I love tennis. I love to watch it and I love to play it.
Being a tennis fan for many years, I’ve enjoyed watching Venus Williams and her sister Serena dominate Women’s Tennis over the past decade or so. They are truly a force to be reckoned with and I’ve cheered them on every step of the way.
It was with great sadness, then, that I learned the news a few days ago that Venus had withdrawn from the 2011 US Open currently being played in New York City due to a relatively unknown autoimmune illness.
Ms. Williams condition, called Sjogren’s Syndrome, affects about 4 million Americans and over 90% of these are women. It is an affliction of the sweat glands. Typical symptoms are dry mouth, dry eyes, joint pain and fatigue. The possibility exists for the lungs or liver to be affected as well. Even central nervous system symptoms can manifest.
Sjogren’s is autoimmune in nature meaning that the immune system is attacking its own tissues, in this particular case, primarily the sweat glands.
Like many autoimmune conditions, symptoms of Sjogren’s can overlap with other ailments causing misdiagnosis and sometimes a delay of several years before appropriate identification of the disorder is made. Venus herself has said that she thought for a long time that her problem was allergies or even asthma.
Whether or not Ms. Williams returns to tennis is uncertain. The progression of Sjogren’s can be slow or rapid and the future of her health remains highly speculative. The saddest news of all to me was reading that doctors are telling her that this affliction will be with her for the rest of her life and that the cause is likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Is AutoImmune Illness a Lifelong Sentence?
Heard that one before? An autoimmune disease epidemic of avalanche proportions is sweeping our nation and the world (I just read today that 38% of Europeans have mental illness – I’ll bet it’s similarly shocking in America), and it is highly misleading to hear these ailments frequently blamed on genetics because it is impossible to have a genetic epidemic.
I absolutely don’t buy the “rest of your life” argument when it comes to autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease is rooted in the gut (that’s where most of the immune system resides, after all) and there is a very good chance that conditions such as Sjogren’s can be put into remission with appropriate, temporary diet changes so the gut is able to heal and seal.
Of course, there are no guarantees with any treatment but the GAPS Diet is the best one I’ve come across to address issues like this. Many people suffering from a wide variety of autoimmune issues are reporting nothing short of astounding results on this program.
Since Ms. Williams is only 31 years old and certainly has a few years of her career left in tennis if she can regain her health, it seems the GAPS Diet would be well worth a shot – or at least a volley?
Interested in GAPS?
If going on GAPS is of interest to you and you want to find out more, check out my posts on The Five Most Common GAPS Diet Mistakes and OverWhelmed by GAPS? Help Has Arrived! for tips and resources to get you started on the right track.
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.