Do you know someone who blinks more often than usual and constantly needs to chew gum or suck on a mint to alleviate dry mouth? If they also have other autoimmune conditions, it’s possible they are dealing with Sjögren Syndrome.
What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?
Sjögren Syndrome is an autoimmune condition that causes ongoing inflammation and destruction of the mucus membranes in the body. This happens because the immune system, while working to keep the body free of toxins, damages the salivary glands in the mouth and lacrimal (tear-producing) glands in the eyes. A patient with Sjögren’s is then left with a limited ability to produce tears and saliva. They may also experience other systemic effects, including an increased risk of developing lymphoma.
Symptoms of Sjögren Syndrome
Sjögren’s primarily affects the salivary glands and tear ducts, so most symptoms relate to dry mouth and dry eyes. The common symptoms of Sjögren syndrome are: (1)
- Dry eyes, which may cause injuries and infections
- Dry nose
- Dry mouth – due to reduced saliva production
- Oral yeast infections
- Dental cavities/tooth decay
- Dry cough
- Dry skin and rashes
- Joint pain/muscle pain
- Digestive issues
- Vaginal dryness
Dry eyes and dry mouth are the most common symptoms; however, the condition can be far-reaching, affecting many tissues of the body.
How is Sjögren’s Diagnosed?
Sjögren Syndrome is usually first discovered by certain aggravating symptoms, like chronic dry eyes or dry mouth. A doctor will take down the patient’s current symptoms and complaints and then recommend testing or refer them to a specialist.
However, because many symptoms resemble other conditions, like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or other autoimmune conditions, it may take time and several doctors to finally diagnose it.
Rheumatologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and managing autoimmune disorders. They may conduct a series of tests to look for specific indicators. These are some common tests used to diagnose Sjögren’s: (2)
- Blood tests: Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA), Rheumatoid Factor (RF), and Sjögren’s antibody markers can determine whether the Sjögren’s dis-ease process is present.
- Tears & Eye Dryness: Schirmer’s and other tests can measure tears and eye dryness.
- Salivary Function: Saliva output can be measured via salivary flow test, salivary scintigraphy, and/or salivary gland biopsy.
The medical system differentiates between primary and secondary Sjögren’s.
Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome is when Sjögren’s occurs on its own, without other accompanying health conditions. Primary Sjögren’s occurs about 50% of the time. The other 50% is Secondary Sjögren’s.
Secondary Sjögren’s Syndrome occurs when you already have another autoimmune disease that then leads to Sjögren’s. If you have one autoimmune condition, you’re at increased risk for additional autoimmune conditions.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common cause of Secondary Sjögren’s. Other autoimmune disorders that may lead to Secondary Sjögren’s are Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, scleroderma, and lupus.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we describe the mainstream viewpoint on healthcare versus our understanding as the “fireman approach” or the “carpenter approach.”
“Fireman doctors” have two tools: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out in a surgical procedure. The hose is similar because it represents medications used to extinguish inflammation and symptoms.
The Wellness Way doctors are like carpenters. They first assess the damage with testing. Then they create a personalized plan to rebuild the body with the appropriate tools. These include the proper nutrients from foods and supplements.
Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are additional natural therapies that help the body heal itself.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to Sjögren Syndrome
Mainstream medicine looks at Sjögren Syndrome as a problem of dryness and inflammation, so they treat the symptoms. They don’t look for causes behind Sjögren’s.
Common Medications For Sjögren’s
Medications are used to alleviate the many and various symptoms associated with Sjögren Syndrome, which means people with Sjögren’s may be on several. Treatment is partly based on the parts of the body affected, such as the eyes, mouth, or skin. These are some of the most prescribed medications for Sjögren’s syndrome: (3)
- Eye drops as artificial tears: Cyclosporine (Restasis) or lifitegrast (Xiidra) are common drops for Sjögren Syndrome.
- Saliva-promoting drugs: Pilocarpine (Salagen) and cevimeline (Evoxac) helps increase saliva production and may help tear production.
- Pain-relievers: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are over-the-counter medications (like Ibuprofen) that may help lower inflammation temporarily. (However, they may cause more problems for the gut in the long run).
- Immune-modulating drugs: Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and methotrexate (Trexall) are given to reduce symptoms.
