S. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009;8:35

10. Jonsson T, Ahren B, Pacini G, Sundler F, Wierup N, Steen S, Sjoberg T, Ugander M, Frostegard J, Goransson Lindeberg S: A Paleolithic diet confers higher insulin sensitivity, lower C-reactive protein and lower blood pressure than a cereal-based diet in domestic pigs. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2006, 3:39.

11. Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahren B, Lindeberg S. A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Nov 30;7(1):85

12. Lindeberg S, Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjostrom K, Ahren B: A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia 2007, 50(9):1795-1807.

13. O’Dea K: Marked improvement in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic Australian aborigines after temporary reversion to traditional lifestyle. Diabetes 1984, 33(6):596-603.

14. Osterdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wandell PE: Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr 2008, 62(5):682-685.

15. Ryberg M, Sandberg S, Mellberg C, Stegle O, Lindahl B, Larsson C, Hauksson J, Olsson T. A Palaeolithic-type diet causes strong tissue-specific effects on ectopic fat deposition in obese postmenopausal women. J Intern Med. 2013 Jul;274(1):67-76.

About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

*You can unsubscribe at anytime

Comments to this website are moderated by our editorial board. For approval, comments need to be relevant to the article and free of profanities and personal attacks. We encourage cordial debates for the betterment of understanding and discovery. Comments that advertise or promote a business will also not be approved, however, links to relevant blog posts that follow the aforementioned criteria will be allowed. Thank you.

“2” Comments

  1. Pingback: WFPB diet and why I am not on it | The Lupie wolff

  2. Pingback: Alfalfa Sprouts and The Paleo Diet : The Paleo Diet™

  3. Hi Heather i’m not a doctor but i think u can start eating smaller portions and drinking lots of water daily.
    Try to walk often and keep active with the kids in the park.Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive.actually brown rice and beans(variety) r a decent price, add a vege sautéed in coconut oil and viola your going to change things around for yourself and family. Also try to eat a fruit if u crave for something sweet. Goodluck hope this helps a bit.

  4. Pingback: Can The Paleo Diet Cure Lupus | Paleo Recipes

  5. Pingback: Paleo Diet in the News | Paleo Burn Review

  6. Hello I am very over weight and have tried a numbet of diets and nothing has workef. I have been reading about this but a little concerned it may be expensive having to vuy fresh fruits and vegetables. I have three kids and only get paid once a month. I’m 32 years old an 5′ 3″ and weigh 230, I really want to lose to be healither for myself and my kids.if there is any advise/help you can offer I would greatly appericate it. Thanks again.

  7. Pingback: Paleosphere News Roundup – 25 November 2013 | Must Love Paleo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Affiliates and Credentials