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Nourish to Thrive | What to Eat on an Autoimmune + Sjogren’s Diet

While there’s no definitive diet for Sjogren’s Syndrome, an anti-inflammatory diet may help. Learn what foods to eat to help you thrive with Sjogren’s & other autoimmune diseases.

Sjogren's Diet | What to eat with autoimmune disease image with health food.

This post on what to eat for a Sjogren’s diet is near and dear to my heart, as I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome 16 years ago. I’ve learned a lot through research, plus trial and error, about what to eat for Sjogren’s. My goal, with this post, is to encourage and empower you to explore the potential benefits of nutrition as a compliment to other medical therapies, so you can thrive with Sjogren’s and other autoimmune diseases too.

Please note, this post is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. You should always consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment for you.

April is #SjogrensAwarnessMonth

Sjögren’s Syndrome {pronounced SHOW-grins} is an autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. Hallmark symptoms of Sjögren’s include dry eyes & dry mouth, along with joint pain and fatigue.

My Sjogren’s story is a little different, as I didn’t develop the hallmark dry eyes and mouth. Instead, my primary symptom was neuropathy, plus severe muscle aches, body rashes, exercise intolerance, and extreme fatigue. In addition to these symptoms, Sjögren’s can lead to organ dysfunction. And, those affected have an higher than average risk of developing lymphoma.

Even though it is relatively unheard of, Sjögren’s is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting upward of 4 million Americans, mostly women. {Tennis superstar Venus Williams has Sjögren’s}.

And, because symptoms often overlap with other autoimmune diseases, like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, Sjogren’s Syndrome usually takes 3+ years to be diagnosed.

As I share in my story, I feel INCREDIBLY fortunate to be in good health despite being diagnosed with Sjögren’s. But, many women {and men} suffer from extremely debilitating symptoms that greatly impact their daily living and quality of life.

Why Autoimmune + Sjogren’s Awareness are SO Important

  • The NIH {National Institutes of Health} estimates up to 23.5 million Americans have an autoimmune disease. This is slightly more than those with heart disease {up to 22 million}. And, ~ 2 1/2 times more than those with cancer {up to 9 million}.
  • Despite this statistic, NIH funding for research for Sjögren’s and other autoimmune diseases {$591 million in 2003} falls way behind that for heart disease {$2.4 billion} and cancer {$6.1 billion}.
  • BOTTOM LINE: We need more research, both traditional and complimentary, so better treatment options are available to help people affected with Sjögren’s and other autoimmune conditions thrive and live their healthiest lives.
  • More awareness also brings more compassion. Most people living with an autoimmune disease will tell you their friends & family, although well-intentioned, just don’t “get it”. Or even worse, may not even believe they really are sick. The stress from this can add to symptoms and make things even worse.
  • My hope is that as more and more people learn about Sjögren’s Sydrome and other autoimmune diseases, there will be more collaboration amongst health care professionals working with this population. And, that this will lead to more funding to find better treatments for those affected.

What to Eat on an Autoimmune + Sjogren’s Diet

The best foods with prebiotics and probiotics to boost your health!

It’s not hard to imagine that, with lack of funding in general, there is very little in the way of research on the best diet for Sjogren’s and other autoimmune diseases. Having dealt with this first hand, I want to empower people to find the diet that works best for them. No one diet fits all.

No. 1 | Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The Mediterranean Diet and the MIND Diet are two diets that are not only anti-inflammatory, but also are delicious too!

  • Eat more of these foods. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, olives/olive oil, avocado, fatty fish {i.e. wild salmon}, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Include these foods in moderation. Eggs, poultry, cheese, & yogurt.
  • Limit these foods. Refined grains, sweets, trans fats, and red or processed meat.

In addition, choose whole, minimally processed foods as much as possible.

Although research is preliminary, food additives, like sugars, salt, emulsifiers {i.e polysorbate-80}, and microbial tranglutaminase, are being studied for their potential role in the development of autoimmune disease.

Tip! When buying ready to eat foods, read ingredient labels, and choose foods with ingredients that you would cook with at home.

Try My Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan!

Make healthy easy, by signing up for my anti-inflammatory diet meal plans! Featuring easy recipes & delicious whole foods, it’s designed to maximize energy, promote healthy digestion, and reduce inflammation. Try it for FREE for 3-days, no credit card required.

