A few weeks ago I blogged about a new pilot study about the use of a skin moisturizer twice a day reduced inflammation in older adults. I use the inflammation research to question if this may be applicable and helpful for you if you suffer from anxiety, extrapolating that it may well be given the added benefits of touch and an oxytocin boost.
I received a number of great questions about how to apply this information and have decided to share a question from someone with both Sjogren’s syndrome and anxiety, in order to illustrate how I’d work with someone like this.
Here is the question I received:
I would like to know how much of one’s body needs to be moisturized, and if it is also necessary to be done twice per day? Such a simple but effective way to help with anxiety. Will be slathering a lot more in the future! I have Sjogren’s so everything is dry – skin, mouth, eyes, hair. I have been trying to keep my face much “moister” and I am sure my wrinkles have lessened. I find rice bran oil is also quite good.
I’m going to address her moisturizing question below and share more about anxiety in Sjogren’s syndrome and some nutritional solutions, but first let me explain what Sjogren’s syndrome is.
An overview of Sjogren’s syndrome
Let me explain what Sjogren’s (SHOW-grins) is in case you’re not familiar with this condition. It’s an autoimmune condition and is described as follows on the Mayo Clinic site:
often accompanies other immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In Sjogren’s syndrome, the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of your eyes and mouth are usually affected first — resulting in decreased tears and saliva.
Although you can develop Sjogren’s syndrome at any age, most people are older than 40 at the time of diagnosis. The condition is much more common in women.
The site goes on to say that other than dry eyes and mouth, some people experience joint pain and stiffness, swollen salivary glands, skin rashes or dry skin, vaginal dryness, persistent dry cough and prolonged fatigue. It’s worth a read to learn more about complications like more dental cavities, yeast infections, vision issues, problems in the lungs, kidneys or liver, the risk of lymphoma and peripheral neuropathy.
My feedback about moisturizing
In the study, moisturizing was done twice a day. I’m not sure how much of the body needs to be moisturized but if everything is dry, I’d want to moisturize as much as possible.
Given that chronic inflammation is a major factor in Sjogren’s and other autoimmune conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus, it’s feasible to expect similar benefits in terms of reduced inflammation. Hopefully we’ll see research on autoimmune conditions in the future.
When it comes to anxiety, I do want to make it clear that I was and still am extrapolating from the research on inflammation and measuring reduced anxiety was not part of the study. Moisturizing may or may not help with anxiety and I certainly wouldn’t only use this intervention.
Anxiety in Sjogren’s – low serotonin and GABA?
You may not be aware that anxiety/depression is very common in Sjogren’s. In one study they
found 33.8% patients with anxiety, and 36.9% had depression, which were significantly higher than controls.
I use a comprehensive nutritional and lifestyle approach to help my clients ease their anxiety and as I mention above, I would not only rely on moisturizing.
Interestingly, a number of studies suggest the involvement of the serotonin system in the development of Sjogren’s, with one study reporting
Significantly lower platelet levels of serotonin in Sjogren’s patients as compared to healthy controls.
They didn’t find a correlation between the levels of serotonin and how severe the Sjogren’s symptoms were, which falls in line with what we know about biochemical individuality and why doing a trial of tryptophan or 5-HTP (to find your ideal dose) is the best approach for serotonin support.
If you recall, in the Mayo Clinic description above, stiffness is a common symptom of Sjogren’s and GABA eases stiffness.
I haven’t found any research on GABA in Sjogren’s, but one case study reports that a patient experiencing athetoid movements (a movement dysfunction, characterized by involuntary writhing movements), reported symptom improvement with hydroxychloroquine (which can have severe psychiatric effects in susceptible individuals), pilocarpine, gabapentin, and clonazepam. The latter two medications work on the GABA system.
You can find the tryptophan and GABA products I use with my clients here.
Poor sociability in Sjogrens – could this be related to pyroluria?
A study published earlier this year is reportedly the first study to conclude that patients with Sjogren’s score “high on neuroticism and anxiety and low on sociability.”
If social anxiety is a concern, I’d have her do the pyroluria questionnaire and address this if needed.
If you recall, in the Mayo Clinic description above, joint pain and dental cavities are common symptoms. These are also very common with pyroluria, so using a nutritional approach helps ease the social anxiety, and improves joint issues and mouth health.
The other factor that makes me suspect pyroluria may be common in Sjogren’s is that it’s considered a systemic connective tissue disorder, together with systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. You can read more about pyroluria and connective tissue disorders on the pyroluria prevalence blog and the Ehlers Danlos/joint hypermobility blog.
Poor mouth health is also common with histapenia/low histamine so I’d want to look into this too.
You can find the pyroluria supplements I use with my clients here.
Sjogren’s and the Autoimmune-Paleo diet
Since Sjogren’s is an autoimmune condition, following an Autoimmune-Paleo (AIP) diet is key too. Here are some books that are well-worth making part of your library, even though they are not specific to Sjogren’s syndrome they offer support for autoimmune conditions (and many individuals often have more than one autoimmune disease)
- Hashimoto’s Protocol by Dr. Izabella Wentz (Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid condition)
- Hashimoto’s Food Pharmacology, a recipe book by Dr. Izabella Wentz (both on Hashimoto’s but applicable to any autoimmune condition)
- Cooking for Hormone Balance: a recipe book by Magdalena Wszelaki (she has AIP recipes)
- The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook by Amy Myers MD
I haven’t dived into the research on all the other autoimmune conditions and the above connections (low serotonin, low GABA and pyroluria) but it’s highly likely similar connections exist. So, if you have any autoimmune condition and anxiety this could all apply for you too.
If you have been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome please share if GABA and tryptophan have helped ease your anxiety, and if the pyroluria protocol has helped you with social anxiety?
And let us know if moisturizing is helping your dry skin and possibly reducing inflammation and anxiety too?