Sjogren’s syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome is a strangely common autoimmune disorder whereby your body’s immune system attacks moisture-producing glands, including those in the vagina, causing dryness. The first signs are usually in the eyes and salivary glands where it is most obvious, and might take a long time to show up, or conversely, it may just appear one day.

Your symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, and there is no predicting how anyone one person’s disease will manifest. Unfortunately women are the most affect by Sjögren’s syndrome, with no known solution.

Management is supposedly your best bet. Sometimes this syndrome is related to and accompanied by fibromyalgia, lymphoma (lymphatic cancer) and rheumatological conditions such as scleroderma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, all immune conditions causing inflammation.

Most autoimmune conditions have their roots in viruses, but the who, what, where and how is unknown.

If you have Sjögren’s syndrome, you don’t need a lesson from us about how to treat it (you will already be receiving care through your primary physician), though a visit to an experienced naturopath to investigate the viral link and other supportive therapies in more detail than your doctor might can be very useful.

There are so many aspects to your health that are modifiable, so don’t just sit on your diagnosis and suffer.

Symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome

  • Dry eyes – may burn, itch, feel like you have sand in them
  • Dry mouth – cotton mouth, difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Possibly joint pain, swelling or stiffness
  • Swollen saliva glands (specifically those behind the jaw and in front of ears)
  • Skin rashes
  • Dry skin
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Persistent dry cough
  • Fatigue

Dealing with vaginal dryness

Your vaginal dryness may come with other symptoms such as atrophy, because your vagina is one big open mucous membrane, which needs moisture to function optimally. Alongside use of a good-quality water-based lube, there are other things that can naturally juicy you up.

Sex with Sjögren’s can be a real problem, affecting your relationships and the way you feel about your body. There are ways around it, however, with being open and honest the first step. You will need to work together to maintain intimacy. Severe vaginal dryness can be mitigated with the use of a vaginal moisturiser – try them all and see which one works best for you – and/or vaginal oestrogen creams.

Pelvic pain during sex can be caused by a few different problems, so make sure you have a proper diagnosis instead of just assuming it’s Sjögren’s. Dealing with fatigue and negative mood can really affect your desire to have sex, so make sure you actively manage your emotional sphere.

That may include counselling, seeing a nutritionist or naturopath, relaxation techniques, medication, or getting blind drunk every so often and laughing until your sides hurt with a friend. However you get to tomorrow with a smile on your face is whatever works for you. Try everything.

Good-quality fish oils in therapeutic doses

‘Good quality’ means it costs more, but the fish oil is extracted without the use of chemicals. You can guarantee that the cheapest fish oils are chemically extracted, which means it isn’t really that pure or good for you at all. Don’t get sucked in. Therapeutic doses of fish oils sit at between 4 and 6 grams per day of EPA (check the label for dosage ranges) not just total omega-3s.

Usually the capsules come in 1,000mg doses, as any more and it’s to big to swallow. One of the best brands, Nordic Naturals, has very pure oils, low mercury levels and high levels of EPA: 730mg per dose. This means you need to take at least 6 capsules per day for any effect. The maximum you would take is 11. did an analysis on fish oils, and you can see their results at their website.

Take these in divided doses, so 2 in the morning, 2 at lunch and 2 at dinner or otherwise as divided. With food is better, to avoid the fishy burps caused by them sitting in your stomach too long. Getting the capsules through the stomach and into the intestine is the goal, so take them just prior to eating, when your digestion is at its greatest, and they’ll go through first.

Fish oils are famous for being anti-inflammatory and lubricating, so no matter what is wrong with you, you will do better on fish oils. It would be a treatment you would continue for a lifetime, but if you eat oily fish, this works too. Oily fish are mackerel, sardines and salmon. Choosing the right fish can be a minefield so do your homework to add it into your diet without giving yourself mercury poisoning or causing the further extinction of a species of fish.

If you don’t take a therapeutic dose, nothing will happen.

Sea Buckthorn oil

This oil has an essential fatty acid and oil that nobody’s ever heard of, omega-7, among other oils. This oil can be used to improve lubrication throughout the body including the bowels, eyes and vagina. Take 2,000mg per day.

Evening Primrose oil

Combined with vitamin B6, this oils caused improvements in dry eye symptoms, and may be useful for dry vaginas. Take 3,000mg per day.

You can take all of these oils together and see what happens!

Nutrients that support moisture in your body

B-complex vitamin of therapeutic quality

This condition is not hormonal in nature, but because your body can be out of whack, so could your hormones. This means that adding oestrogen is not likely to make much difference, but speak to your doctor to check that your hormone levels are normal.

Original price was: USD $9.95.Current price is: USD $0.00. ex GST/VAT/TAX
Original price was: USD $9.99.Current price is: USD $0.00. ex GST/VAT/TAX
Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)