Diet Tips for Patients with Sjögren's Syndrome
Sjögren's syndrome is a type of autoimmune disease that causes the mouth as well as the eyes to dry up. In the eyes, it can cause inflammation of the tear glands or the lacrimal glands, resulting in eye irritation. Tear production is also reduced, causing the “gritty” sensation common in Sjögren's syndrome. If the eye irritation isn’t addressed, it can lead to eye infections, abrasions of the cornea, as well as inflammation of the eyelids.
In the mouth, Sjögren's syndrome can cause inflammation of the salivary glands, resulting in decreased salivary production and dry mouth. This will not only make swallowing difficult but it can also lead to mouth problems like cavities as well as mouth sores. It’s also not unusual for people with Sjögren's syndrome to develop dry cough or hoarseness of the voice. Some patients even complain of the loss of sense of taste.
Sjögren's syndrome doesn’t just affect the eyes and mouth though, but it can also affect other parts of the body as well. It can affect the kidneys, liver, lungs, lymph nodes, joints, blood vessels, thyroid gland, esophagus, among others.
Sjögren's Syndrome and Eating Problems
Because of mouth dryness, mouth sores, inflammation, and swallowing difficulties, people with Sjögren's syndrome oftentimes have eating problems. They may also require a special diet.
If you or one of your loved ones is suffering from Sjögren's syndrome, then here are some diet tips that can help:
- Since dryness of the mouth and eyes is one of the symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome, you need to eat food that can help stimulate tear as well as saliva production. You can increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin C like papaya, orange, strawberries, and other citrus fruits. These can help increase tear and saliva production.
- You should also increase your intake of foods rich in essential fatty acids. Not only can this help improve your immune system but reduce inflammation as well. Some of the foods rich in essential fatty acids include flax, eggs, olive oil, as well as almonds and walnuts.
- You also need to avoid foods that can irritate your mouth and worsen dryness. So avoid alcohol since one of its effects is dryness of the mouth. You also need to avoid spicy foods since the strong spices can irritate the lining of your mouth and contribute to the sores and lesions. Other types of foods to avoid include salty and acidic foods since these can irritate the mouth. You also need to avoid carbonated beverages since it can contribute to irritation and pain.
- If you’re having difficulty eating solid food like bread, for example, you can moisten it with a little milk. This will help you chew and swallow the food easily. As for eating meat, you can cut it up into smaller pieces and dip a piece in sauce or gravy before eating.
- If eating solid food is painful for you, you can try soft and creamy food. Some of these include mac and cheese, pudding, and mashed potatoes. You can also eat meat and veggies, of course, but make sure that they are tender cooked.
- For pain in the mouth caused by sores and lesions, you can try sucking on ice chips. The coldness helps to relieve pain, and it can also help relieve mouth dryness. You can even make your own fruit juice popsicles. Just blend some pieces of your favorite fruits, milk, a tablespoon or two of sugar or honey, and some ice. Pour the mixture into your ice trays and keep in the freezer. You now have your own homemade fruit juice popsicles that you can snack on.
- It’s also advisable that you avoid hot food. Not only can it burn the lining of your mouth, but they can also aggravate the sores and lesions. See to it that the food you will be eating is at room temperature.
Taking Care of Yourself
You need to take care of yourself properly and make sure that your symptoms are controlled, especially since Sjögren's syndrome has no known cure. If you develop sores or infection or if you notice any swelling of your lymph nodes, you need to visit your doctor immediately so you can get the proper treatment.
Sjögren's syndrome tends to run in the family, so if you suspect that one of your family members has this autoimmune disease as well, then have him visit his family physician immediately so he can get tested for this disease. The tests will check for the presence of Sjögren's antibodies as well as the presence rheumatoid factor.
Sjögren's syndrome can be very uncomfortable, and you will need regular checkups with your doctor to monitor your condition. Remember, there is no single cure for Sjögren's syndrome and the best way to control this autoimmune problem is to keep the symptoms in check and prevent the development of serious complications.