Sarcoidosis -- Causes and Top 10 Foods
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August 13, 2011, last updated April 22, 2015
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors and
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our
Editorial Board.]

The name "sarcoidosis" may not trip off the tongue but the
disease is increasingly common in American today. The
condition affects the lungs primarily, so is it life threatening?

Sarcoidosis is an auto-immune disorder affecting millions of
Americans each year.  Estimates from the American Lung
Association put the number of people suffering from
sarcoidosis as high as 40 people per 100,000, which means
that as many as 120,000 Americans now suffer from the

With sarcoidosis, tiny granules of immune cells form, typically
in your lungs and exterior but possibly throughout your
body.  When enough of these granules clump together in an
organ, they can cause organ failure. Sarcoidosis can be a
miserable disease to live with, causing
shortness of breath,
dry eyes, dry mouth, dry cough, skin sores and watery eyes.
Are there any foods or other natural remedies that can help
with sarcoidosis?  What foods should you avoid if you have

Is sarcoidosis curable or do you have it for life? Is sarcoidosis
affected by the food you eat and are certain foods good for
sarcoidosis sufferers?

A diagnosis of sarcoidosis is naturally very worrying for many
people. The fact is, sarcoidosis is a relatively unfamiliar
condition which is often misdiagnosed by people who put their
symptoms down to some other cause.

What is Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition that affects your
lungs, lymph nodes, skin, eyes, liver and other body tissues.
Sarcoidosis occurs when inflammatory cells grow in miniscule
clumps (granulomas) on these tissues. Sarcoidosis is a multi-
organ disease and it can affect any or all of these parts of the
body. It most commonly affects the lungs. When clumps of
cells build up, the organ stops working so well.

Sarcoidosis can be debilitating and even disabling. Sarcoidosis
impairs your ability to exercise, to walk, run or do any form of
aerobic exercise.  Even after having the disease for a short
while, you will notice a decline in physical abilities, a new
study found. The 2013 study, from Maastricht University
Centre in the Netherlands, looked at people who had
sarcoidosis for two years or less. They discovered that the
sufferers had reduced walking speed, less strength in their
quadriceps, hamstrings and elbow flexors and, not
surprisingly, lung capacity in just two years.

What Causes Sarcoidosis?

It’s a sad fact that no one really knows what causes
sarcoidosis. Experts believe sarcoidosis occurs when your
immune system behaves abnormally in response to a trigger,
most likely to something that you inhale from the air around
you. However, what sets the trigger off is unknown. The
cause of sarcoidosis varies, and will be different in each
person that suffers from the condition.

What causes sarcoidosis? You may experience a severe
immune response to an infection, or have a high sensitivity to
environmental triggers.

Following the World Trade Center disaster on September 11,
2001 ("911"), firefighters experienced unusually high rates of
sarcoidosis, according to a 2012 study Led by Dr. Shiv Saidha
of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Researchers
have noted that sarcoidosis rates rise after exposure to
environmental toxins such as solvents, organic dusts,  mold,
mildew, pesticides, and wood stoves.

You may be genetically predisposed to sarcoidosis – doctors
believe this is likely, and that some people hold the gene for
developing the disease. Experts are still trying to find out the
triggers and the genes responsible for sarcoidosis. What
should sarcoidosis sufferers do in the meantime? Is there a
perfect diet for sarcoidosis? Do natural remedies help?

What are the Symptoms of Sarcoidosis?

Another frustrating thing about sarcoidosis is that there may
not be any symptoms at all. But when they do occur, they can
affect almost any organ or tissue in your body. However, in
general, most sufferers have symptoms affecting the lungs
and the chest, such as chest pain, wheezing, a dry cough or
shortness of breath. Certain symptoms are generalized and
include fatigue, fever, an achiness in your joints, weight loss,
and a general feeling of lack of well-being.

If sarcoidosis affects your skin you may suffer hair loss, a
rash, or raised red skin sores on the front of your lower legs.
Symptoms affecting your nervous system include headaches,
seizures and weakness. Your eyes may be affected – you may
suffer dry eyes, itchy eyes, a burning sensation or a discharge
from the eye. Other symptoms include fainting, a dry mouth,
nosebleeds and swelling in the abdomen.

Sometimes you will experience symptoms suddenly, and they
will disappear just as rapidly. Other people will develop
sarcoidosis slowly, and symptoms will build up over time and
last for years. Some people never lose the disease. With such
a wide range of symptoms and incubation times, and the fact
that sometimes sarcoidosis produces no symptoms at all, it is
difficult for doctors to diagnose the condition. Often people
only know they have sarcoidosis when they go for a chest x-
ray for an unrelated reason.

Who Suffers From Sarcoidosis?

Due to this difficulty in diagnosis, the prevalence of sarcoidosis
is not completely known. However, we do know that
sarcoidosis seems to affect some people more than others.
The prevalence of the condition also varies from country to
country, even city to city. According to the American Thoracic
Society, sarcoidosis is most common in African American
people and in northern European whites – particularly

The Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research says among African
Americans the risk of developing the condition can be as high
as two percent. 2010 research from the Black Women’s Health
Study showed that black women are much more likely to be
affected by sarcoidosis, with a prevalence of two percent.

Sarcoidosis can affect people of all ages but it is most
commonly seen in adults aged between 20 and 40 (American
Thoracic Society).

Is Sarcoidosis Life-Threatening?

People suffering from sarcoidosis will naturally want to know
if the condition can be fatal. The fact is, sarcoidosis causes
death very rarely but it can happen if the disease causes
severe damage to an organ.

The most common cause of death from sarcoidosis is
pulmonary fibrosis (according to 2007 research from Hôpital
Avicenne, Université Paris-Nord, France). Other causes include
heart failure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reports that 924 people died from sarcoidosis in 2006.
Different ethnic groups appear to be affected more or less
severely than others – African-Americans are most severely

On the other end of the scale, over half of the cases of
sarcoidosis only last between 12 to 36 months (2007 research
from Hôpital Avicenne, Université Paris-Nord, France).
Treatment is not always necessary if the disease doesn’t affect
the lungs, heart or eye, and for many people the condition
disappears without any intervention.

It’s important to seek medical advice, however, because if
your lungs are affected you could end up with permanent lung
damage. Twenty to 30 percent of people whose lungs are
targeted suffer permanent damage (American Thoracic
Society). Complications of sarcoidosis include fungal lung
infections, glaucoma, blindness, kidney stones, kidney failure,
osteoporosis, infertility, and pulmonary hypertension.

If your sarcoidosis is chronic, treatment focuses on keeping
your lungs and other organs working properly and relieving
the symptoms of the condition. Unfortunately, some of the
drugs used to treat sarcoidosis can themselves cause medical

Top 10 Foods That Help Sarcoidosis

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The late comedic actor Bernie Mac battled sarcoidosis.