Bastyr Center for Natural Health, Seattle, Washington
Health Information
Overview Health Conditions and Concerns Conditions A-M Conditions N-Z Healthy Lifestyle Tips Bastyr Health-E News News and Events Recommended Reading List Recipes National and Community Resources
Schedule an appointment today
Immune System/Autoimmune Disorders | Fish Oil Helps People with Lupus

Fish Oil Helps People with Lupus

Supplementing with fish oil may decrease the symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), according to a study published in the Journal of Rheumatology (2004;31:1551–6).

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues and organs in the body. People with lupus may experience a rash on the face, mouth ulcers, hair loss, arthritis, chest pain, high blood pressure, kidney problems, and neurological problems such as seizures. Involvement of the kidneys, lungs, and blood vessels can cause life-threatening complications. Lupus symptoms tend to come and go, causing flare-ups and remissions. Young women between the ages of 15 and 40 years are the most commonly affected. People who have a close relative with lupus are more likely to develop the disease. Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans are two to three times more likely than Caucasians to develop lupus.

There is no known cure for lupus, but the symptoms may be managed by various medications. Corticosteroids, drugs that suppress the immune system, and drugs used to treat malaria are commonly prescribed. These medications may decrease inflammation, treat complications related to lupus, and prevent flare-ups of the disease; however, most of the drugs used to treat lupus are associated with serious side effects. Corticosteroids such as prednisone can cause high blood pressure, thinning of the bones, and increased risk of infection. Drugs used to suppress the immune system like cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan™) can cause swelling of the feet and legs, hair loss, and extreme fatigue. Antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil™) may cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Fish oil is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents. People with lupus tend to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. Copper has also been studied for the treatment of certain types of inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The current study examined the effect of fish oil and copper supplementation on disease activity in 52 people with lupus. The participants were assigned to receive either (1) 3 grams of fish oil (containing 540 mg of EPA and 360 mg of DHA) and 3 mg of copper per day, (2) 3 grams of fish oil per day, (3) 3 mg of copper per day, or (4) placebo for 24 weeks. Disease activity was assessed using the Systemic Lupus Activity Measure, and indicators of inflammation in the body were measured at the beginning of the study and again after 6, 12, and 24 weeks.

Copper supplementation did not affect lupus disease activity but the participants taking fish oil had significantly less disease activity than those people not taking it. Fish oil appeared to have the greatest effect on the neurological and skin problems associated with lupus. Neither fish oil nor copper affected measures of inflammation in the body. No side effects were reported in any of the treatment groups.

Eating two meals per week of an oily fish such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel can provide the amount of fish oil used in this study. Larger amounts have been found to benefit a variety of other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.

Copyright © 2004 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.

Learn More About It

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

Find a Provider

Want to find the provider that's right for you? Learn more about our health care providers.  »

Bastyr Center Disclaimer

The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.


Appointments: 206.834.4100
Bastyr Center clinic appointments

Submit a contact request or call us to schedule an appointment »

Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego

Are you looking for Bastyr University Clinic, our new teaching clinic in San Diego? More »

Learn More About Our Services

Natural medicine can treat many types of conditions including:

More treatable health conditions »

Bastyr Center healthcare providers

Interested in finding a provider who's right for you? We recommend that your first visit at BCNH be with a Naturopathic Medicine Provider. »

Home  | Health Information  | Health Care Services  | Our Providers  | Patient Care  | Dispensaries

About BCNH  | Contact Us  | Appointments  | Privacy Policy  | Site Map | Bastyr University