Polymyositis means inflammation of many muscles. It is a chronic disease that causes weakness of skeletal muscles involved with movement. The muscles affected are close to the body’s trunk: hip, thigh, shoulder, upper arm, neck, diaphragm and chest wall muscles. The disease affects the body symmetrically. That means that if it affects the left hip, the right hip will also be impacted. Polymyositis occurs most often in adults aged 30 to 60 years. It affects more women than men and more black people than white.
The immune system works to destroy invading pathogenic organisms that can cause disease or infection. The term “autoimmune” means resistance to self. Polymyositis is an autoimmune disease in which the body, for reasons unknown, begins to attack its own cells as if they were foreign organisms.
Effects of Polymyositis
Polymyositis develops gradually over weeks or months, and there can be periods of remission. Because of weakened muscles, the person becomes less and less capable of movement. This can affect the ability to perform activities of daily living. This disease can progress to affect the muscles of the respiratory system, leading to aspiration pneumonia, and the mouth and throat muscles, causing difficulty swallowing and speaking. People with polymyositis often complain of joint and muscle tenderness.
There is no cure for polymyositis. Corticosteroids are used to suppress the immune system as well as other drugs classified as immunosuppressants. Physical, dietary and speech therapies are part of traditional medicine’s arsenal of weapons against this disease.
Natural Therapies for Polymyositis
Ganoderma lucidum, known as reishi, comes from a tree fungus used in China and Japan for treatment of autoimmune diseases. It is believed to affect the immune system, but it is not known if it strengthens it. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is an antioxidant. The Lahey Clinic reports, however, that at this date there have been no reliable double-blind placebo-controlled studies done to verify this.
Dr. Ray Sahelian, in his article "Autoimmune Disease Alternative Therapy with Diet, Vitamins, Herbs and Supplements, Natural Treatment," states omega 3, omega 6, vitamin E and green tea may slow the progress of polymyositis through their effects on the inflammatory process. He also reports vitamin D inhibits proinflammatory processes by suppressing the enhanced activity of immune cells taking part in the autoimmune reaction.
Oral creatine supplements combined with at-home exercises is said to improve functional muscle performance and is used for this purpose by athletes. However, the National Institutes of Health reports there is insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness for treatment of polymyositis.
It is important for people with polymyositis who are looking for alternative treatments to work closely with a health care provider to ensure there is no risk of interaction between conventional treatment and use of natural therapies.