Targeted Nutritional Strategies
Essential Fatty Acids: Supporting Healthy Glands
Traditional drugs offer considerable potency in dealing with Sjögren's syndrome, but side effects make them a mixed blessing. In addition, pharmacological approaches target symptoms without addressing underlying causes or related health issues. Nutritional support may be successful, not only in mitigating the side effects of drugs, but in lowering doses as well.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) and eicosanoids, short-lived “messenger” hormones derived from EFAs, have been implicated in the abnormal function of salivary and lachrymal glands. Measurements in Sjögren's syndrome patients have shown that EFA deficiencies are present (Oxholm 1998), and controlled clinical trials of supplementation with EFAs, including gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), have yielded positive results (Horrobin 1984).
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (EFAs) have been shown to alleviate symptoms of autoimmune disease by supporting the immune system and reducing inflammation (Harbige 1998; Horrobin 1984; Horrobin 1986; Oxholm 1986). EFAs accomplish this in several ways:
- Determining whether genes are expressed
- Producing eicosanoids and cytokines
- Activating antioxidant enzymes
Cytokines. Cytokines are intercellular messenger chemicals that can be pro- or anti-inflammatory. Essential fatty acids support production of anti-inflammatory cytokines (Harbige 1998).
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is important to the production of the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin E1 (PGE1). Evening primrose oil, which is rich in GLA, may correct immunologic defects, halt atrophy of salivary and lachrymal glands, and increase PGE1. Direct supplementation with GLA has resulted in clinical improvement in Sjögren's syndrome, scleroderma, and other conditions (eg, high blood pressure and high cholesterol) (Horrobin 1981).
Green tea extract. Green tea’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects have led scientists to propose that it may have a role in fighting autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome. In the laboratory, green tea catechins stimulated changes in human cells that make them less susceptible to autoimmune attack by the immune system. Additionally, green tea dramatically decreased inflammation in healthy tissues, another change indicative of decreased autoimmune activity (Hsu 2005).
There is evidence that thymus extracts can improve the functioning and numbers of T cells and stimulate conversion of immature T6 cells (thymocytes) into non-dedicated T3 cells (Kouttab 1989; Wilson 1999). Thymominetic drugs, such as as levamisole and isoprinosine, stimulate the thymus and may be beneficial to T cell development (Hadden 1989). Because immature T cells have been implicated in Sjögren's syndrome, Life Extension believes that thymus extract may help reduce the severity of symptoms associated with the disease.
The amino acid L-glutamine heals the intestinal lining and improves its mucosal structure (Klimberg 1990). Beneficial intestinal bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus, and fructooligosaccharides (ie, a form of sugar that can enhance beneficial bacteria) provide gastrointestinal tract support by increasing the gut population of healthy microflora.