January 2014: Henoch Schonlein Purpura, otherwise known as HSP, is a type of vasculitis that occurs largely in
the pediatric population. In fact, HSP is the most common type of childhood vasculitis, and it
often occurs following an upper respiratory infection. Like all vasculitis syndromes, HSP is
characterized by inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels. Some physicians may not recommend
treatment, as this condition tends to go away on its own in 6-8 weeks. However, other physicians
may prescribe steroids to reduce severe inflammation.
Parents of children with HSP may not be satisfied with waiting for the condition to resolve itself
when the case is not severe enough to require steroid therapy. Luckily, research shows that some
natural treatments can be used to reduce the blood vessel inflammation that occurs in HSP. One
study from 2011 shows that oxidation may play a role in the development of HSP, and another study indicates that oxidation of fats
in the body is an important step in the development of HSP.
Given this information, the use of healthy antioxidants may help slow the development of HSP and
reduce inflammation. Antioxidants are found in dark colored berries, dark leafy vegetables, and can
be obtained through vitamin supplements such as vitamins A, C, and E. Another very useful
antioxidant for HSP is coQ10, which can directly reduce the inflammation of the endothelial lining
of the blood vessel wall. Click here for more information.
A major class of antioxidant compounds are flavonoids, which are found in berries, green tea, and
citrus fruits. A 2012 study demonstrated that flavonoids isolated from a Chinese herbal medicine
Bidens bipinnata reduced inflammatory messengers in the serum of HSP patients, including
interleukin-8, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and nitric oxide. These inflammatory messengers are
usually high in the blood of HSP patients. The flavonoids from this plant also reduced the
expression of NF-kB, which is an upstream regulator of many inflammatory messengers. Click here for more information.
Another very useful natural medicine for HSP is fish oil. Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids
which have been shown to reduce inflammatory cytokines in the body by enhancing the production of
anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. A 2004 study showed that fish oil supplementation combined with
an ACEI hypertensive medication helped protect the kidneys of children with HSP by reducing the
amount of protein lost in the urine. Click here for more information.
HSP is a condition that usually resolves spontaneously, but may still lead to serious
complications. While many cases may require steroid intervention, other cases can enter a “watch
and wait” period. During this period, parents have the option to be proactive about their child’s
condition using safe and effective natural therapies. The safest way to obtain the nutrients
mentioned in these studies is to eat a diet loaded with dark colored fruits and vegetables. In
addition, a good quality multivitamin and omega-3 supplement may also help
reduce inflammation for HSP.
Please consult with your rheumatologist before starting any supplementation protocol.
By Kimberly M. Sanders, ND Resident Physician
University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine 203.806.5138