- Did you know that you can cure Sjogren’s syndrome and prevent flare-ups? Learn which foods to eat and which to avoid to achieve lasting relief of the painful symptoms.
- Conventional Sjogren’s syndrome treatment often only produces temporary relief and contains chemicals that can do more harm. NSAIDs can inflame the gut which is already a big problem for many of those suffering from Sjogren’s syndrome. Learn about the alternatives.
- Fatigue and pain is a common symptom of Sjogren’s syndrome. Learn useful ways to combat fatigue and pain.
Are you tired of struggling with dry eyes and mouth and every time you visit the doctor, they give you eye drops without explaining the reason for it? One must understand that these eye drops act just like a band-aid on the wound.
The long-term strategy is to get temporary relief with the best eye drops we will discuss and slowly make some dietary changes that might stop your immune system attacking your tear and saliva producing glands.
What is Sjogren’s Syndrome
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease (meaning the body attacks itself) that targets the lubrication systems of the body. That means the glands that are responsible for lubricating your eyes, nose, mouth, skin, vagina, and sometimes even internal organs have been attacked by your own immune system. Yes! It’s shocking but it is unfortunate that a system that is designed to protect us start working against us.It just trained the wrong way by the wrong lifestyle choices that we take.
I am here to help you correct it.
Sjogren’s syndrome could also have one of two types:
- Primary Sjogren’s syndrome: This is when you only have Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Secondary Sjogren’s syndrome: This is when you have something else, usually another autoimmune disease along with Sjogren’s syndrome.
Sjogren’s syndrome is far more prevalent in women. In fact, 9 out of 10 people suffering from Sjogren’s syndrome are women and it often gets diagnosed with menopause or even as a part of aging.
Symptoms of Sjogren’s System
The biggest challenge of this autoimmune condition is that the symptoms resemble so many other diseases that doctors are not always able to recognize the symptoms for what they are and end up treating you solely for the individual symptoms.
Symptoms in the Initial Stage
- Dry eyes which often feel like they are burning, itching or gritty.
- Ulcers on the eyeballs
- Blurry vision
- Eyes are sensitive to light
- Bloody nose due to dryness
- Dry mouth or thick saliva
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing due to dry mouth
- Sores in the mouth
- Mouth infections
- Dental problems
- Hoarse or scratchy voice due to a dry throat
- Dry and/or peeling lips
- Vermillion border of lips
- Dry skin
- Vaginal dryness and/or infections
- Sore muscles
- Tingling or burning sensation in the hands and/or feet
The most common symptoms are usually dry eyes and mouth.
Symptoms during the advanced stage include some of those from the initial phase but also:
- Severe fatigue
- Problems with the lymph nodes
- Painful joints
- Digestive problems
- Respiratory tract problems
- Kidney problems
- Liver problems
- Blood vessel problems (rare)
Risk Factors for Sjogren’s Syndrome
Unfortunately, when it comes to autoimmune diseases, there sometimes just is no explanation for someone developing one. But as with all autoimmune diseases, there are risk factors for Sjogren’s syndrome:
- A family history of any autoimmune diseases
- If you are a woman
- You have a rheumatic disease, usually lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
- If you are older than 40
Causes of Sjogren’s Syndrome
Though as mentioned, sometimes there is no cause, possible causes include:
- Mercury: Mercury is a heavy metal that can get into our systems by way of eating fish (especially shark, swordfish, and some tuna), and dental fillings that contain it. Ask your dentist to replace your fillings with non-mercury fillings and keep your fish intake to no more than twice a week.
- Viral or bacterial infection: Certain viruses and bacteria can trigger the onset of Sjogren’s syndrome due to the impact they have on the immune system
- Emotional trauma: Stress, anxiety, and other emotional trauma has a direct impact on the immune system causing it to become weaker. In some cases, this can trigger an autoimmune response.
Heavy metal toxicity and Infections we can inherit from our parents too.
Leaky Gut and Sjogren’s Syndrome
This is a condition where due to chronic inflammation, the intestines start to leak toxins into the blood where they can then travel all over your body. This negatively impacts your immune system and can lead to an autoimmune response. Leaky gut has been linked to 55 different illnesses. The health of your gut is essential to your overall health.
Common culprits of leaky gut are:
- NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, oxaprozin, indomethacin)
- Hard to digest foods like legumes, grains, and gluten
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Food allergies
Usually for these things to cause Sjogren’s syndrome, you need to be genetically predisposed.
Sjogren’s Syndrome Diagnosis
Sjögren’s Syndrome can be difficult to diagnose, and for that reason, is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. For example, you get mouth ulcers because of dry mouth and your dentist will treat the mouth ulcers without relating your symptoms to your dry eyes and this whole autoimmune condition.
In order to be diagnosed, there is a checklist that is used to note symptoms and results from various tests:
- Continuously dry eyes and mouth for 3 months
- Constant eye irritation
- Frequent need for eye drops
- Dry eye confirmed by tests
- The need to drink in order to be able to swallow when eating
- Swelling of the salivary glands (parotid glands)
- Poor flow of saliva confirmed by tests
- Lip biopsy confirming inflammation
- Presence of autoantibodies in the blood (SS-A or SS-B autoantibodies)
Various tests will need to be run to confirm a diagnosis. Not all doctors will run these tests, unfortunately. You know your body best. If you have some symptoms (everyone is affected differently) and you know that something is not right with your body, insist on getting the proper tests done.
Ophthalmic Tests (Eye Tests)
These tests will be done by an ophthalmologist using either filter paper, dye, or light:
- Schirmer’s test: This test is done to see whether there are enough tears being produced by the eye and of good enough quality to keep the eyes sufficiently lubricated.
- Slit lamp exam: This is done to test for any inflammation as well as dryness. Using light the ophthalmologist or optometrist will pick up any abnormalities.
- Rose Bengal Test (RBT): This test uses a dye on the eyeball to highlight any damage.
- Lissamine green: This test is very similar to the Rose Bengal Test.
Saliva and Mouth Tests
These tests are usually performed by a doctor:
- Sialogram: By injecting dye into the salivary glands and then taking an X-ray, the doctor can measure the flow of the saliva.
- Salivary flow rate: This test is very simple. The doctor measures how much saliva can be put into a cup by the patient within 5 minutes.
- Salivary scintigraphy: This is almost the same as a sialogram, but in this case, a radioactive isotope is injected into the salivary glands and then an X-ray is done to determine how well the salivary glands function.
- Lip biopsy: This is actually a salivary gland biopsy, in this case, one of the minor salivary glands in the lip is tested.
Sometimes blood tests can come back negative as you will see the percentage of those who test positive, but this does not always mean that you don’t have Sjogren’s syndrome:
- Anti-SS-A (Ro) and anti-SS-B (La): These SS-A and SS-B antibodies are specific markers indicating Sjogren’s syndrome. On average, 70% of Sjogren’s sufferers will test positive for SS-A while 40% test positive for SS-B.
- Rheumatoid Factor (RF): Usually this test is done when someone may have rheumatoid arthritis, but as mentioned before, some Sjogren’s sufferers will also have rheumatoid arthritis. The amount of patients that test positive for RF is around 60-70%.
- Anti-Nuclear Antibody test (ANA): These antibodies are usually present in anyone with an autoimmune disease, including Sjogren’s syndrome. 70% of Sjogren’s sufferers test positive.
There may be a few other tests the doctors will do but these are the main ones. In the case that the Sjogren’s syndrome has been untreated for a while or has become advanced, other tests will be performed such as chest X-rays, skin biopsies, and urine tests to check for complications.
Sjogren’s Syndrome Treatment
Most of the conventional treatments tend to be temporary and if not used correctly, can cause unwanted side effects. A good example of this is artificial tears which when used too much can actually cause a rebound effect causing the problem to become even worse. But in the short term, the conventional treatments can provide some relief when used correctly.
Common Treatments Include:
- Artificial tear drops and inserts: These drops are constructed like tears with water, oils, and electrolytes to keep your eyes lubricated and hydrated. You may also be prescribed tear inserts which are little pellets that dissolve and act as tears.
- Eye creams: These also keep the eyes moist but can make it hard to see, so useat night.
- Moisture chamber spectacles: These spectacles prevent wind from reaching the eyes and trap moisture. Some types of contact lenses can also do this though they may not be suitable for everyone.
- Sealing the tear ducts: If the quality of the tears are poor they may evaporate or leak away too quickly. Partially or fully sealing the tear ducts are used to treat dry eyes if nothing else works. It should be a last resort.
- Autologous eye serum: This is also something that is done more as a last resort. Doctors can use your blood serum to make an eye serum for you.
- Artificial saliva: These are usually in the form of gels, sprays, liquids, or swabs. They keep the mouth hydrated and lubricated.
- Vaginal lubricants: These can help keep you more comfortable and can reduce pain during sex.
- Medications: You may also be given medications that stimulate saliva flow, treat any infections that you may have, and lower inflammation. These can help temporarily and may be necessary for a while, but medications that lower inflammation like ibuprofen and other NSAIDS become harmful with regular use because they affect your stomach lining and liver.
There is also the problem that many of these drops, creams, and medications contain chemicals which are harmful in the long run. You can use these temporary measures which are free of these chemicals to reduce inflammation and provide moisture:
- Artificial saliva made from glycerine and water
- Homeopathic eye drops
- MSM Drops
- Natural personal lubricants: Choose those without chemicals. Give this one a try.
While drops and some medications that stimulate saliva can be used temporarily it is far better to make good changes to your diet and lifestyle that will produce lasting results.
Sjogren’s Syndrome Diet
1. Stay Hydrated
Make sure that you drink 6-8 glasses of water. You can drink herbal teas or flavor your water with a slice of lemon, cucumber, ginger, or some mint, but you should mainly be drinking plain water. You will be hydrating yourself from the inside out. Water also flushes toxins out and helps to keep the liver and kidneys healthy.
Tip: Sucking on ice cubes can help with dry mouth.
2. Healthy Fats for Healthy Eyes, Mouth, and Skin
One of the roles of the fats that we consume is to keep our skin healthy and our hormones functioning as they should. Making sure that you include healthy fats in your diet can help to hydrate your skin and eyes as well as your mouth. It is completely wrong that fat makes you fat. In fact, you can even lose weight while eating full-fat foods.
Omega 3 is particularly good because it lowers inflammation in the body. For someone who suffers from Sjogren’s syndrome, keeping inflammation down is especially important. Omega 3 is also extremely beneficial for the joints and can help to keep them healthy.
Omega 3-rich foods:
- Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, and sardines
- Flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
You may find that taking a krill oil supplement is helpful, but if you are vegan or vegetarian, you can take a flax oil supplement, or this EPA & DHA supplement. You can also consume a teaspoon of cold-pressed flaxseed oil daily.
Omega 6 is also essential to your body. This fatty acid is a lot easier to consume because it is used in so many different commercial foods and is present in nuts, seeds, and cooking oils. Too much can cause inflammation and deplete omega 3 in your body. So try to keep the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 between 1:1 and 4:1.
Omega 6-rich foods:
- Evening primrose oil
- Borage oil
- Seeds (pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
- Vegetable oils (sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil)
The omega 6 oils, evening primrose oil, and borage oil were shown to be particularly effective. Try this evening primrose oil supplement or borage oil supplement. Take 3000 mg per day. Combine it with vitamin B6 and C to reap even more benefits for your eyes.
For an extra boost (since our bodies can make it) of omega 9 fatty acids, eat olive oil and avocados.
Saturated fat also forms part of a healthy diet and will be beneficial to your skin. Coconut oil, palm oil, and MCT oil are particularly healthy as they are short and medium-chain fatty acids meaning they will get absorbed quickly. MCT oil is great for eliminating fatigue.
Foods that contain saturated fat:
- Coconut oil
- Palm oil
- MCT oil
- Grass-fed meat
Did you know that there is also a fatty acid called omega 7? It improves the health of your skin, hair, nails, gut, and also helps to keep mucus membranes (found in your internal organs) healthy. It will help you with your eye moisture, saliva production, and treat vaginal dryness too. It comes from the oil of a berry from the sea buckthorn shrub. Try this supplement out.
Another very beneficial oil to combat dry eyes, pain, and constipation is castor oil. Take a teaspoon every day. Just be careful about taking it before bed as it has a laxative effect.
Coconut oil makes a great moisturizer for your skin. It smells great and nourishes your skin.
Tip: Try to avoid hair dryers, wind, and aircons which are all very drying.
3. Avoid Acidic Foods and Beverages
Too much acidity in our body can lead to inflammation. A mostly alkaline diet will keep inflammation down.
Acidic foods to avoid or reduce your intake of:
- Alcohol (this is best to avoid completely as it is very dehydrating)
- Soft drinks
Alkaline foods consist mainly vegetables. Some seemingly acidic foods like lemons and apple cider vinegar actually promote alkalinity in the body. Read this article for more information on alkaline foods.
4. Go Gluten-Free
This study shows that while there is a link between celiac disease and Sjogren’s, many of those who struggle with Sjogren’s disease and do not have celiac disease, have inflamed intestines. For people celiac disease, the consumption of gluten is detrimental and should be cut out completely. But you may find that cutting out gluten even if you don’t have celiac disease can lower inflammation in your gut.
Gluten is the protein found in certain grains but it tends to overload the digestive system. In many people, this causes fatigue and joint problems, but if you already have inflammation in your gut, gluten just irritates the digestive tract even more.
Gluten-containing foods to avoid:
- Cous cous
- Graham flour
5. Herbs and Spices that Lower Inflammation
These herbs and spices can be added to your meals or you can drink them as teas. You can either chop them up and brew them in water on the stove for a half an hour or you can find them already packaged as teas in stores, especially health stores.
Try these herbs and spices:
- Bay leaves
6. Magnesium for Constipation
If you struggle with constipation, along with staying hydrated and eating lots of vegetables, taking a magnesium supplement can be very helpful. It works by allowing more water into your intestine and the muscles of your bowel also relax which then allows the stools to leave your bowels more easily.
There may be some side-effects, so do not use the magnesium citrate if:
- You start getting diarrhea
- You have kidney disease
- If you are on a low sodium diet
- You experience nausea or vomiting
Never take more than 3 x 300 mg (900 mg) in total per day. This will help to prevent side effects.
Magnesium is such an important mineral in our body because it is involved in over 300 processes in our bodies. For more information on the benefits of this amazing mineral, read this article.
7. Antioxidants to Treat Dry Eye
Antioxidants have numerous health benefits and are present in fresh produce and some natural beverages. These 3 types of antioxidants were shown to be particularly promising in the treatment of some of the symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome:
- Lutein: Lutein helps to combat dry eyes because it helps the eyes to retain moisture and lowers inflammation.
- Zeaxanthin: Zeaxanthin, like lutein, has also been used to treat many different eye problems including dry eye. It also minimizes inflammation in the eyes and helps to maintain the health of the eyes.
- Anthocyanin: Anthocyanin also lowers inflammation in the eyes and has a protective function that preserves good eyesight.
Foods that contain these three antioxidants:
- Black currants
- Egg yolk
- Orange peppers
- Yellow squash
- Sweet potatoes
These foods can be made as a part of many meals and the berries are delicious in smoothies. Just note that as with any other fruit, berries should be enjoyed in moderation.
8. Foods that Help You to Swallow Better
Swallowing can be difficult if you have Sjogren’s syndrome mainly because the throat is often very dry. But inflammation, pain, and even nerve damage can also play a part. Try these foods:
- Olive oil: Olive oil is not only a great source of healthy fats but can help your food to go down more easily too. The olive oil will act as a lubricant in your throat and mouth and also make the food more slippery. Olive oil is great in salads and dips.
