The Foods You Should Eat When Following The Sjögren's Syndrome Diet

Sjögren's syndrome is one of many autoimmune diseases that cause the body to attack healthy tissues. These conditions can cause inflammation that leads to pain, redness, heat, and swelling, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMSD). With Sjögren's syndrome, the body's immune system attacks the tear glands in the eyes and saliva glands in the mouth, resulting in extreme dryness (via Cleveland Clinic). People with this condition often experience other symptoms and complications that include red eyes, blurry vision, dry skin, a dry cough, hoarseness, vaginal dryness, joint and muscle pain, and difficulty swallowing. Others may even experience swollen salivary glands and long periods of fatigue, per the Mayo Clinic

Anywhere between one to four million people are affected by Sjögren's syndrome (via Cleveland Clinic), and most of them are women over the age of 40 (via the Mayo Clinic). Experts are not sure exactly what causes this condition, but they think genetics, sex hormones, environmental factors, and viral infections might contribute to it.

Sjögren's syndrome is associated with digestive issues

Because there is no cure for Sjögren's syndrome, treating symptoms is important. Eye drops, lozenges, mouth sprays, and some medicines help relieve symptoms (via the National Health Service). However, complications often lead to other conditions or make existing symptoms worse. For instance, MedicineNet reports that as many as 90% of people diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome will experience some kind of gastrointestinal issues. The Sjögren's Foundation states that 60% of the patients diagnosed with it also have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Moreover, the Cleveland Clinic reports that many people with Sjögren's syndrome can have other kinds of digestive issues, such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome.

Because Sjögren's syndrome can impact your digestive system, eating a healthy diet can help manage some symptoms. A variety of colorful vegetables and fruits (think yellow, red, orange, and green), grass-fed meats, and healthy fats may help manage symptoms (via MedicineNet). 

Eat to reduce dryness and inflammation

While it's good to stick with healthy foods, some can be problematic for people who have dry mouth. Christiana Logan, a dietetic intern at Tufts University, recommends avoiding foods that are tough to chew, crunchy, and/or dry (via Sjögren's Foundation). She explains that eating raw vegetables, bread, peanut butter, and some meats might make your mouth more dry. To soften crunchier vegetables, Logan recommends adding them to soups, stews, and smoothies. She adds that using a slow cooker is one way to keep meat moist. She also recommends eating leaner sources of protein, like tofu, beans, seafood, and poultry. 

Adding more high-fiber foods, turmeric, and garlic to your diet might also help reduce symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome because these foods may reduce symptoms of inflammation, per MedicineNet. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids are linked with reduced inflammation, and you can get them by adding nuts, fish, olive oil, or supplements to your diet. Logan advises patients with any concerns or specific digestive issues to talk with their doctor or a registered dietician to find a plan that works for them, per Sjögren's Foundation.