There are several syndromes affecting large populations that we are not familiar with. While these syndromes may not be fatal, they can cause grave discomfort to the sufferers. Moreover, they usually do not have treatments, only management strategies to alleviate the symptoms.
Hence, those suffering from this syndrome might need to make lifestyle and dietary changes to manage the symptoms better. Here is a detailed guide on how your diet can help with this syndrome.
What Is Sjögren’s Syndrome and Who Does It Affect?
Sjögren’s or Sicca Syndrome is an auto-immune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its cells. In the case of this syndrome, the immune system attacks the glands that produce moisture in the body, such as the tear and sweat glands. It causes inflammation in these glands, leading to symptoms like:
- Dry eyes
- Dry throat
- Joint pain
- Swollen glands
- Vaginal dryness
- Difficulty in swallowing
While this syndrome may affect anybody, it is prevalent in people over the age of 40, particularly women. Further, it is classified into two types – Primary and Secondary Sjögren’s Syndrome. In the primary syndrome, it is not accompanied by other disorders, while in the secondary syndrome, other disorders like Rheumatoid Arthritis also exist.
There is no treatment for this auto-immune disorder, but management strategies, including the Sjögren’s Syndrome Diet, can reduce the severity of the symptoms. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications or medicines to increase the production of tears and saliva to manage your symptoms.
The Best Foods To Eat For Sjögren’s Syndrome
1. Fresh Fruits And Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber and vitamins for Sjögren’s Syndrome. They also contain essential minerals and antioxidants, which can reduce the inflammation due to the disorder. To reap the maximum benefits of fruits and vegetables, consume them whole instead of juicing them. Also, include fruits and vegetables of different colors in your daily diet to receive a wider range of nutrients.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Spices And Herbs
The primary symptom of Sjögren’s is inflammation of various moisture-producing glands in the body. Therefore, you must minimize the consumption of foods that cause inflammation. Replace these foods with anti-inflammatory ingredients, like spices and herbs. Add anti-inflammatory foods like garlic and turmeric to your everyday meals to reduce inflammation. Furthermore, studies indicate that herbs like sweet almonds and Flixweed may act like moistening agents and alleviate your symptoms.
3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are known to reduce inflammation. Therefore, they may help reduce Sjögren’s Syndrome symptoms. Plus, these are healthy fats that can replace trans fats that are not recommended for those suffering from the syndrome. Some of the best sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids include avocados, nuts, olive oil, and fatty fish. Try to add these ingredients to your daily meals to reduce your symptoms. Apart from minimizing your symptoms, these will also improve your heart health.
4. Fibrous Foods
Foods that are rich in fiber are known to reduce the symptoms of inflammation. These include lentils, quinoa, kidney beans, oats, and other whole grains apart from fruits and vegetables. According to studies, a Mediterranean Diet, which focuses on these food groups, may reduce the symptoms of Sjögren’s. So, you may follow this diet to prevent severe symptoms.
5. Lean Meats
You are not advised to consume red meat on a Sjögren’s Syndrome diet because of the inflammatory nature of this food group. Instead, you can opt for lean meats like fish that contain healthy fats and protein. Try to source organic, less-processed meat as it reduces the risk of inflammation. If you are vegan-friendly, you can replace lean meats with plant protein from lentils and beans. These protein choices offer sustained energy without causing any inflammation.
The Worst Foods To Eat For Sjögren’s Syndrome
1. Processed Foods
Processed foods usually have a high glycemic index, which can result in inflammation and worsen Sjögren’s Syndrome symptoms. Moreover, they often contain canola or corn oil, which can cause inflammation and convert omega 6 fatty acids into harmful byproducts. Also, many processed foods like chips can aggravate dryness in the mouth and throat. So, you must avoid processed snacks, baked goods, corn syrup, and pasta and stick to homemade meals with fresh ingredients as much as possible.
2. Trans Fats
Trans fats or hydrogenated fats must be avoided in a Sjögren’s Syndrome diet. These fats are inflammatory and may also cause heart disease if consumed frequently. They are present in most deep-fried snacks, such as chips and French Fries, which you must avoid if suffering from Sjögren’s. Certain baked foods and microwaveable popcorn may also contain trans fats. So, check the label of your foods and cooking oil to make sure that they are free of trans fats.
