automimmune disease

Sjögren’s Syndrome

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Do your eyes feel dry, your tongue is cracked and your mouth is dry? Do you have trouble swallowing dry foods or find it hard to talk sometimes?

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Sjögren’s is an auto-immune disorder that often affects the mucosal linings throughout the body.

Diagnosis is through a blood test for antibodies to extractable nuclear antigens, specifically;

  • anti-La
  • anti-Ro

Sometimes the test may come back negative, but you may still be suffering from Sjogren’s symptoms.

Symptoms of Sjögren’s auto-immune disorder vary from person to person but may include:

  • a dry, gritty or burning sensation in the eyes
  • dry mouth
  • difficulty talking, chewing or swallowing
  • a sore or cracked tongue
  • dry or burning throat
  • dry or peeling lips
  • a change in taste or smell
  • increased dental decay
  • joint pain
  • vaginal and skin dryness
  • digestive problems
  • dry nose
  • fatigue

Diet for Sjögren’s;

As inflammation is one of the main problems with Sjögren’s, following a low inflammatory diet is important. Making sure you get enough EFA’s (essential fatty acids) is really important as is eating moist foods rather than dry or drying foods.

Include plenty of moistening foods;


Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and Vegetables

Eat all the colours of the rainbow to maximise the anti-oxidants and to ensure you’re getting the most phytonutrients possible. Anti-oxidants help reduce inflammatin and the fibre will support bowel health and beneficial bacteria. Eating as many raw as possible will ensure maximum anti-oxidant content too.

Make sure you’re getting plenty of healthy fats.

Healthy fats

Healthy fats contain omega 3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory. You can get them in most oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna as well as extra virgin olive oil, certain seeds, raw nuts, and avocado.  Add ginger and garlic, which are also anti-inflammatory foods.

Eat plenty of fiber.

Cereal and fibre

Foods high in fibre help reduce inflammation, detoxify the system, help keep the bowels healthy and help promote the replication of benenficial bacteria.

Include a tablespoon per day of flaxseeds, slippery elm, psyllium husks or LSA. Sprinkle them on soaked oats as a Bircher muesli will be a wonderful start to any day! See recipe here,

Eat organic and grass fed meat

RAw meat

When an animal is exposed to any chemicals, either in herbicides or pesticides or in their feed,the toxic chemical is stored in the fat of the animal. This is why it’s important to eat organic and grass fed meat. They are also more anti-inflammatory than grain fed and non-organic. Just be aware that meat eating in the wrong blood type can be pro-inflammatory.

Good Foods for Sjögren’s Syndrome

Vegetables Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, beets, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, green beans, and kale.
Fruits Apricots, apples, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, Kiwi, lemon, honey dew melon, pears and papaya
Grains Quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice, millet, tapioca, red rice, sorghum, amaranth, and brown rice
Protein Eggs, chicken, turkey, lentils, split peas, bee pollen, spirulina, and legumes
Herbs/spices Sea salt, carob powder, peppercorns, and turmeric
Nuts/Seeds Sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, and tahini
Fish Trout, mackerel, sardines, salmon, and tuna
Others Herbal tea, coconut water, seltzer, yerba mate tea, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, hemp seed oil, walnut oil and purified water

What Should Be Avoided in Sjögren’s Syndrome Diet?

fatty foods

  • Foods that are high in hydrogenated or Trans fats. These are highly inflammatory foods and should be avoided. Red meats are often avoided because they contain arachidonic acid that is very inflammatory (especially in the wrong blood type). Trans fats are bad for you all around and can also cause heart disease. These are found in margarine and pastry.
  • Processed foods and refined oils. Foods like canola oil and corn oil are too high in omega 6 fatty acids which, when digested, turn into arachidonic acid, causing inflammation. Processed foods such as corn syrup, lollies, pasta, breads and cakes are high in carbs that raise the blood sugar quickly. Then there is an inflammatory response when insulin is released by the pancreas in response to the high blood glucose levels.
  • Spicy or sugary foods. Foods that irritate the mouth by being too spicy or citrus fruitsshould be avoided in a Sjögren’s syndrome diet. The mouth is already dry and tender and these things increase the irritation of the mouth even more. Sugary foods (as well as artificial sweeteners) should be avoided because the reduced saliva means you have a greater risk of tooth decay.
  • Avoid coffee and alcohol. Both alcohol and coffee should be avoided because they make an already dry mouth even drier. Stick to water and other beverages. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics which means you will be losing more fluid, when you urinate, than you are putting in.
  • Preservatives. Foods that are highly preserved can cause inflammation in the body.
  • Wheat. Wheat products contain gluten, which, in many people with autoimmune diseases, is not very well tolerated. Wheat itself can be pro-inflammatory.
  • Foods that are allergenic. This includes foods that cause allergies in many people, such as dairy products, peanuts and eggs. People with autoimmune diseases will experience more inflammation when they eat these highly allergenic foods.
  • Other foods to avoid. Stay away from tough meats as they can cause irritation of the mouth and pain with eating. Also stay away from popcorn, carbonated drinks and crispy breads because they do not go well with having a dry mouth.
  • Be aware of salicylate intolerance with Sjögren’s.  see my article here;

