Supplement Guide for Systemic Scleroderma

Author: Shelley Ensz. Scleroderma is highly variable. See Types of Scleroderma. Read Disclaimer
The most important thing to know about supplements and scleroderma is that the immune system does not need to be improved in scleroderma, because it is already overactive.
Overview of Scleroderma and Supplements
Herbal Supplements
Arachidonic and DHA Acids
Calcium Supplements
Cod Liver Oil
Curcumin (Turmeric)
Fish Oil (Omega-3)
Lipoic Acid
Probiotics (Acidophilus, Microbes, Yogurt)
Vitamins and Minerals


Systemic scleroderma patients should always consult their doctor(s), especially their scleroderma expert, before using any vitamin or herbal remedies or making any significant changes in their diet. (Also see Types of Scleroderma and Scleroderma Experts)

In general, most doctors recommend that scleroderma patients follow a normal, well-balanced diet , without the addition of any herbs, vitamins, or minerals. Do not cut out any food groups from your diet, nor go on any "cleansing" diets, since this may accelerate the disease process.

The immune system does not need to be improved in scleroderma, because it is already overactive (and not underactive, as in AIDS.) Doing things that enhance the immune system can actually make scleroderma worse in some cases, as it gives the body more power to attack itself.

Research shows that Raynaud's can cause an abnormal processing of certain vitamins and minerals, leading to worsening scleroderma. So excessive intake of any vitamin is to be avoided. (Also see Raynaud's)

Many herbs and over-the-counter medications can interact with prescription medications, and many of them make scleroderma symptoms worse. Even simple over-the-counter cold remedies often have ingredients that can trigger Raynaud's or heartburn in systemic scleroderma patients. (Also see Heartburn)

Don't go on any diets that eliminate food groups, and especially avoid high-protein diets because they are very hard on the kidneys. (Also see Kidney Involvement)

Scleroderma Symptoms and Treatments Look up each of your scleroderma symptoms here to find other ideas for conventional and natural ways to deal with them. ISN.

Herbal Supplement and Supplement Cautions

PillsDementia supplements 'not backed up by evidence,' claim experts. Claims used to promote some supplements for preventing dementia or aiding brain health are not backed up by scientific evidence, according to a report. The Independent, 06/17/2016.

The hidden drugs in your favorite supplements. When you take a prescription drug in the United States, you can be reasonably sure of what's in it. Unfortunately, the same isn't true for dietary supplements. Vox, 01/06/2016.

A Positive Approach to Scleroderma by Dr. Andrew Weil.


Role of cellular senescence and NOX4–mediated oxidative stress in systemic sclerosis (SSc) pathogenesis. Numerous studies have implicated oxidative stress in SSc pathogenesis, thus, suggesting a plausible mechanism in which excessive oxidative stress induces cellular senescence. PubMed, Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2015 Jan;17(1):473.

Arachidonic and Docosahexaenoic Acids

Evidence for the essentiality of arachidonic (AA) and docosahexaenoic(DHA) acid in the postnatal maternal and infant diet for the development of the infant's immune system early in life. Intervention studies have demonstrated improvement in many markers of immune function in infants fed formula supplemented with AA and DHA compared with unsupplemented formula. PubMed, Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 May;41(5):461-75.

B Vitamins

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Are you getting enough vitamin B12? Many people don’t, and that deficiency can cause some serious problems. WebMD, 07/23/2015.

Calcium Supplements

Calcium supplements might raise heart disease risk.

Vitamin D supplements are not effective, and could be dangerous, studies find. There is a lack of evidence to support the health benefit claims of virtually all vitamin supplements on the market. Science Alert, 01/11/2016. (Also see Vitamin D Deficiency)

Cod Liver Oil

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid monoglycerides are more potent than docosahexaenoic acid monoglyceride to resolve inflammation in a rheumatoid arthritis model. Altogether, the present data suggest that Omega-3monoglyceride (MAG)–EPA, without vitamin E, represents a new potential therapeutic strategy for resolving inflammation in arthritis. PubMed, Arthritis Res Ther. 2015 May 29;17:142. (Also see Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis)

Curcumin (Turmeric)

Curcumin shows excellent therapeutic effect on psoriasis in mouse model.. Curcumin is an active herbal ingredient possessing surprisingly wide range of beneficial properties and has a great potential to treat psoriasis. PubMed, Biochimie, 2016 Apr;123:73-80.

Fish Oil

Fish oil pills 'no benefit' for type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes "should not be encouraged" to take omega-3 fish oil supplements, researchers from the University of East Anglia say. BBC Health News, 08/22/2019. (Also see Treatments for Diabetes)

New Studies Give Mixed Results About Taking Fish Oil and Vitamin D. Taking fish oil or vitamin D? Big studies give long–awaited answers on who does and does not benefit from these popular nutrients. Time Healthland, 11/10/2018. (Also see Vitamin D)


Ginseng Fights Cancer Treatment Fatigue. Ginseng has been shown to be an effective and safe, natural supplement for helping manage the fatigue associated with cancer treatment.Integrative Oncology Essentials, 05/28/2015.