These medications suppress the inflammatory response, alleviating symptoms. However, this also means suppressing the immune response. Chronically suppressing the immune system over time may lead to other conditions like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
All medications have side effects and are meant to manage symptoms and slow down the destruction. Therefore, many people seek out natural remedies or alternative therapies that don’t involve drugs.
What Causes Sjögren Syndrome? Again, Trauma, Toxins, & Thoughts
While mainstream medicine admits Sjögren’s is caused by a combination of genes AND environmental factors, they say the immune system turns on the body and they don’t know why.
At The Wellness Way, we know genes “load the gun” but the environment “pulls the trigger.” Those environmental factors are described in the chiropractic field as traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
Traumas (Physical Stressors)
Traumas or physical stressors can be acute or chronic. Chronic subluxations in the spine can inhibit nerve and blood flow to the small intestine, leading to dis-ease there, and triggering an autoimmune response. Other potential traumas behind Sjögren’s include:
- Neck injuries
- Sexual assault/rape
- Car accident
- Severe illness or infection
- Having a baby
Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)
Toxins are biochemical stressors that may be either natural or synthetic. Toxins associated with Sjögren’s include:
- Viral infections – Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV01), and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) (4)
- Drug reactions – Certain medications may lead to Sjögren’s. (5)
- Dysbiosis – A deficiency in certain butyrate-producing bacteria may aggravate Sjögren’s by reducing the gut’s anti-inflammatory compounds. (6)
- Gluten allergy – A significant percentage of those with Sjögren’s also have celiac disease or a wheat allergy. (7)
- Sugar – Sugar in excess acts like a toxin in the body, leading to inflammation, leaky gut, and autoimmune flares.
Traumas and toxins are made worse with negative thought patterns and emotional stress.
Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)
Emotional stress can also cause a person to stay in a constantly triggered state. Our thoughts impact the nervous system and impact the intestinal microbiome, hormones (like cortisol), and neurotransmitters (like histamine and adrenalin). This can increase inflammation and pain and decrease our energy levels.
Here are some contributors to emotional stress or negative thoughts, which may lead to chronic illness or dis-ease:
- Watching or reading the news (fear/worry)
- Emotional stress from marriage, financial, career, or other issues
- Overwhelm from major life changes, such as marriage, a new baby, graduation, divorce, or even moving to a new city.
- Grief/feelings of loss
- Pent up anger
Research published in August of 2020 confirmed the fact that psychological stress (acute or chronic) can lead to a leaky gut and eventually, a diagnosis of autoimmune disease like Sjögren’s Syndrome. (8)
The Wellness Way Approach to Autoimmune Conditions like Sjögren’s
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We start with testing to see where there may be imbalances and then develop a personalized nutrition and supplement plan to help your body heal itself.
Important Tests For Assessing Your Gut and Immune Health:
It’s critical to find out what is causing inflammation in the gut and triggering an immune response. Food allergens and gut infection are a couple things to look at. Here are some commonly recommended tests at The Wellness Way:
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology
- Antibody Test: Aurora Life Sciences – Autoimmune 30+
These tests are dependent on which ones your Wellness Way practitioner considers most important for your health history.
Dietary Changes For Those With Autoimmune Diseases and Sjögren Syndrome
It’s critical to first and foremost lower inflammation so the gut can heal. That means avoiding your food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as recommended by your Wellness Way practitioner. These are some additional guidelines for inflammatory and autoimmune conditions:
- No sugar or processed foods.
- Overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods.
- Personalized Nutrition, based on your food allergy test results
- Specific nutrient-dense foods: Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for added nutrition.
- Omega-3-rich foods – Wild caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3s and help lower inflammation. (9)
- Avoid coffee and alcohol – Both beverages can worsen dry mouth symptoms.
- Xylitol gum or mints – This sugar alcohol can help stimulate salivary flow and inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the mouth.
Diet is paramount, but supplements can help the body in healing the digestive tract.
Supplements For Supporting Gut Health + Balancing The Immune Response
Every patient is different, but common supplements used at The Wellness Way for those struggling with digestive and immune imbalances, especially Sjögren’s, include the following:
- Active B12-Folate – Those with Sjögren’s are often deficient in certain nutrients, including vitamin B12 and folate. Supplementing may help.