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Nightshades, food sensitivities, pain, autoimmune disease, IBS and leaky gut

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Do you struggle with food sensitivities, allergies, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease or leaky gut syndrome? There is a real possibility that certain vegetables may be exacerbating your symptoms.

So what are Nightshade Vegetables?

Nightshade vegetables are members of the Solanaceae family  and are completely healthy for most people, but for some they may cause immune reactions similar to wheat or dairy. They include;

  • Potatoes (NOT sweet potatoes)
  • Capsicum (including peppers such as; chilli and cayenne)
  • Tomatoes
  • Goji berries
  • Eggplant (aubergine)
  • Paprika
  • Pimentos (in olives)
  • Tamarillo’s
  • Nicotine in tobacco
  • Withania aka Ashwaganda (herb)

Symptoms of Nightshade sensitivity;

Not everyone has a problem with nightshades, but for those with leaky gut, auto-immune conditions, IBS and other gut-related issues, there may be signs of intolerance such as;

  • joint pain, particulalry bad for those with Osteo or Rheumatoid arthritis
  • fibromyalgia,
  • headaches,
  • digestive issues; nausea, bloating, flatulence, constipation, anaemia and poor food absorption
  • itching or reddening of the skin,
  • emotional reactions; depression, anxiety

What to do if you suspect an issue?

If you suffer from an autoimmune disease (especially rheumatoid arthritis or anything else that causes joint pain and inflammation), totally eliminating nightshade vegetables for one month, would be a good idea.

If you only suspect a slight sensitivity, it might be enough just to reduce the nightshade content of their diet, or reducing the levels of the worst offending chemicals by;

  • Peeling potatoes (as the alkaloids are mostly found in the skin)
  • Avoiding green and raw tomatoes and green and/or sprouting potatoes (unripe and raw nightshades are higher in alkaloids)


Why do they cause problems in some people?

Most of the evidence is anecdotal and although there’s no accepted proof, there are a number of theories, including;

  • Vitamin D form in Nightshades;

The very potent form of vitamin D3 found in nightshades may prevent proper calcium metabolism, causing calcium to be deposited in soft tissues and not in our bones. Excess calcium in soft tissues causes a stiffening and tightening of soft tissues and joints. It can also form bone spurs.

  • Alkaloids and Lectins

Alkaloids include; solanine (found in potatoes, especially green ones), nicotine (in varying amounts depending on the vegetable) and capsaicin (the chemical that gives chilli’s their heat).

These alkaloids work in the plant as a natural pesticide against bugs and mould that would otherwise attack the plant.

Although these compounds are toxic to pests, they’re are mostly tolerated by humans, particularly those with a healthy gut. Compromised gut health, especially in those suffering from an auto-immune condition, may start to notice a problem with them. Some of those alkaloids will stimulate an over-reaction of the immune system, definitely something to be avoided in those suffering from auto-immunity!

Another risk of these alkaloids, is that they may be damaging and irritating the cells lining the intestinal tract. This may exacerbate leaky gut which again triggers an autoimmune reaction as unprocessed proteins and toxins are able to leak through the lining of the gut wall into our bloodstream and therefore causes our bodies to attack them.

Lectins may also be part of the problem. Although all foods contain lectins; a lot of lectins are completely harmless, but there are others that irritate the gut. The lectins in nightshades may also be gut irritants in those that are sensitive which may set off the same leaky gut reaction as alkaloids.

  • Toxic or Beneficial?

Remeber, problems from these compounds will only arise in people who are sensitive to nightshades.

Those who have no issues with them, really shouldn’t stop eating them as there are considerable health benefits. For example, capsaicin in capsicums and chilli’s trigger a beneficial anti-inflammatory reaction in those that can tolerate it.

Like anything, what may be harmful in one person, may actually be beneficial in another!