This delicious & refreshing quinoa salad {gluten free, vegan, low FODMAP option} is packed with detox friendly veggies, brain friendly blueberries, + protein & fiber rich chickpeas & almonds. Top it off with your favorite dressing, for a super nourishing plant powered salad!

No. 2 | Test for celiac disease, try a gluten free diet…

Although no research suggests a gluten-free diet will help all autoimmune diseases, following a gluten-free diet has done wonders for my health. Studies do show that celiac disease is far more common in Sjögren’s {up to 15%} than in the general population {~1%}. And, many other autoimmune diseases are associated with celiac disease. This includes Addison’s Disease, Type 1 Diabetes, Autoimmune Thyroid Disease, and more.

In addition, a very small study conducted in Sweden showed a possible link with Sjögren’s syndrome and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Hopefully more studies will be done on gluten intolerance /sensitivity and autoimmune disease in the near future.

Bottom Line: It is my personal opinion that anyone diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, consider testing for celiac disease.

It’s also VERY important to test for celiac disease BEFORE trying a gluten-free diet. This is because gluten needs to be in your diet for results to be accurate.

In my case, my blood test was negative, but positive for HLA-DQ2, a genetic marker for celiac disease. It’s important to note that 30-40% of the U.S. population carries this gene, so having it doesn’t rule in celiac disease. On the flip side, if you don’t have any genetic markers for celiac, you can be over 99% sure you will never develop it.

Because there is no current FDA approved test for gluten sensitivity, you test for it by 1st ruling our celiac disease or wheat allergy. Next, try a gluten free diet for at least a month, or longer. After that, add gluten back in to your diet, and see if symptoms return.

If you do decide to try a gluten-free diet trial after testing for celiac, I highly recommend you work with a dietitian who specializes in gluten-free diets. S(he) can help you optimize your nutrition, and make sure you get all the nutrients you need.

I would love to work with you, either virtually, or in person if you live in San Diego. Or, if you prefer to work with someone near you, I am more than happy to make a referral!

No. 3 | Check for other food sensitivities…

Leaky Gut Syndrome, aka increased intestinal permeability, and food sensitivities often go hand-in-hand. Historically, leaky gut has been dismissed by most mainstream healthcare professionals. Recently, however, more physicians and clinicians, both alternative and conventional, are acknowledging that leaky gut syndrome is a real diagnosis.

Much of the research on leaky gut syndrome focuses on zonulin, a protein that regulates intestinal permeability. Zonulin secretion is modulated by not only gluten, but also alcohol, infectious organisms, systemic inflammation, & stress.

Several autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, lupus and ankylosing spondylitis, have been linked with leaky gut syndrome.

In addition, non IgE-mediated food hypersensitivity and intolerance have been linked with leaky gut syndrome.

Although research is limited, I have found the MRT food sensitivity test plus a customized elimination diet to be extremely helpful for my autoimmune clients. Especially those that don’t fully respond to an anti-inflammatory or gluten-free diet.

No. 4 | Nourish your gut microbiome…

Gut health and the microbiome (microbes, both helpful and harmful, including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses that reside in our bodies), is a key area of research currently underway. Not only for overall health, but also for autoimmune disorders.

Researchers have begun investigating microbiome alterations in Sjogren’s Syndrome, not only in the GI tract, but in the eyes and mouth as well. And, preliminary studies suggest microbiome dysbiosis may play a significant role in the pathogenesis of Sjogren’s.

This is a very exciting area of research! So, stay tuned for more on the role of prebiotic and probiotic foods and supplements that may help regulate intestinal permeability, inflammation, and immune dysregulation in Sjogren’s and other autoimmune diseases.

Learn more: The Best Foods with Probiotics and Prebiotics to Boost Your Health

No. 5 | Choose supplements wisely…

Lastly, although I utilize a “food first” approach with nutrition therapy, certain dietary supplements may be helpful in managing Sjögren’s syndrome and other autoimmune conditions. Like diet, there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to supplementation.

Two supplements I usually start with, include vitamin D, which research suggests may provide protection against autoimmune disease, and omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. In adition, probiotics and prebiotics may support gut health as well.