3. Red Meat
Red meat is not recommended for patients with Sicca Syndrome. It is because red meat contains arachidonic acid, a type of fat that may cause inflammation in the body, aggravating your symptoms. Hence, it is best to avoid red meat, but if you cannot eliminate it, you may replace it with small amounts of grass-fed meat. Grass-fed bison or beef has anti-inflammatory properties that may negate the inflammatory effects of red meat to some extent.
You must eliminate all allergens from your Sjögren’s Syndrome diet. That is because food allergens may aggravate your symptoms and worsen any inflammation. They will enhance the dryness and irritation in your mouth and throat. Dairy is a common allergen that must be avoided by all lactose intolerant people. Additionally, many people are allergic to certain nuts and gluten. The best way to identify your allergens is a food allergy test, which will help you plan a safe and healthy diet for yourself.
5. Sugary Foods
Foods that contain large amounts of sugar cause a blood sugar spike in the body. It suddenly increases the insulin levels, which may lead to inflammation, worsening your Sjögren’s Syndrome symptoms. Hence, you may want to avoid sugary beverages, cookies, candies, and chocolates. Also, artificial sweeteners like Aspartame may trigger an immune response, aggravating your symptoms. Hence, it is better to avoid sweet foods, or you may switch to mildly sweetened foods with natural sweeteners like honey.
Some Do’s and Don’ts For Sjögren’s Syndrome Diet
Apart from ensuring that you get the proper nutrients and vitamins for Sjögren’s Syndrome, here are some do’s and don’ts that can reduce your discomfort while consuming meals.
- Add low-fat sauces and dressings to your meals to make them easier to swallow. You can use yogurt, homemade tomato sauce, or low-fat mayonnaise for this.
- Soften your food with water, broth, or milk to make it easier to chew and swallow. You can even blend or finely chop your food for more comfort.
- Replace solid meals with smoothies and soups that offer essential nutrients and energy in a liquid format.
- Suck on popsicles or ice chips to relieve pain and discomfort caused by Sjögren’s Syndrome symptoms.
- Avoid spicy foods and carbonated drinks as they can aggravate the irritation and dryness in your mouth and throat.
- Avoid hot foods if you have Sicca Syndrome. Consume your meals cold or at room temperature to minimize discomfort while swallowing.
- Avoid crunchy foods like chips, nuts, toast, or hard snack bars. They can aggravate your pain and inflammation.
- Avoid consuming too many supplements to improve your nutrient intake. Check with a dietician to know the correct consumption limits of vitamins for Sjögren’s Syndrome and stick to these limits accordingly.
FAQs About Sjögren's Syndrome
There is no treatment for the syndrome, but a Sjögren's Syndrome Diet can reduce the severity of your symptoms. Since the primary symptom of the syndrome is inflammation, dryness, and irritation in the throat, switching to anti-inflammatory, soft, and moist foods can reduce your symptoms. Additionally, avoiding foods that cause inflammation can prevent severe symptoms.
Anyone can get Sicca Syndrome, but it is most prevalent in women above the age of 40. Additionally, those with a Rheumatic disease like Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus are at a higher risk of developing this syndrome.
Consuming hot, spicy, hard, or inflammatory foods can worsen Sjögren's Syndrome symptoms. You must avoid allergens and inflammatory foods like sugary snacks, red meat, trans fats, and processed foods to reduce the severity of your symptoms.
Choose an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fiber, lean protein, minerals, and vitamins for Sjögren's Syndrome. Avoid sugar, trans fats, allergens, red meat, and other inflammatory foods. Instead, opt for whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, and avocado for well-rounded nutrition.
Sjogren’s or Sicca Syndrome is an auto-immune disorder that may cause constant discomfort to those suffering from it. It causes inflammation and dryness in the eyes, mouth, throat, and vagina and may also cause pain in the joints.
For most people, the most disruptive symptom of the syndrome is dryness and irritation in the mouth and throat, which makes swallowing food extremely hard. Therefore, dietary changes are a crucial part of managing the symptoms.
Three key aspects to keep in mind while designing your diet for this syndrome are nutrition, anti-inflammatory benefits, and ease of swallowing. For the latter, you can try to moisten your food with sauces and dressings and opt for soft, cold, or blended foods.
With the help of this Sjögren’s Syndrome diet, you can reduce your pain and inflammation while enjoying healthy, wholesome meals. So, switch up your diet if you have been suffering from the ill effects of this auto-immune disorder.