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Foods to Eat and Avoid with Sjögren's: 7 Diet Tips for Healing

Updated: Jun 4

Living with Sjögren's presents a unique set of challenges. From battling with pain and fatigue, to coping with dry eyes and mouth, the symptoms can be relentless. So, how can you start finding relief through a dietary approach? In this blog, we will present 7 dietary tips to help manage Sjögren's symptoms, based on research and our clinical experience. But first, let's begin by looking at how much your diet can influence the management of Sjögren's.


How Diet Affects Sjögren’s Symptoms:


There is increasing research to support the role of diet in the management of Sjögren's and other rheumatic and autoimmune conditions (Manzel et al., 2014; Pagliai et al., 2022).


Diet can play a big role when it comes to Sjögren’s management, and that is because food can provide you with the nutrients your body needs to heal - or it can contribute to the disease process:


  • The right foods provide your body with the building blocks it needs to heal - such as minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, antioxidants, amino acids and pre and pro-biotics (amongst many others). These components support your body to function optimally and facilitate the healing process.


  • The wrong foods can leave your body depleted of these essential nutrients, and overflowing in some other harmful ones, which can cause inflammation and contribute to the disease process.


Therefore, the right diet is all about getting to know how your body functions, and finding the right balance for your specific needs and your specific body.


The nutrients and foods that each body needs to thrive are highly individual. No two people are the same when it comes to diet, and that is why 'one-size-fits-all' approaches are seldom successful.



Tired woman fatigue autoimmune Sjögren's
The wrong foods can make Sjögren's symptoms worse

The Limitations of Generic Diets for Sjögren's


Many of our clients come to us having tried all sorts of diets: AIP, vegan, paleo, low-FODMAP...

The reason why these diets don’t work most of the time is because they don’t take into account your specific bodily needs.


For example, your body could be having a negative reaction to chicken and almonds. This could be causing a low-grade level of inflammation which goes unnoticed in the short-term, but in the long-term is causing serious effects and contributing to your symptoms. Unless you were to work with a professional, you probably would never realise that these specific foods are what your body is reacting to. It could take months or years of trial and error to find your specific triggers.


In the meantime, you might permanently cut out entire food groups trying to find out which foods are contributing to your symptoms. This is not only unnecessary, but can also leave you at risk of deficiencies, which will weaken your body even further.


Getting Started with a Sjögren's-Friendly Diet


While there is no one-size-fits-all, there are some simple guidelines which are likely to benefit the majority of people living with Sjögren’s. These guidelines serve as the foundational pillars of good health and have been consistently supported by research in their ability to enhance well-being and reduce inflammation across a range of populations. By incorporating these tips into your life, you can get a head-start in managing your symptoms and boosting your overall health and wellness.



7 Dietary Strategies to Help You Manage Your Sjögren's Symptoms:


1. Opt for Whole, Unprocessed Foods:


These are foods which have undergone minimal or no processing, and therefore retain most of their vitamins and nutrients, which the body needs to repair and heal. Studies show associations between eating minimally processed foods and reduced inflammatory markers (Mignogna et al., 2022).


A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself 'how close is this food to its 'original' form?'. For example, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are almost exactly like their original form, but a frozen ready-made pizza is not.



Healthy whole foods to reduce inflammation and improve Sjögren's symptoms
Whole foods are the cornerstone of a healing Sjögren's diet

2. Minimize Highly Processed Foods:


Likewise, steering clear of highly processed foods is a key element of a Sjögren's-friendly diet. Highly processed foods have been shown time and time again to contribute to inflammation (Mignogna et al., 2022; Srour et al., 2022; Tristan-Asensi et al., 2023). These foods are often loaded with additives, preservatives and added sugars, which can trigger inflammation and worsen Sjögren's symptoms. Opting for whole, unprocessed foods is a healthier choice to support your well-being and help you manage your symptoms.


3. Eat Wild-caught Oily Fish 2-3 Times Per Week


Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, mackerel or sardines work to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines and eicosanoids. By modulating the inflammatory response, omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate symptoms such as dryness, pain, and fatigue associated with Sjögren's. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to support overall immune function and promote healthy cellular membranes, which may further benefit those of you with Sjögren's.