- D3 & K2 – Vitamin D is important for getting inflammation and autoimmune disease under control. A 2020 study highlighted the role of vitamin D in the health of the mucosal lining of the intestine. (10)
- Wormwood – Artemisinin in wormwood may help fight viral infections and improve dry eye disease. (11)
- White peony – Studies have found compounds in white peony are helpful for certain autoimmune diseases, including Sjögren’s syndrome. (12)
- Cordyceps mushroom – Cordyceps sinensis, found in our Mushroom Immune supplement, may help normalize the immune response. (13)
- DHEA – Taking DHEA supplements when deficient may be helpful in some Sjögren’s patients.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory that can lower the autoimmune response and help the small intestine heal.
- Megabiotic Formula – These and other probiotic strains help the body keep infections and inflammation under control.
Addressing the gut with natural remedies isn’t always considered for helping those with Sjögren’s, but it can make a significant difference in supporting the body’s ability to heal.
Lifestyle & Complementary Therapies to Support Sjögren’s
While mainstream medicine considers some of these “alternative treatments,” these lifestyle changes can support healing alongside nutrition therapy:
- Using a humidifier – Using a humidifier to moisten the air at night may help alleviate dry mouth in Sjögren’s. (14)
- Regular chiropractic care – Chiropractic care helps to improve blood flow and nerve flow while decreasing overall physical stress on the body.
- Aerobic exercise – Aerobic exercise, including walking, can improve fatigue, muscle strength, and brain function in those with Sjögren’s. (15)
- Acupuncture treatments – Acupuncture is considered a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment for Sjögren’s. It may help with fatigue and dry eyes. (16, 17)
- Calcium Hydroxyapatite Toothpaste – This compound can help remineralize teeth. (18) Learn how to make your own re-mineralizing toothpaste here.
These therapies can significantly improve the quality of life for those with MS.
Where to Start with Sjögren’s Syndrome
If you’re concerned about autoimmunity and know you have Sjögren’s, the first thing is still to get tested. Find out what’s causing inflammation (including food allergens) and where you’re suffering damage from the autoimmune response. From there, it’s all about healing the gut, making lifestyle changes, and incorporating herbal supplements based on your individual needs.
Educational Resources For Sjögren’s Syndrome
Videos & Webinars Related to Sjögren’s Syndrome
Articles to Support Sjögren’s Syndrome
- Autoimmune Disease is NOT an Immune Issue
- Normalizing Autoimmune Disease –Is It Really a Lifelong Diagnosis?
- What Causes Leaky Gut and How Can You Heal It?
- Sugar’s Not So Sweet Effects On The Immune Response
- 7 Healthy Sugar Options
CONNECT WITH US!
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today to get thorough testing and start on your health journey. We are here to help!
- Sjögren’s Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments (clevelandclinic.org)
- Sjögren Syndrome | Cedars-Sinai
- Sjogren’s syndrome – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
- Sjogren Syndrome – Life Extension
- Sjögren-like syndrome after drug-induced toxic epidermal necrolysis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Th17 cells in primary Sjögren’s syndrome negatively correlate with increased Roseburia and Coprococcus – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Review and practice guidelines for celiac disease in 2014 – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Psychological Stress, Intestinal Barrier Dysfunctions, and Autoimmune Disorders: An Overview – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in primary Sjögren’s syndrome: clinical meaning and association with inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Possible Role of Vitamin D in Celiac Disease Onset – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Artemisinin derivative SM934 in the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases: therapeutic effects and molecular mechanisms – PubMed (nih.gov)
- 12.Total glucosides of paeony: A review of its phytochemistry, role in autoimmune diseases, and mechanisms of action – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Treatment with Cordyceps sinensis enriches Treg population in peripheral lymph nodes and delays type I diabetes development in NOD mice – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Optimal nocturnal humidification for xerostomia – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Effects of exercise on aerobic capacity and fatigue in women with primary Sjogren’s syndrome – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Acupuncture for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: An Overview of Systematic Reviews – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Acupuncture therapy is more effective than artificial tears for dry eye syndrome: evidence based on a meta-analysis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The use of hydroxyapatite toothpaste to prevent dental caries – PMC (nih.gov)