Dry eyes and mouth can have many causes. It is a common feature of CFS and fibromyalgia, and it often responds to simple nutritional support. In other cases, it may reflect autoimmune conditions such as Sjogren's Syndrome, which knocked Venus Williams out of this year's U.S. Open tennis championship — a consequence I think may have been avoidable. Fortunately for her, she changed her diet and was able to get back on the tour!
Have you ever suffered from dry eyes and mouth? ? Dry eyes and mouth are also very common in CFS and fibromyalgia, and fortunately in most cases this is not associated with Sjogren's (or damage that may have somehow occurred to the tear glands or salivary glands). It therefore often can be resolved by following the SHINE protocol.
Whether your dry eyes and mouth are just from fibromyalgia, or whether you have Sjogren's or other causes, here are 7 simple tips that can be very helpful.
7 Therapy Tips
Three Key Oils
Just like oil lubricates your car, dietary oils can help lubricate your body. Three key oils are especially important for dry eyes:
- Fish oil. Fish oil is rich in the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, which studies show help with dry eyes.3 Eat a portion of oil-rich salmon or tuna daily. Or supplement your diet with fish oil.
- Sea Buckthorn Oil. The berries from this cold weather shrub contain a special essential fatty acid called Omega 7 (along with other helpful oils). Studies show that this little-known but remarkable nutrient is very effective at improving lubrication throughout the body — helping remedy dry eyes, dry mouth, and even vaginal dryness, while providing the bowel with protection from the dryness of Sjogren's.4,5,6 Take 2,000 mg a day. For those with significant dry eye and mouth problems, this special oil can be a Godsend! A fringe benefit? Stomach, bladder, and vaginal symptoms can also improve. Give it 6 weeks to work and 4 months to see the optimal effect (though the benefits often start within a week)
- Evening Primrose oil (or borage oil). In one study, combining this oil with vitamin B6 and vitamin C improved dry eye symptoms in 76% of study participants7 (recommended dose 3,000 mg a day). If cost is an issue, you can substitute borage oil, which is less expensive. This oil also helps PMS as well, but is not anywhere near as important as the other two oils for dry mouth and eyes.
- High-dose B-complex vitamin (50 mg) and magnesium (200 mg). You'll find those dosages in a good multivitamin powder.
Drops, Drink and Gum
- Suck on sugar-free lemon drops or drink sugar-free lemonade (sweetened with Stevia, Truvia or PureVia). The lemon in drops or lemonade stimulates saliva production. But notice I said sugar-free! Saliva protects against cavities, so sucking on cavity-causing sweets when you have dry mouth is a good way to wind up at your dentist's with a mouthful of holey teeth!
- Chew sugar-free chewing gum. This actually helps protect against cavities. An additional bonus is that it also stimulates bowel function (peristalsis), which is decreased in Sjogren's, causing bowel problems of all kinds. In fact, studies show that simply chewing gum immediately after waking up from abdominal surgery (which puts the bowels to sleep) results in restoring bowel function more quickly, sometimes shaving several days off the average hospital stay.8
- Watch your fibromyalgia medications. Many of the medications used to address fibromyalgia (especially Elavil/amitriptyline) can also worsen the dry mouth commonly seen in FMS (see "Addressing Dry Eyes and Dry Mouth" for a more detailed list).
More Background on Sjogren's
In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly identifies a part of the body as "foreign" and attacks it. In rheumatoid arthritis, for example, the joints are attacked. In multiple sclerosis, it's the outer coverings of nerves. And in Sjogren's Syndrome — which affects more than 4 million Americans, 9 out of 10 of them women — the immune system attacks the tear glands and salivary glands.
The result? Dry eyes and mouth — which doctors also call "Sicca Syndrome," whether it occurs because of Sjogren's, fibromyalgia, or everyday life. But Sjogren's can also cause widespread dryness in the body, producing symptoms like difficulty breathing, digestive upset, and poor bowel function.
The Connection to Fibromyalgia
For those with autoimmune illnesses such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren's, it's critical to understand that it's common for any of these to cause a secondary fibromyalgia. If all the symptoms are blamed on Sjogren's, then the fibromyalgia, which is very addressable,1,2 may be missed.
For more information on addressing dry eyes and mouth, see "Addressing Dry Eyes and Dry Mouth."
1"Effective Treatment of Severe Chronic Fatigue: A Report of a Series of 64 Patients," Teitelbaum, J and Bird, B. Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain, 3 (4) (1995): 91–110.
2"Effective Treatment of CFS and FMS: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo Controlled Study," Teitelbaum, J., Bird, B., Greenfield RM, et al. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 8 (2) (2001).
3"Relation between dietary n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and clinically diagnosed dry eye syndrome in women," Miljanovi A, Trivedi K, Dana M, Gilbard J, Buring J, Schaumberg D. Am J Clin Nutr, 2005, 82 (4): 887–93.
4"Oral Sea Buckthorn Oil Attenuates Tear Film Osmolarity and Symptoms in Individuals with Dry Eye," Larmo P, Jarvinen R, Setala N, Yang B, Viitanen M, Engblom J, Tahvonen R, Kallio H, Journal of Nutrition, Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/jn.109.118901
5Le Bell AM, Söderling E, Rantanen I, Yang B, Kallio H. Presented at the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) Annual Meeting. San Diego, California. March 6 - 9, 2001.
6Yang B. Presented at the American Oil Chemists' Society Annual Meeting. 2006. St. Louis, MO
7Prog Lipid Res 1981; 20;253-4
8"Does chewing gum shorten the duration of postoperative ileus in patients undergoing abdominal surgery and creation of a stoma?" Hocevar B J, Robinson B, Gray M. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2010 Mar-Apr; 37(2):140-6.
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of four research studies on their treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.