Sjogren’s syndrome is a disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s moisture producing glands, leading to a decrease in the ability to produce saliva, sweat and tears. This leads to chronic dryness of the eyes, mouth, skin and other tissues. Dental decay and swelling around the glands in the neck and face are also common. Approximately half of all Sjogren’s sufferers will also have rheumatoid arthritis or some other form of connective tissue disorder, such as Lupus. Symptoms of Sjogren’s range from mild to severe, depending on the individual.
There are a number of less common, and less researched, complaints related to Sjogren’s syndrome. An example is decreased contractility of the oesophagus which further exacerbates the difficulty of swallowing and food can become lodged. Constipation is another common complaint. In rare cases, the mucous membranes of the nasal and vaginal cavities can become dry and can lead to inflammation of organs such as the kidney, liver, heart and lungs.
There is no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome however management includes the use of eye lubricants and creams and some lifestyle changes. Nutritional treatment is aimed at easing symptoms as follows;
Dryness of the Mouth
Dryness of the mouth will lead to difficulty chewing and swallowing, known as dysphasia. Frequents sips of water can help to prevent the ongoing feeling of dry mouth. Sucking sugar free, strong flavoured lozenges can help to promote some flow of saliva. Choose ‘wet’ foods and add tasteful sauces such as gravies to make chewing and swallowing easier. At times of excessive dryness, pureed foods can be an option. Avoid dry foods, as these will only enhance swallowing difficulties.
Dental decay is common in those suffering Sjogren’s syndrome. For this reason, it is important to avoid foods high in sugar, suck sugar free lozenges and chew sugar free gum. Avoid soft drinks and other sugary drinks that coat the teeth. Practice good dental hygiene and brush teeth after meals.
Decreased Oesophageal Motility
If oesophageal function is an issue, diet may need to be altered to accommodate. Consistency of meals may be altered to allow for easier swallowing and passing through the oesophageal canal. Mashed or pureed foods can be eaten with ‘wet’ sauces to make swallowing even easier and enhance palatability. In severe cases, liquid meal supplements may be recommended to ensure adequate nutrition. A Dietitian’s input will be extremely helpful in these cases. Foods such as fresh doughy bread, dry chicken can be difficult. Food must be chewed well and eaten slowly.
If constipation is an issue, an increase in dietary fibre and water intake should be introduced. A diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables will provide a good amount of daily fibre. Fibre supplements such as psyllium may be of benefit, and should be accompanied by an increase in water intake. If current fibre intake is low, it is advised to increase intake slowly. A dietitian should be consulted to determine if fibre supplements can improve symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis is characterised by inflammation of the joints leading to pain, swelling and restricted movement. It is often accompanied by fatigue and sleeplessness due to pain and muscle weakness. There is no specific diet that cures arthritic pain, but following a diet low in saturated fat and sugar and high in fibre will help maintain a healthy weight and support the immune system. Being overweight will place further stress on an already arthritic and painful joint, so being of a healthy weight is important. Omega 3 supplementation is recommended to help with relief of joint inflammation in arthritis. Exercise will also be of benefit in pain relief as it will help maintain muscle strength and joint mobility. Simple exercises such as light resistance training, walking, warm water swimming and Thai chi are recommended.
Caffeinated food and drinks can further enhance dryness in the mouth. Avoid excessive caffeine in coffee and soft drink. Choose caffeine free substitutes.
Omega 3 intake is linked to a decrease in inflammation in a number of areas, including the joints and skin. Research shows Omega 3 supplementation can reduce the severity of psoriasis, eczema and other similar skin conditions. In general, Omega 3’s improve the moisture content of the skin and thus may be beneficial to those suffering from Sjorgren’s Syndrome. Sjorgren’s sufferers whom also suffer from rheumatoid arthritis may find relief from joint pain with Omega 3 supplementation.
Added to site on : Monday, 22 October 2012