One of the most common questions asked regarding lupus and who gets it is why is the percentage of women so much higher who have systemic lupus erythematosus. This form of lupus, commonly called SLE, has women as the ones most likely to develop this disease by a rate of nine to one. Although men do develop this form of lupus it is so infrequently that most of the literature on this disease is written as if the sufferer is a woman.
The feeling is that the reason so many more women develop SLE is that estrogen plays a part in the diseases triggering mechanism. This may be further proven when you look at the fact that this disease is more likely to arise during a womans childbearing years and that after menopause has begun very few new cases start during those years.
Estrogen an Immune System Trigger
Research has shown that when mice that have developed lupus are given male hormones or if the estrogen is removed from their systems lupus can be stopped. If only we could do that for the million and a half lupus sufferers in the United States. It has been learned that estrogen is known to interfere and so trigger the immune system in unexpected ways.
It is caused by the way womens bodies metabolize the estrogen. It was seen that the estrogen in the body works not only on the immune system but on the estrogen that has been metabolized by the body already. It is as if there are too many pathways that use the estrogen and so there is too much of it in the bodys systems. This different way of using estrogen may be a sign that the person is more likely to develop lupus.
Sometimes this can be changed by how the patient eats. Researchers are still looking into trying diet as an answer to affecting these pathways. Apparently both broccoli and cauliflower affect how estrogen is metabolized. So far, despite studies trying to alter this, researchers have had no luck.
They have even tried to isolate the ingredient in these two vegetables and put it into pill form. But the trial was a failure. The questions that this opened up dealt with dosage, duration of the study and how can this be attempted with a better outcome.
Since there is very little doubt that there is a tie between lupus and estrogen this presents concerns for some women once they are menopausal. Many doctors suggest hormone therapy during this phase of life. Should women who have lupus use this kind of therapy for menopause or is it too risky. Could it end a remission period and begin a flare-up. Or, more importantly could it remove the possibility of further remission periods?
The other concern with giving estrogen to menopausal women with lupus is that it has been tied in with heart disease. As heart disease is a risk for these women already because of the lupus many health care providers are suggesting that hormone replacement therapy may not be the best solution.