Glucosamine Tied to Heart Benefits. Glucosamine, the dietary supplement widely used for arthritic pain may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, researchers report. New York Times, 05/14/2019.


To date, there has been no scientific evidence on humans or animals that clearly proves that licorice or deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is effective for various conditions including apthous ulcers/canker sores, atopic dermatitis, peptic ulcer, and heartburn/reflux. Use of licorice or DGL for any condition should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. Licorice has been shown to reduce cyclosporine levels, and raise methotrexate levels in rats.

Lipoic Acid

Increasing bioavailability of (R)–alpha–lipoic acid (R–aLA) to boost antioxidant activity in the treatment of neuropathic pain. This first investigation confirms the role of R–aLA as an anti–oxidant for the aetiological treatment of peripheral neuropathy. PubMed, Acta Biomed, 2015 Dec 14;86(3):226-33.

Lipoic acid (LA) plays a role in scleroderma: insights obtained from scleroderma (SSc) dermal fibroblasts. Dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA) not only acts as an antioxidant but also an antifibrotic since it has the ability to reverse the profibrotic phenotype of SSc dermal fibroblasts. Also thiol antioxidants, including N-acetylcysteine and LA/DHLA, could be beneficial for patients with SSc. PubMed, Arthritis Res Ther.


Protection against fine particle-induced pulmonary and systemic inflammation by omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. These results advance our understanding of how fine particles contribute to disease development and suggest that increasing tissue omega-3 levels may be a promising nutritional means for reducing the risk of diseases induced by particle exposure. PubMed, Biochim Biophys Acta, 2016 Dec 21;1861(3):577-584.

Probiotics (Acidophilus, Microbes, Yogurt)

Bowel Involvement: Acidophilus, Yogurt, and Other Probiotics. Eating 1 to 2 tablespoons a day of live culture acidophilus yogurt may be helpful for combatting bowel involvement with systemic scleroderma, especially small bowel bacterial overgrowth. It may also be particularly helpful when taking antibiotics. ISN. (Also see Bowel Involvement and Probiotic Supplements on Amazon.)

Probiotics: Pros and cons. Facts are that benefits of probiotics have not been conclusively demonstrated with large research studies, and not all probiotics have the same effects. Washington Times, 05/19/2017.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and Supplements Can't Replace a Balanced Diet, Study Says. New research published suggests that vitamins and supplements may not be enough to keep you healthy. Time Healthland, 04/08/2019.

Evaluation of Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Associated Factors in Patients With Systemic Sclerosis (SSc). Vitamin B12 deficiency is frequent in SSc and has multiple causes and all patients should be monitored for Vitamin B12 deficiency. PubMed, J Clin Rheumatol, 2018 Aug;24(5):250-254.

Intake of vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, zinc and polyunsaturated fatty acids and upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) – a prospective cohort study. We found an inverse association of URTI incidence among women for vitamin C, vitamin E, DHA and AA intake and a positive association among men for vitamin E and zinc intake. PubMed, Eur J Clin Nutr, 01/11/2017.

Calcium Supplements May Damage the Heart. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and elsewhere conclude that taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage. John Hopkins Medicine, 10/11/2016.

Localized scleroderma and zinc: a pilot study. We conclude that high-dose zinc gluconate can therefore be a valuable alternative treatment for localized scleroderma, with good tolerability, although placebo-controlled studies are necessary to confirm our results. PubMed, Brocard A, Eur J Dermatol. (Also see Localized Scleroderma)

Natural Remedies for Scleroderma. There's little scientific evidence to support the use of alternative medicine in treatment of scleroderma. However, vitamin D and E may be useful for individuals looking to manage this condition. VeryWell.

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Information about the popular supplement from Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health. (Also see Vitamin D)

Twenty-Five Ways to Spot Quacks and Vitamin Pushers How can food quacks and other vitamin pushers be recognized? Here are 25 signs that should arouse suspicion. QuackWatch.


Definition of Quinine. Quinine has been used outside of malaria as a remedy for fever and pain and to treat and prevent leg cramps. Prolonged administration of quinine may produce toxic symptoms such as deafness, disturbances in vision, skin rashes, and digestive upsets.

Anti-Malarial Drug: Tryptophan Deficiency May Underlie Quinine Side Effects. Researchers have found that the anti-malarial drug quinine can block a cell's ability to take up the essential amino acid tryptophan, a discovery that may explain many of the adverse side-effects associated with quinine. Once confirmed, these findings would suggest that dietary tryptophan supplements could be a simple and inexpensive way to improve the performance of this important drug. Science News.

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