ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE FOR DERMATOMYOSITIS AND POLYMYOSITIS
At our center we use complementary and naturopathic medicines to treat dermatomyositis and polymyositis. Dematomyositis and polymyositis are caused by a local accumulation of the immune system (or white blood cells) around the blood vessels in the muscles and muscle cells. The main types of white blood cells that accumulate are called the dendritic cells, macrophages and T-helper 1 cells. The exact reason why these white blood cells accumulate in the muscles is not known, but what is known is that they are attracted to the muscles because of a substance called MCP-1. Some research links gluten (a wheat protein) with dermatomyositis. MCP-1 stands for monocyte chemoattractant protein-1. In other words, MCP-1 is a chemical attractant for monocytes (macrophage
and dendritic cell precursors). MCP-1 is produced by the cells lining the blood vessels of the muscles. Once they accumulate around blood vessels and muscle fibers, the macrophages and dendritic cells produce a substance called IL18. IL18 causes nearby T-cells to turn into T-helper 1 cells. T-helper 1 cells produce very inflammatory and damaging substances such as gamma-interferon and induce the production of immune complexes which collect in the muscles causing injury. We measure levels of IL18 and other inflammatory substances in the blood of our patients to help gauge the degree of inflammation. Research shows that serum IL-18 and gamma-interferon are often elevated when dermatomyositis and polymyositis are active and are normal when the diseases are in remission. There are various natural herbal and nutritional medicines which can decrease the production of IL18, gamma interferon and MCP-1 and provide symptom relief. These substances do not have the side effects like steroids. There is evidence that an elevated amount of prooxidants in the muscles can induce IL18, so many of the naturopathic and alternative medicines that we use are strong anti-oxidants.