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Venus Williams, Sjogren’s syndrome and the Riddle of Autoimmune Disease

You may have heard that Venus Williams lost in straight sets to Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-3 in the first round of Wimbledon yesterday. You may also have heard that Venus Williams suffers from Sjogren’s syndrome which possibly affected her performance.

What is Sjogren’s syndrome?
Could it cause a problem with Venus Williams’ tennis game?
What can be done?

First of all Sjogren’s syndrome is considered an “autoimmune disease” where the immune system attacks the patient’s own exocrine glands. These unfortunate victims suffer dry eyes, inability to produce saliva and a host of other symptoms including arthritis pain, fatigue and organ damage.

Clearly any disease that can cause pain and fatigue can negatively impact the performance of an athlete, especially a world class athlete that needs to be in top shape to compete at a professional level.

So what can Venus Williams do?
Most conventional treatments for Sjogren’s syndrome and other “autoimmune diseases” aim to suppress the patient’s immune system. This pharmaceutical approach is fraught with “side effects” as the immunosuppressive drugs can open up a literal “Pandora’s Box” of problems. These patients can end up with all sorts of infections and problems because they now have weakened immune systems.

A holistic approach to autoimmune disease would attempt to identify those environmental triggers in the patient’s internal and external environment that are causing the immune system to overreact in the first place. Commonly these triggers may include unrecognized food allergies, environmental toxins like mold and heavy metals and “stealth “organisms like Lyme’s and other tick borne illnesses.

By identifying and eradicating the underlying environmental triggers, many patients with Sjogren’s syndrome and other “autoimmune diseases” can live longer and stronger.

This approach could even help your tennis game. Are you listening Venus?

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