Gluten Free For Good


 

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Last year around this time, Venus Williams dropped out of the U.S. Open and revealed that she was suffering from Sjögren’s syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disorder. Yesterday, the 7-time Grand Slam champion made another early exit from the US Open with a dramatic loss to sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber.

I started this blog (Gluten-Free For Good) in 2007, mainly to increase awareness of celiac disease and help people thrive on the GF diet. Not just get by, but to live active, radiant, and healthy lives. Today’s post was supposed to be part #2 of a series on mitochondria density, elite athletes, weight loss, and exercise, but I decided to put that one on hold to focus on Venus and Sjögren’s.

Hey, did I just hear a collective sigh of relief? I promise, you’ll find the whole mitochondria density thing and weight loss interesting once I get to it.

Okay, some of you will find it interesting.

A few of you?

Anyway, back to Venus, Sjögren’s syndrome, and … gluten.

Sjögren’s is a systemic autoimmune disease in which a person’s white blood cells mistakenly attack their moisture-producing glands causing serious complications throughout the body. Dry eyes and dry mouth are distinct features of the disease, but chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems, heartburn, reflux, esophagitis, neurological problems, brain fog, peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the extremities), abnormal liver function, pancreatic disorders, and Raynaud’s disease (among others) can also be present. Women are disproportionately affected with Sjögren’s (9:1).

Sound familiar?

Sjögren’s is a red flag for celiac disease. It frequently occurs in the presence of another autoimmune disease, often connective tissue disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Many of these autoimmune diseases sound like versions of the same thing, with just a few variations. Each condition typically has a few hallmark features, but so many of the symptoms are similar. Autoimmune diseases hang around together.

The gluten-free diet is the medical protocol for celiac disease. Why not for all autoimmune diseases? Gluten causes inflammation. Decreasing inflammation via diet and lifestyle should be the first step in reducing the impact of the disease, so it makes sense to eliminate gluten.

Right?

Apparently Venus is on a vegan diet to combat her symptoms. There are rumors she’s dabbling in the gluten-free diet as well.

Go for it, Venus! Eliminate gluten FOREVER.

What are your thoughts? Do any of you have Sjögren’s and celiac disease? Should everyone with autoimmune complications, regardless of what they are, be on a nutrient-dense, whole-foods, gluten-free, dairy-free diet?

That’s my opinion.

Are any of you BFFs with Venus? Her current boyfriend? Sister Serena?

I’d love to send her a copy of our (co-written with friend, colleague, and endurance athlete Peter Bronski of No Gluten, No Problem) newly released book The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life. Tip me off if you know Venus. I’ll send her (and you) a copy of the book.

Peace, love, and gluten-free power serves. (Not that I have a clue about powerful serves. Dink, dink.)
Melissa

Photo of Venus courtesy of PhotoBucket

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24 Responses to “Sjögren’s Venus & gluten”

  1. Theresa says:

    Love your posts, Melissa! You’re so witty and down-to-earth.

    Enjoyed meeting you at the NANP conference back in May, and loved your talk!

    All best,
    Theresa

  2. Saundra says:

    Shade plants are also a cause of inflammation. Eating gluten free is easy for me … but avoiding tomatoes is extremely hard. :)

    • Melissa says:

      Saundra,

      Yes, nightshades (including tomatoes) are said to be inflammatory for some people. I eat tomatoes and potatoes (they don’t bother me), but I avoid eggplant and raw bell peppers. I can’t tolerate them. Darn!

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Anne says:

    I was never officially diagnosed with Sjogren’s but I was about to be scheduled for a lip biopsy. Before that could be done I cut gluten out of my life and I was salivating and making tears again. My joint pain, fatigue, reflux, brain fog all disappeared. My peripheral neuropathy symptoms greatly improved.

    I hope Venus gives a gluten free lifestyle an honest try. Cutting back will not really work. Even better, perhaps, would be a paleo autoimmune protocol.

    • Melissa says:

      Anne,

      It’s amazing how many signs and symptoms can be attributed to gluten in the diet. Wow, glad you have had such good results! And yes, I agree. You need to totally eliminate gluten forever!!