If you need help choosing which supplements to take, please get in touch! Often times I find my clients are taking too many supplements, many of which overlap. This can lead to an excess of certain nutrients, and can be potentially harmful. I offer a supplement consultation where I take your health history, current diet, medications, and current supplement use all into consideration, to come up with a supplement plan to best help you.

Re-cap: What to Eat on an Autoimmune or Sjogren’s Diet

  1. Start with an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet or MIND diet. You may also want to try my gluten free, anti-inflammatory meal plan ~ it’s an easy & delicious way to get started with the anti-inflammatory diet!
  2. Choose whole, minimally processed foods as much as possible.
  3. When buying ready to eat foods, read ingredient labels, and choose foods with ingredients that you would cook with at home.
  4. Consider testing for celiac disease, especially if you plan on trying a gluten-free diet {get tested 1st!}. Even if your celiac test comes back negative, consider a 1+ month trial of a gluten-free diet. I have been following a gluten-free diet for over 8 years, and would love to help get you started on a nourishing AND delicious gluten-free diet. Contact me for more information, or to set up a consult.
  5. Consider testing for other potential food sensitivities. I offer the MRT {Mediator Release Test}. Please get in touch with me for a free screening to see if food sensitivity testing may be a good idea for you.
  6. Choose food first, but consider supplementation, including vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and more, if needed. I offer supplement consultations with access to my professional grade dispensary. You can get in touch with me here to set up a consultation.

Autoimmune & Sjogren’s Diet | Wrapping it all up…

The information provided here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. However, it is my hope that after reading this post, you feel empowered to find the best dietary strategy to help with your autoimmune disease, or share this information with a friend or loved one who is suffering.

Don’t give up! I speak from experience, along with a lot of optimism, and persistence, that you can THRIVE with an autoimmune disease!

If you would like to share your experience living with an autoimmune disease, I would LOVE for you to leave a comment. Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about my integrative nutrition coaching services, please get in touch with me. I would love to work with you!

References & Further Reading: Sjogren’s Diet + Autoimmune Disease

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing. Thanks so much for your support!

26 thoughts on “Nourish to Thrive | What to Eat on an Autoimmune + Sjogren’s Diet”

  1. I am reading as much as I can on Sjogren’s as my 6 year old grandgirl was just diagnosed. All of my family has one autoimmune disease or another and her other grandmother has Crohn’s. It’s hard for me to read what’s to come for her. I have had a migraine for 2 1/2 years. I’m starting to think it’s connected to gluten. I have family members with Celiac disease. All your info is inspiring

    1. Hi Michelle. Thanks so much for stopping by! Although I can’t diagnose, it would be worthwhile for yourself, your granddaughter, and other symptomatic family members to get tested for celiac. If the test is negative, you can still try a gluten free diet (I promise you, the food is very tasty :-), to see if it helps with symptoms. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. Cheers!

  2. This is an old post and was wondering for the more severe complicated side of sjogrens patients; ones with severe mouth issues, decay, swelling, etc or digestive motility issues – swallowng, stomach emptying, slow digestion etc, on and on. It has been suggested in Sjogren groups to mix SOFT diet into the mix of the mentioned in the article.
    I noticed a few people frustrated with daily common things becoming nearly impossible; my suggestion try to have aids and acceptance that life may be forever changed. smart crutches/ mobility aids to decide what to save energy for and not waste too much. Aids can help you feel more active. I found having a robot sweeper/mop has really been a help in less house work gets pushed to the side. I am not perfect but little things help. Biggest factor is definitely support from friends and family. When there is none it can take a huge toll, unfortunately it took a hospital trip to the ER for people to start taking me a little more seriously.

    1. Hi. I think everyone is different. I am the nordic genotype and I have reactive arthritis plus sjogrens caused by a vaccine accident, plus osteopenia. Unlike others who are sensitive to milk and grains, I need them to keep my energy up. What I need to avoid are exotic fruits like pineapple, kiwi and papaya because they give me instant mouth sores. I also avoid sugar like the plague, and chew xylitol chewing gum after all meals to reduce risk of decay. Other items in my tooth protection arsenal: Sonicare toothbrush with the sensitive gums head, Colgate total toothpaste which is specially designed to keep germs at bay for 12 hours, Glide floss, Crest pro health ADA approved alcohol free mouthwash, and Gel-Kam stannous fluoride gel. It takes time to get plaque-free teeth but it is so worth it, I sit on the edge of the bathtub to conserve energy while I brush, floss, rinse, and fluoride treat my teeth. I also have nothing except water between meals, I agree re. the housework, luckily I am able to have someone come in and clean my apartment every two weeks.