4. Embrace Herbs and Spices:


Herbs and spices can be your culinary allies when you have Sjögren's. These flavorful additions not only enhance the taste of your dishes but can also offer potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Incorporating a variety of herbs and spices into your meals can be a tasty way to support your well-being. So, don't be shy – get creative in the kitchen and explore the world of seasonings to make your meals both delicious and Sjögren's-friendly.


5. Cut Down on Gluten and Dairy (Under Professional Guidance Only):


While there's no general recommendation for dietary restrictions in Sjögren's, most individuals find relief by avoiding gluten and dairy products. However, this should only be done under professional guidance, since cutting gluten and dairy out of your diet can leave you at risk of deficiencies.


6. Stay Hydrated:


This should go without saying! However, many people forget to drink a recommended minimum 2 - 2.5L of water a day. Dehydration can wreak havoc in the body, and this is more so with Sjögren's, where the feelings of dryness are already prevalent. To help your body function optimally, it is vital to stay well-hydrated. Water, unsweetened herbal teas, and clear homemade broths are some great options, so make sure to sip on these throughout the day.


7. Cut Out Alcohol


It's worth considering the role that alcohol has in your diet. Alcohol can have various effects on the body, including dehydration and inflammation, which can exacerbate Sjögren's symptoms, and especially dryness. Many people with Sjögren's find that limiting or eliminating alcohol can lead to improvements in their overall well-being and symptoms.


Consult a Qualified Nutrition Professional:


Before making any significant changes to your diet, it's vital that you consult a qualified nutrition professional who can help you develop a personalised diet plan that suits your individual needs and helps you manage your Sjögren's symptoms effectively. Making changes to your diet without professional guidance can often lead to additional problems down the line, and can mean set backs on your path to healing.


If you feel that you would benefit from personalised nutritional guidance to find an effective dietary guidance that's right for your body, we encourage you to book a free consultation to discuss your situation and the best next steps you can take to start feeling better.


To summarise:


There's no one-size-fits-all Sjögren's diet. However, a balanced whole-foods diet, which is free from highly processed foods, serves as an excellent starting point.


If this doesn't provide the results you need, personalization is crucial. To ensure your diet and supplementation effectively address your specific underlying dysfunctions and root causes, and to avoid constant obstacles, roadblocks, flare-ups, and increased stress, consider working with a qualified nutrition professional who deeply understands Sjögren's and in whom you trust.


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About Us:

Beyond Sjögren's is a virtual functional medicine practice offering comprehensive and individualised  online nutritional therapy programmes, specifically designed to help people suffering with Sjögren's syndrome - and those undiagnosed -- regain their health and well-being.


Our step-by-step online programmes are focused on addressing the underlying root causes of Sjögren's, rather than just endlessly managing the symptoms.

Beyond Sjögren's is based in the UK, and also works with clients across the USA and EU.



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References:


Manzel, A., Muller, D. N., Hafler, D. A., Erdman, S. E., Linker, R. A., & Kleinewietfeld, M. (2014). Role of “Western diet” in inflammatory autoimmune diseases. Current allergy and asthma reports, 14, 1-8.


Mignogna, C., Costanzo, S., Di Castelnuovo, A., Ruggiero, E., Shivappa, N., Hebert, J. R., Esposito, S., De Curtis, A., Persichillo, M., Cerletti, C., Donati, M. B., de Gaetano, G., Iacoviello, L., Bonaccio, M., & Moli-sani Study Investigators (2022). The inflammatory potential of the diet as a link between food processing and low-grade inflammation: An analysis on 21,315 participants to the Moli-sani study. Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland), 41(10), 2226–2234. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2022.08.020


Pagliai, G., Colombini, B., Randone, S. B., Amedei, A., Guiducci, S., & Sofi, F. (2022). Nutrients, foods and dietary patterns in the management of autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Clinical Nutrition Open Science, 44, 49-65.


Srour, B., Kordahi, M. C., Bonazzi, E., Deschasaux-Tanguy, M., Touvier, M., & Chassaing, B. (2022). Ultra-processed foods and human health: from epidemiological evidence to mechanistic insights. The Lancet Gastroenterology & hepatology, 7(12), 1128-1140.


Tristan-Asensi, M., Napoletano, A., Sofi, F., & Dinu, M. (2023). Low-grade inflammation and ultra-processed foods consumption: a review. Nutrients, 15(6), 1546.




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