  4. Martha Russell says:

    Melissa,

    My daughter was recently diagnosed with RA. I had tried to encourage to go gluten free for awhile due to her migraines,etc but she wasn’t interested in it. Now the naturopath person she is working with has her doing gluten free and dairy free. Guess what? It is helping! She finds the “whole gluten thing” (as she calls it) has more of an impact than the dairy. Whatever it takes it what it takes to make people willing to look at this. However it is heartbreaking to see the damage RA can do even in a short amount of time.
    Thanks for all you do. Martha

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Martha,

      I’m so glad to hear your daughter is responding to the GF diet (and willing to do it). Sometimes having someone other than a parent give you the advice works better! =)

      It really is sad how damaging RA can be and if you can mitigate some of the problems by going GF — that’s a good thing. Hope she keeps it up.

      Thanks for weighing in on this topic.

  5. pdw says:

    I have (had) symptoms of Sjögren’s as well. Awful – couldn’t drive because my eyes were so dry I couldn’t keep them open. Couldn’t stand the sun or fans. Couldn’t smell or taste my food properly because my mouth and nose were so dry. Couldn’t eat without extra water. I was already gluten free. So I trolled around a little to see if any dietary measures had helped other Sjogren’s sufferers, and the diet most consistently recommended was grain free. So I gave up my lovely rice, sorghum flour, corn, etc. and went completely grain free. No starch, glucose/fructose, etc. on the ingredients label.

    Ah, I can salivate again. I can drive without being worried about not being able to keep my eyes open. I can use the computer without my eyes burning. I took up running. Life is good.

  6. Maggie says:

    This is fascinating, especially the comments! I’ve never heard of this autoimmune disease. I hope she goes gf for good too, sounds like we’ve got some hard proof that it will help her! Can’t wait for the part two post, mitochondria here I come :)

    • Melissa says:

      Maggie,

      Sjogren’s is a red flag for celiac disease. It’s actually fairly common. Isn’t it interesting how many health issues can be caused by gluten in susceptible people?! It’s fascinating how wheat has changed, our environment has changed, we’ve changed, etc. We’ve got some work to do!! Glad you’re in this for the long haul, too. =)

  7. Melissa
    My brother is a tennis coach in Vegas and when I heard that Venus was diagnosed with Sjogren’s I asked if he had any connections. Unfortunately not! but if something changes I’ll be sure to let you know. I agree, you can’t dabble in a gluten-free diet! She really should be on a strict gluten-free diet. I do hope she gets there… She really does need your new book!
    Trudy

  8. Carol Ann says:

    Interesting article but just wanted to say I’m very much looking forward to the ones on mitochondria!

  9. Jane says:

    I, too, am looking forward to the mitochondria article!

    I went gluten-free nearly 10 years ago after a celiac diagnosis (@ age 55!), but I still suffer from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. I have now given up grain, and it has made a huge difference! Especially the freedom from corn! We all have to keep searching for what triggers things in our indivudual bodies. I agree that Venus should give up gluten completely (one molecule is one molecule too much), and probably all grain. It is truly poison, and it’s not what it was a few generations ago.

    Keep up the good work!
    Jan

  10. martha groh says:

    Very interesting. My whole family is gf with celiac disease (but not me). I am gf & dairy free to help my diabetes. I found a WONDERFUL website you should check out http://www.dogtorj.com. He has been celiac for 12 years & has done extensive research on wheat & disease. He’s curing epilepsy in dogs & people in 24 hours, among other diseases. Thanks, Martha

  11. I’ve been immensely helped with my MS on a gluten free diet. In my opinion it should be the first line pf defense in any autoimmune illness yet most tend to remain skeptical.

  12. Tosh says:

    I have just caught up with the past few months of posts .. been missing you and your wealth of knowledge! And I am totally digging the mitochondria topic .. look forward to learning more! soon!

    As for Venus – try twitter. you are bound to find someone who will hook you up if not just by tweeting Venus herself.

    Tosh

  13. Great post, Melissa. The moment I heard of Venus’ diagnosis, I thought “please go on a gluten-free diet!” I hope you’ll make contact and she’ll go 100% gluten free. One of the most frustrating things is to hear of people *trying* a gluten-free diet for a brief time and saying that it did them no good. Most of the time they aren’t eating completely gluten free during that time, and even when they are, most of us who live gluten free know that the positive results are rarely instantaneous. As you well know, it takes time to remove gluten from one’s system and to the see all the results from the healing that takes place over time. My answer to your question, “Should everyone with autoimmune complications, regardless of what they are, be on a nutrient-dense, whole-foods, gluten-free, dairy-free diet?” is a definitive YES! Thanks for the post. I sure hope you connnect with Venus so you can share your and Pete’s amazing book. There’s definitely enough data there to convince her to go 100% gluten free!

