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Fumaric acid esters are an effective treatment option for not only lupus, but also for psoriasis and multiple sclerosis. They are often prescribed and administered in Germany as dimethyl fumarate under the brand name Fumaderm. This substance is most frequently found in processed foods as a preservative or artificial flavoring, but it can also be found in nature as a component of the earth smoke plant (Fumaria officinalis), Icelandic moss, and bolete mushrooms. It is also produced naturally by the body upon exposure to the sun. In Europe, dimethyl fumarate (DMF) is a relatively common conventional treatment for psoriasis (although it is also an accepted, though less known, treatment for multiple sclerosis). Its effects as a lupus treatment are known, but not yet popularly accepted by the conventional medical community.
Fumaric acid has an anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulatory effect in the body. Because lupus is an autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation, it makes sense that fumaric acid would be valuable to lupus patients. In addition, because people with lupus tend to avoid the sun due to its ability to spur disease eruptions, it also makes sense that lupus patients would produce less of this substance in their bodies. It’s possible to supplement with fumaric acid, though, even if you’re not going out in the sun. If going out in the sun provokes a response, taking fumaric acid internally may be a way to support your body without provoking it by going in the sun quite yet.
Here are some sources of fumaric acid:
- The earth smoke plant (Fumaria officinalis) – This plant is also known for its ability to heal the kidneys (an organ strongly correlated with the problems that lupus patients experience). Fumaric acid was named after this plant because of the higher quantities of the substance that it contains.
- Fumaric acid esters (in powder or capsule) – When you purchase fumaric acid online, make sure to purchase an ESTERIFIED form that is safe for oral consumption.
- Fumaric acid esters (in a cream) – You may be able to find a cream to apply to your skin. This is best for people with cutaneous lupus erythematosus, although SLE patients can benefit as well.
- By prescription – In some places in Europe (like in Germany and Austria, in particular), doctors can prescribe dimethyl fumarate (a kind of fumaric acid ester) to patients as a treatment for psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. Although not well known by the rest of the world, this is not entirely uncommon in some European countries.
For the treatment of lupus, fumaric acid has shown to be successful at managing symptoms (and may be a cure for the disease if taken in conjunction with other lifestyle changes and supplements). One study outlined the experiences of two women who took fumaric acid to treat their lupus. The first woman saw her skin lesions disappear completely after 3 months of fumaric acid treatment, and after one year her symptoms were stable when she was taking only 4 tablets of 120mg of dimethyl fumarate daily. The second woman had similar success. Another study lasting 24 weeks, 11 patients with CLE were observed during treatment with fumaric acid. Significant improvements were noted by week 12, and more improvements still were noticed in week 24 of the study.
Individuals who take fumaric acid esters as a treatment for lupus often note digestive discomforts, including intestinal cramping, diarrhea, and some nausea, in addition to proteinuria. However, these symptoms all gradually decrease over the course of treatment with fumaric acids (and they can be reversed by reducing the dosage or stopping treatment altogether).
Balak, Deepak M.W. and Thio, H. Bing. (2011). Treatment of lupus erythematosus with fumaric acid ester derivatives: two case reports. Retrieved June 1, 2021 from; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3242241/
Kuhn, A.; Landmann, A.; Patsinakidis, N.; Ruland, V.; Nozinic, S.; Perusquia Ortiz, A.M.; Saurland, C.; Luger, T.; Tsianakas, A.; Bonsmann, G. (2016). Fumaric acid ester treatment in cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE): a prospective, open-label, phase II pilot study. Retrieved June 1, 2021 from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0961203316644335 Fumaric Acid Esters for Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus