Sjögren’s syndrome: Dr. Steven Gundry’s helpful diet and lifestyle treatments that minimize Sjögren’s painful symptoms.
What is Sjögren’s syndrome?
Sjögren’s syndrome is a condition that affects body parts that produce fluids, such as tears and saliva, but it can affect other body parts including nerves and joints. It is caused when the immune system mistakenly attacks and damage healthy parts of the body. This condition – Sjögren’s – is known as an autoimmune disease.
Sjögren’s syndrome is a very common autoimmune disease, with over 4 million cases in the United States. It is the second most common autoimmune disease in the United States. This autoimmune condition can develop at any age, but most cases are seen in people aged 40 to 60. Sjögren’s syndrome is more common in women than men.
It is a chronic (long-lasting) autoimmune disease that affects patient’s daily life, but there are treatments available to help relieve the symptoms.
Diagnosing Sjögren’s syndrome
It is often challenging to recognize and diagnose Sjögren’s syndrome because many of its symptoms overlap or mimic other autoimmune diseases. There is currently no single test that can confirm Sjögren’s syndrome. Physicians trained in diagnosing and treating autoimmune diseases may require series of tests including blood tests in order to confirm that a patient is suffering from Sjögren’s Syndrome disease.
Are there different types of Sjögren’s syndrome?
There are 2 different types or categories of Sjögren’s syndrome. Doctors divide Sjögren’s syndrome into Primary and Secondary form.
- This type develops on its own and is not aligned with any other health issues. Patients with primary Sjögren’s syndrome do not necessarily have any other autoimmune diseases.
- This form develops in addition with other autoimmune diseases. Patients with secondary Sjögren’s syndrome also have other autoimmune diseases, such as Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Scleroderma or Polymyositis.
Are there known causes for Sjögren’s syndrome?
Researchers are not clear why some people develop Sjögren’s syndrome. There are different factors that put some people in a higher risk of the disorder.
Some of the triggers that may play a role include:
- Environmental factors (food, temperature, pollutants, population density, sound, light, parasites)
- Certain viruses or a strain of bacteria
- Sex hormones (Sjögren’s syndrome affects women more than men)
What are Sjögren’s syndrome symptoms?
Most common symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome are:
- Dry eyes. Patient’s eyes will feel gritty (as if there is sand in them), itchy and may feel a burning sensation.
- Dry mouth. Patient’s mouth might feel like it’s full of cotton. This makes speaking or swallowing very difficult.
People suffering from Sjögren’s syndrome may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Joint pain and muscle pain throughout the body. These symptoms may be similar to Fibromyalgia.
- Blurry vision
- Dry cough
- Dry, itchy skin
- Vaginal dryness
- Swelling between the jaw and ears
- Rashes (after spending time in the sun)
- Tooth decay
In Sjögren’s syndrome, patient’s immune system first attacks the glands that produce saliva and tears. In some cases it can also damage other parts of the body such as:
What are the risk factors with Sjögren’s syndrome?
Sjögren’s syndrome mostly occurs in people with more than one risk factor, including:
- Sjögren’s syndrome is mostly diagnosed in people older than 40.
- Other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
- Women are more likely to have Sjögren’s syndrome than men.
Some patients can develop complications from Sjögren’s syndrome. Dental cavity problems arising from dry mouth. Saliva helps protect the teeth from bacteria that cause cavities and tooth decay. Oral thrush (yeast infection of the mouth) is another complication that dry mouth causes. Vision issues can happen because of dry eyes. This can lead to light sensitivity, corneal damage and blurred vision.
Less common complications include:
- Lymph Nodes: Some people with Sjögren’s syndrome can develop Lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes.
- Lungs: Pneumonia, bronchitis or other lung problems can be caused by inflammation.
- Kidney: Inflammation can lead to problems with kidney function.
- Liver: In some cases hepatitis or cirrhosis in the liver can be attributed to Sjögren’s syndrome complications.
- Nerves: Burning and tingling in hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy), numbness can affect a small percentage of people.
What are the treatments for Sjögren’s syndrome?
In his decades long experience in treating patients with autoimmune disorders Dr. Steven Gundry understood that there are similarities with all of his patients. Few of the same culprits presented themselves every time while treating his patients. First one was over medication or over medication with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) over-the-counter pain management drugs. Now, why are these drugs so bad when we know they help manage the pain caused by an autoimmune disease? To answer that we have to look at what the other autoimmune disease culprits are. The biggest one is called Leaky gut. Well, most people have never heard of Leaky gut and they don’t know what the term means. If we look at how our body’s defense system functions, we’ll find that the immune system is our defense. When we look more closely we’ll see that around 80% of all our immune cells are concentrated along the lining of our gut. They are basically our gut police that is looking for invaders (dangerous bacteria, viruses, toxins) that are trying to break through the gut wall.
When our gut is healthy the barrier is strong and nothing gets through that is not supposed to go through. When the gut lining is weakened or damaged the toxins and dangerous bacteria can leak into the bloodstream causing many different sicknesses. When our immune cells see these “invaders” they mobilize the reinforcements and there is a battle in our gut. This battle is inflammation. The immune system needs huge amounts of energy to fight inflammation and that energy is taken from our muscles and brain. Most of us don’t really feel what’s happening in our body, but it usually manifests itself as tiredness and fatigue. These are warning signs and we should take them seriously.
Dr. Gundry says that pain management drugs (NSAIDs – ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen) act like “hand grenades” that blow holes in our gut lining. The result is that dangerous toxins and bacteria can freely invading our bloodstream. These drugs are not the only culprits of a leaky gut. Certain foods can weaken and actually destroy gut lining.
Lectins are plant based proteins and Dr. Gundry believes that they are responsible for weakening and damaging our gut lining. You can find lectins in many common foods such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, goji berries.
When it comes to treating Sjögren’s syndrome symptoms here are few steps you can take immediately.
- No packaged and processed foods — these foods, which now make up the majority of many Americans’ diets, are loaded with sugar, artificial ingredients, and other inflammatory ingredients. The more you eat them, the more you increase your risk of autoimmune disease and you can make the problem worse.
- Eat more whole foods — natural whole foods (particularly high-fiber vegetables like onions, asparagus, and artichoke) provide your gut with healthy starches and fiber that will keep you full and improve the health of your microbiome (the beneficial bacteria living in your gut).
- Get your sweetness naturally — one of the worst foods you can consume is sugar. It’s a key driver of inflammation and obesity and is present in nearly all packaged and processed foods. But if you have a sweet tooth, Dr. Gundry recommends eating low-fructose fruits, only when in season, and in moderation. Some of his favorite fruits include wild berries, kiwi (with the skin on), pomegranate, passion fruit, and grapefruit.
- Cut out the lectins — these pesky plant proteins can lead to a leaky gut. Common lectin-containing foods include certain vegetables from the nightshade family (including tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant), certain nuts and seeds like cashews and peanuts, and beans and legumes. (You can find a complete Dr. Gundry YES/No food list HERE.) Dr. Gundry’s lectin hack: you can completely neutralize the lectins in most of these foods by pressure-cooking them.
- Don’t forget fiber — perhaps the best food you can eat for a healthier gut is a type of fiber called a prebiotic. Eating more prebiotic fiber is the easiest and fastest way to a healthier, happier gut. And one of the best prebiotics is inulin, which you can find abundantly in foods like chicory, asparagus, onions, leeks, and artichokes. Dr. Gundry’s “refrigerator trick” to get more prebiotic fiber from starchy foods like yams, sorghum, millet, and pressure-cooked rice: first cook them, then chill them, then reheat before eating.
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