- Eat soups: This is a great way to increase your vegetable intake and because it is wet and will contain a little bit of oil, it will make swallowing easier. Usually, any vegetables or meat added to the soup will have been cooked soft so there will be minimal irritation. You can also add those herbs and spices that lower inflammation to add flavor to your soup.
- Juices and smoothies: Because all the vegetables and any other foods that you have added into your juices and smoothies have had all their tough cell walls broken down, they are also much easier to swallow and digest. Click here to find out more about the amazing benefits of juicing.
- Steamed vegetables: Steaming vegetables is one of the best ways to cook your vegetables and they can also become soft without losing too many nutrients. Their flavors will also be enhanced. For more cooking methods to keep food as healthy as possible, check out this article.
- Coconut water: Coconut water contains antioxidants. It also has an alkalizing effect on your body which can lower inflammation, and helps to improve kidney, skin, and digestive health.
Always make sure that if you do eat your foods whole as opposed to mashed that they are soft enough to eat easily.
9. Pancreatic Enzymes for Improved Digestion
In some cases with Sjogren’s syndrome, the pancreas can become inflamed and this will among other things, affect digestion. As the pancreas won’t be able to effectively excrete these enzymes, using a pancreatic enzyme supplement prior to meals will supply the digestive system with the necessary enzymes that may no longer be effectively excreted by the pancreas.
Dealing with Pain and Fatigue
Any time the body is struggling with pain and inflammation or constant discomfort, it can be very tiring. Not only is it just tiring in general, but experiencing pain and discomfort often affects sleep quality or a person’s ability to sleep at all. If you have another condition including Sjogren’s syndrome that condition may also be causing the fatigue. The following tips can be very helpful.
1. CBD Oil
Cannabidiol is a therapeutic cannabinoid extracted from hemp. This oil is completely legal and has many health benefits. It lowers inflammation and cannabis itself is known for its pain-relieving properties. This extracted oil is also used for treating pain and can reduce stress, make you sleep better, reduce fatigue, and elevate your mood.
Exercise has been shown to boost energy and relieve pain due to the release of endorphins. It also helps you to sleep better and boosts your mood. Exercise will help to strengthen your muscles and respiratory system which supports your overall health and lifts some of the burden off your joints.
If you have sore joints, try these exercises:
- Swimming (aerobic)
- Walking (aerobic)
- Stationary bicycle (aerobic)
- Lifting weights (anaerobic)
Doing half an hour to an hour of exercise 3-5 times a week will produce great results. Aerobic exercises can be done 2-5 times a week and anaerobic exercises 1-2 times a week.
- Sjogren’s disease can be caused by viral and bacterial infections, leaky gut, mercury buildup, and emotional trauma. A lot of the time, however, the cause of Sjogren’s is unknown.
- 9 out of 10 Sjogren’s syndrome sufferers are women and it is often misdiagnosed as menopause.
- A variety of blood tests, saliva tests, and eye tests need to be done to confirm the diagnosis as there is no one test that can diagnose Sjogren’s.
- Common symptoms are dry eye and mouth, dry skin, vaginal dryness, rashes, fatigue, muscle pain.
- Advanced Sjogren’s disease can cause kidney, lung, and digestive complications.
- Temporary medical treatment is an option but it is better to use homeopathic eye drops, natural lubricant, and artificial saliva.
- Eat lots of vegetables, lower your intake of coffee, tea, grains, and cut out alcohol.
- Eat healthy fats, take pancreatic enzymes just before a meal to improve digestion, CBD oil can help to fight pain and fatigue.
- Do aerobic exercise 3-5 days a week to bust pain and fatigue.
Have you been dealing with Sjogren’s syndrome? Please share your experience with us.
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[accordion_item icon=”” title=”Sources”]
- What you need to know about Sjögren’s syndrome
- Your Credible Sjogren’s Resource
- American Gastroenterological Association Technical Review on Constipation
- Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and
zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes
- Anthocyanins and anthocyanidins
- CBDPure Success Stories