    Shirley

  14. Kim says:

    Hi. I have not been diagnosed with anything yet. I have 2 sisters with biopsy diagnosed celiac (one 25 years ago, one 6 months ago); 2 brothers, an aunt and cousin with Psoriasis; a cousin with Graves; etc. I have had an ERISA blood test that suggested gluten intolerance, but celiac blood test was negative. My doctor has said the blood test for inflammation and arthritis is positive and I recently went on restasis for dry eye. He is testing for Sjorgens. I am due to have a colonoscopy (my dad had colon cancer) and they want to do a biopsy (endoscope) as well. I can not wait any longer so I went gluten free. I am not willing at this point to gluten myself for the endoscope. Is that wrong?? I did have a skin allergy test and I am allergic to bakers and brewers yeast as well as wheat (not an impressive whelt). With the family history I just think it is obvious. Venus would be very silly not to go gluten free. I just don’t think I should put my body through the gluten to have the test.

  15. Morna Erwin says:

    I have had Sjogrens syndrome for over a decade and was just diagnosed with celiac disease this summer, at 59 years of age. My biggest problem with the Sjogren’s has been my eyes – I have had corneal abrasions numerous times, as well as blurry vision and intense itching. I have used Restasis in the past, and never go anywhere without my artificial tears.

    I suffered with dermatitis herpetiformis (definitive for celiac disease) on my buttocks for over a year, and remember having it as a young adult on my hands and wrists. I suffered from gallbladder disease from early adulthood until I had to have it removed. I have also lived with joint and muscle pain, migraines, depression, and other symptoms for most of my adult life, with increasing brain fog in the last decade. I also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, diagnosed 7 years ago. Going gluten-free has been so beneficial to me, and my rash is already gone.

    I am also highly sensitive to corn, oats, pork, and walnuts, and intermediately sensitive to rice and chicken. I am borderline sensitive to milk and soy. I have chosen to avoid those foods I am most sensitive to, but have kept rice, chicken, soy, and dairy in my diet. I may end up having to give up at least the rice and chicken, but for me it is easier to go one step at a time.

    I am now sure my deceased father suffered from celiac, as he suffered from an horribly itchy, bilateral blister rash for many years. I now realize what it was – dermatitis herpetiformis. I have urged my nieces and nephews to get tested, as well.

    I love your blog and will be a regular visitor now. Thanks for taking the time to inform.

  16. Morna Erwin says:

    I have had Sjogrens syndrome for over a decade and was just diagnosed with celiac disease this summer, at 59 years of age. My biggest problem with the Sjogren’s has been my eyes – I have had corneal abrasions numerous times, as well as blurry vision and intense itching. I have used Restasis in the past, and never go anywhere without my artificial tears.

    I suffered with dermatitis herpetiformis (definitive for celiac disease) on my buttocks for over a year, and remember having it as a young adult on my hands and wrists. I suffered from gallbladder disease from early adulthood until I had to have it removed. I have also lived with joint and muscle pain, migraines, depression, and other symptoms for most of my adult life, with increasing brain fog in the last decade. I also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, diagnosed 7 years ago. Going gluten-free has been so beneficial to me, and my rash is already gone.

    I am also highly sensitive to corn, oats, pork, and walnuts, and intermediately sensitive to rice and chicken. I am borderline sensitive to milk and soy. I have chosen to avoid those foods I am most sensitive to, but have kept rice, chicken, soy, and dairy in my diet. I may end up having to give up at least the rice and chicken, but for me it is easier to go one step at a time.

    I am now sure my deceased father suffered from celiac, as he suffered from an horribly itchy, bilateral blister rash for many years. I now realize what it was – dermatitis herpetiformis. I have urged my nieces and nephews to get tested, as well.

    I love your blog and will be a regular visitor now. Thanks for taking the time to inform.

  17. quinlyn says:

    My dad has known he had celiac and been gluten-free my entire life (21 years). He’s a cacophany of autoimmune diseases, and 2 of those are celiac and Sjogrens. They’re definitely medically linked to each other and to Diabetes type 1 and Crohn’s.
    Just discovered your blog. I’m a backpacker, and a recent bout with bronchitis has brought me back to the GF diet to stay. Looking forward to my first gluten-free backpacking trip next weekend with your help! Thanks!

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