  3. Charlene Krown

    Thank You for up to the date info…Have Sojourn plus PRN (POLYMAYGIA RHEUMATICA)….Wll keep your website….

  4. hi daisy,
    Im aza from malaysia, i had been diagnose with autoimmune disease since 2005, but i got my diagnosed for sjogren last year and im on medication also (azathiopraine). My symptom not so severe ,but lately im feeling so depressed and easily anxiou for no reason, i also very tired. Can u suggest me, what diet i should try ? i really need your advice ,tq (so for my bad grammar)

  5. Hi! Apologies for the late reply, as your comment ended up in my spam filter. I’m so sorry to hear about your health struggles-I know how frustrating it can be finding a physician who will truly listen to you, and offer alternatives to medicine (although that is sometimes needed). I don’t know of any physicians in your are, but here are a couple of search options for you. 1. You can get in touch with an integrative dietitian in Alabama who might be able to help you, as well, as direct you to a physician. Here’s the link to search: https://integrativerd.org/find_an_rd/ Or, 2. You can use this link to find a functional medicine doctor in Alabama: https://www.ifm.org/find-a-practitioner/ I hope this is helpful, and I wish you good health!

  6. Hi ,

    ( sorry for my gramatics, I’m from the Netherlands. I hope you understand this 😉 )
    I have been diagnosed with Sjogren just a few weeks ago. I have a dry mouth and dry eyes,
    When I read about Sjogrens and what can happen in the future… That’s not fun at all.
    But I’m positive and I’m going to do everything what’s necessary to stay in good health.
    Can you advise me please?
    What should try first?
    Auto Immune Protocol or a Gluten free diet? and a gluten free diet, does it also mean no oats and corn ( pseudo )

    Thank You

    1. Hi Tessa! Thanks so much for your comment and question. I’m sorry to hear about your Sjogren’s diagnosis, but happy to hear you’re staying positive 🙂 I generally recommend starting with the least restrictive diet first to see if it helps. The auto-immune protocol is very limited, so I would suggest trying an anti-inflammatory diet (i.e. Mediterranean diet) first, and possibly a trial of gluten free and dairy free at the same time. I do recommend celiac testing BEFORE removing gluten from your diet, just to be on the safe side, as you must be eating gluten, for an accurate celiac blood test. While oats are gluten free, they are often contaminated with gluten, either from the fields where they are grown, or during processing, so choose oats that are certified gluten free. Corn and other grains (rice, quinoa, teff, sorghum, buckwheat) are also gluten free, but can be contaminated with gluten grains, as well, so consider using certified gluten free grains as well. If you are interested, you can sign up for a plant based meal plan, or a gluten free anti-inflammatory meal plan here: https://www.eastewart.com/healthy-meal-plan/ Finally, please work with your physician or a qualified nutrition expert, as I can only provide generalized advice here. I wish you good health!

  7. Dorothy Jane Rayson

    I have been diagnosed with sjogren’s syndrome
    I also have a illostomy due to contacting ulcerated
    Colits when I was 26
    Have had scarcoied which has cleared up
    But also have primary sclerosing cholangtis
    Just recently had a flare up of sjogren’s syndrome

    Which caused a lack of salve in my mouth which caused my pituitary glands to swell up and get infected

    I am on antibiotics now

    I am 70 years old find now very tired
    Can’t do my house work
    Normally very fit
    Do walking and tiach

    Wonder it my condition is bue to celiac

    Disease

    1. Hi Dorothy! So sorry to hear about everything you are going through. If you haven’t done so already, I definitely recommend getting tested for celiac disease, as researchers are finding high rates of undiagnosed celiac disease in people over 60. Even if you don’t test positive for celiac, it’s still possible that you might have gluten sensitivity, in which case, a trial of a gluten free diet would be warranted. In any case, please get tested for celiac first, before trying a gluten free diet-you need to be eating gluten for the test to be accurate. Please let me know if you have any questions-I am happy to help!

  8. Hi, I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s about 5 years ago and have been experiencing dryness as well as sinus issues. I also have pain in my throat and ear on one side, and have also developed tinnitus. I want to start on a diet change to see if this will help any of my issues. I am afraid of what can happen later in life. Along with the recommended diet, do some of your clients take prescription medications as well?

  9. Hi EA,
    I’ve been in pain and told I have fibromyalgia for 5 years ago. I’m 32 years old and have hard times working and being the social butterfly God has called me to be. I refused to just accept (fibromyalgia) has an end all diagnoses and received more test. I was recently diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease last week. I’ve been overseas lot and noticed my pain goes away. I believe it from the whole foods I eat there. When I come home to US, my pain starts up again after eating the food here.

    I’m starting a new lifestyle change after receiving this diagnoses. I’ve been doing lots of research and happened to come across your website. Thank you for having the strength/will to post these amazing articles and recipes. I will talk with my doctor more about celiac disease and leaky gut testing. I look forward to trying out your recipes!

    1. Hi Tremaine. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind comments! I’m so sorry to hear about your fibromyalgia struggles, but it sounds like you have a great, positive attitude, which I really think helps 🙂 I’m not surprised what you say about feeling better when eating overseas, as I’ve had many clients tell me that. I think trying to stick with whole, minimally processed foods, organic if possible, here in the US can help a lot. Please keep me posted on celiac testing-I’d love to hear how it goes! Wishing you good health!!

  10. HI There,

    I have been diagnosed with SJogren’s Syndrome last month. I have Very low Iron so Dr. has advised me to eat red meat. But in your article you mentioned not to eat red meat. I am confused.
    Also my kidneys are effected so I am taking steroids since more than a month. I got foot swelling and joint pains since last year. Please advise something?
    And do we need to take steroids forever?

    1. Hi Nabeela! Thanks so much for your questions. In general, red meat should be limited (not necessarily avoided completely) on an anti-inflammatory diet, but you may be ok choosing grass fed beef which is higher in omega-3 fatty acids which may help with inflammation. That being said, there are also other good ways to get iron, including these plant based foods: Soybeans, lentils, other beans, seeds (pumpkin, sesame, hemp, flax), nuts (almonds, cashews, pine nuts, macadamia nuts), & leafy greens (i.e. kale, spinach, swiss chard). Cooking in cast iron pans also helps. Unfortunately I can’t comment on the steroids as I’m not a doctor-definitely ask her/him about this. I wish you good health!

  11. This dosnt really help anyone who cannot produce saliva (A result of sjogrens) and cant eat most spices (A result of sjogrens) – I had hoped to find recipe recommendations for people actually struggling through the condition but the symptoms are kind of glossed over here 🙁

    1. Hi Laura! Thanks so much for your comment, and I’m sorry you didn’t find the info you were looking for. You are right-I don’t go into specifics for what to eat with lack of saliva, as this post is more geared towards putting a damper on inflammation and autoimmunity in general. I will plan on putting together a post soon, that hopefully will be more helpful towards the symptoms you are dealing with. I really appreciate your feedback!

    2. My dryness is so bad that my lips and mouth are on fire and swallowing has become a challenge just would like some relief every now and than

    3. If you can eat eggs, potatoes and vegetables you can make an ‘anything goes’ skillet. Sauté potatoes and whatever vegetable you have available until it is as soft as you need it, pour beaten egg on top and scramble until the egg is set. Potato-vegetable mash and apple sauce is good on a bad day. For mash with carrots, broccoli or cauliflower, just cook the vegetable with potato and then mash like regular mashed potato, For spinach-potato, add chopped spinach when the potatoes are almost cooked. Simmer a chopped apple for apple sauce , Combine with whatever protein you tolerate, fish is good if you’re not allergic, my go-to is organic whole milk yogurt.because I can’t eat fish. I find I do much better if I avoid all added sugars and chew xylitol gum after all meals,

  12. This article has given me hope for the future. I have been depressed for so long maybe this will give me a hand up thank you.

    1. Hi Daisy! I’m SO happy to hear you have found some hope in reading this post. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help. I wish you all the best! In good health, EA

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