Fitness Magazine

Recovering from Sjögren's Syndrome with Yoga

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Ram

Recovering from Sjögren's Syndrome with Yoga

Desert Rocks by Eyvind Earle *

Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which our immune system mistakenly attacks our own body tissues., the immune system that constitutes the body’s defense mechanism is carried out by several agents, including leukocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, mast cells, bradykinin, histamine, interleukins, and TNF, among others (similar to the army, navy, air force, and national guards). These various defense molecules guard the body against germs such as bacteria and viruses, toxins, allergens, and anything that the body thinks is non-self. When the body senses these foreign invaders, it sends out the army of fighter molecules to attack them (the process termed as inflammation). The immune system is important as it sets in to care and protect organs, tissues, and cells. In a perfect setting, the immune system releases defense molecules when needed and “recalls them to their camps” when the threat has been sufficiently addressed. Normally, the immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own cells. For reasons that are not clear, in an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of our body—including tissues, joints, muscles, nerves, or skin—as foreign. So one can imagine the setting when a “self” (your own system) gets recognized as “non-self” and the immune system releases the defense molecules called autoantibodies that start attacking the self. This is the negative aspect of the immune system characterized by an aberrant out-of-control defense response together with defense molecules that continue to be present in the body even when they are not needed and the body operating as if it is constantly under attack (also termed as chronic inflammatory conditions). This results in bodily damage with time. As the system goes out of control, it self-perpetuates and is the basis of chronic autoimmune conditions including but not limited to fibromyalgia, neuralgia, systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic sclerosis, and polymyositis. Some autoimmune diseases target only one organ as in Type 1 diabetes, which affects only the pancreas. Other diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, affect the whole body. While we still do not know what causes the immune system to go haywire, some people are more likely to get an autoimmune disease than others. Genetics, gender, environment, and age play a role in the development of autoimmune disorders. Women get autoimmune diseases at a rate of about 2 to 1 compared to men. Some autoimmune diseases are more common in certain ethnic groups. Certain autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and lupus, run in families. April is Sjögren's Awareness Month! Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune condition that primarily affects moisture-producing glands of the body including the tear and saliva glands. It is estimated that four million Americans suffer from Sjögren’s, including men and women of different ages and ethnicities. Sjögren's syndrome is one of the most prevalent but lesser known autoimmune diseases. Patients with this condition may notice eye dryness, irritation, or painful burning in the eyes. Patients with dry eyes are at increased risk for infections around the eye and may have damage to the cornea. Dry mouth characterized by difficulty eating dry foods and swelling of the glands around the face and neck are also common. Dry mouth may trigger other dental issues such as dental decay, gingivitis, or oral infections. Some patients have episodes of painful swelling in the saliva glands around the face. Others may complain of dryness in the nasal passages, throat, vagina and skin. Swallowing difficulty and symptoms of acid reflux are also common. Primary Sjögren's syndrome occurs in people with no other underlying inflammatory condition. Secondary Sjögren's occurs in people who suffer from other associated conditions, most often systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis. Joint pain is one of the most common symptoms of secondary Sjögren's. Multiple joints are painful with periods of flares, followed by periods of little or no joint pain. Arthritis and/or arthralgia may develop before the onset of dryness of the eyes and/or mouth. The arthritis of secondary Sjögren's often is associated with other features, such as blood vessel inflammation (vasculitis), nerve damage (neuropathy) and kidney disease.Treatment for Sjogren's syndrome depends on the parts of the body affected. Many people manage the dryness in the eye and mouth by using over-the-counter eye drops and sipping water more frequently. But others need prescription medications or even surgical procedures. Drugs that suppress the immune system, including NSAIDs or steroid-based drugs, are normally prescribed, but they can trigger serious side effects. Diet, supplements, and herbs, all help to reduce pain and inflammation, protect joint health, and promote healing without the nasty side effects. Additionally, lifestyle changes also reduce the severity of the condition. Exercise has been found to be helpful for Sjögren's patients as it controls the underlying inflammation. Yoga, too, helps in mitigating the symptoms of this chronic illness and overcome its weakening effects. Yoga and yoga-related practices, including meditation and pranayama, affect cellular processes at many levels that result in immense health benefits. Most of the health benefits may not appear immediately, but they become evident with a sustained and regular yoga practice. While there are no formal research studies on yoga and its effects on Sjögren's, there is ample evidence to show that yoga suppresses inflammation, a cardinal feature of Sjögren's syndrome. Several studies now report that a regular yoga practice lowers the level of several pro-inflammatory molecules in the body, thereby relieving severe pain associated with the inflamed tissue. Specifically, patients report less fatigue, higher levels of vitality, and improved sleep after a yoga practice. In addition, yoga is very beneficial for patients with Rheumatoid arthritis, a secondary condition typically associated with Sjögren's syndrome. Yoga has been shown to reduce joint pain, strengthen the joints, and improve mobility. Yoga’s pain management techniques, including breath work, deep relaxation, and meditation, are also very helpful. The reduction in inflammation and the benefits from it is mostly observed in patients that have a sustained yoga practice. The novelty of most of these studies was that it offered biological evidence of the benefits of yoga in addition to people's own reports of how they felt. In her book Yoga Does It! Reversing Sjögren's Syndrome through Yoga, Nutrition, and Meditation, Sofia Friedman describes her personal journey in living with Sjögren's and the role of yoga and meditation in the recovery process. And in an interview with Baxter, Cynthia Alleman described how yoga helped her with lupus, another secondary condition typically associated with Sjögren's syndrome. In her account, Cynthia describes how her 20+ years of practice involving the various limbs of yoga (yama, niyama, asana, pratyahara, pranayama, dharana and dhyana) has been life changing. Not only did it help her to know her true condition and her own self, it helped her to be more attentive and aware of the various signals emanating from her body and mind. All this helped her to let go of the stress and worry, and replace it with santosha and a smile. So if you have been diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome or an associated inflammatory condition, please consider adding yoga and yoga management practices to your list of treatment protocols. Subscribe to Yoga for Healthy Aging by Email ° Follow Yoga for Healthy Aging on Facebook and Twitter ° To order Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being, go to Amazon, Shambhala, Indie Bound or your local bookstore.

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