Home Auto-immune disease My Mum's lupus / small airways disease improve on paleo diet!

My Mum's lupus / small airways disease improve on paleo diet!


My mother is 78. About 2 months ago she and Dad decided to try paleo eating, after they saw my success. Both my parents have been following a dairy free Zone diet for about 12 years, and taking omega 3 (2500mg day) with great results. It has kept them lean, and kept my father free of heart disease; he had a bypass 24 years ago and has no recurrent problems. My parents are very proactive in their health in other ways; they hike in the bush (New Zealand forest) weekly, ride bikes, hill walk, garden, take time out, do a lot of family and community / church activities, and sleep plenty.

Mum, however has lupus, she first noticed joint symptoms in her early 20’s. Her shoulders, neck, jaw (TMJ) and knees are affected. Her lungs are also affected, she would get pain and spasm in inter-costal muscles with viral infections and a lot of mucus. She has a classic lupus butterfly rash on her face which is extremely sun sensitive. My mother had a course of chloroquine which successfully treated her knee inflammation about 30 years ago.

Her lungs however have continued to be a worsening problem. 15 years ago they were mildly affected and 10 years ago after a bad viral infection they deteriorated, an x-ray confirmed she had small airways disease. After any viral infection she gets a lot of mucus for weeks.  However in the last year it has been worse, she’s had a constant cough from the hard to clear mucus. Her lung capacity decreased, and when hiking she needs to stop frequently to catch her breath up hills.

Lupus runs in our family – Mum’s great grandmother had severe lupus and a family photo shows her almost without a nose, due to sun damage.

I also inherited a mild version – mainly the knee swelling, neck and TMJ inflammation just like my mother. My knee swelling and joint pain completely went when I went paleo 13 months ago, and has stayed away. A huge ganglion cyst disappeared in weeks too – very dramatic.

My parents decided as a result to give it a go. They started it about 2 months ago, (modified – they still have some soy only).

At the same time mum had a nasty viral chest infection. Normally this would have left her with clogged up lungs for weeks, and probably further lung deterioration. However after the virus her lungs cleared up completely in 3 weeks. My father noticed mum had stopped coughing, for the first time in a year. He noticed her lung capacity also improved dramatically over the last month. When hiking she keeps up with him now, and tackles hills without stopping. Dad’s a doctor and is astounded at how much better mum is without grains. Mum says her lungs feel so much more free, and it’s easier to breathe. Her nose is clear at night too, no more snoring.

Mum has also noticed another interesting improvement. After hiking for 4 hours or more she got a red rash on her lower legs up the back of her calf. She went hiking for several days in a row last week – amazing no rash. Another anti-inflammatory effect of eating paleo!

I guess what is interesting to me is that mum was already slim and fit. She already followed a good diet – Zone, which is moderate in carbs and didn’t actually eat a lot of grain foods, about 2- 3 serves a day. She was already dairy free and took fish oil and other supplements. It’s amazing that taking out the small amount of grains and most legumes has made such a dramatic improvement in her lungs.

The other thing seeing my folks take this on – you’re never too old to change! Like Robb Wolf says – try it for a month and see what happens.




  1. I wonder what supplementation with Vitamin D3 would do for lupus. It seems to help other autoimmune diseases. Even though your Mum is outdoors a lot, it has been reported by Dr. Tourgeman, a Nephrologist in South Florida that almost all of his patients are deficient in Vit D3.

    • You are right – Vitamin D3 is critical for auto-immune issues and even though there is a lot of sun in NZ – we have high rates of deficiency also. Mum was already taking Vitamin D3, I suggested she take that about a year or so ago, after it had made a difference with my auto-immune issues. Her blood tests showed her levels to be okay after supplementation.

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