What is Muscular Dystrophy?
The term “muscular dystrophy” refers to a group of different genetic diseases that all result in muscular deterioration over time. Most commonly, the muscles in the arms and legs are weakened initially, but sometimes weakening of the heart muscles (cardiomyopathy) or other muscles occurs as well. Respiratory failure is common in late-stage muscular dystrophy and is a frequent cause of death.
There is currently no cure for muscular dystrophy. However, new research is uncovering particular genetic mutations associated with different types of muscular dystrophy; these not only help diagnose the different forms of the disease, but also with potential emerging therapies.
Several natural interventions such as coenzyme Q10 and creatine may help complement conventional treatments and improve quality of life.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy?
Note: There are many types of muscular dystrophy, and they can present different symptoms and appear at different stages in life. The following are some common symptoms:
- Difficulty walking or getting up from a seated position
- Walking on tiptoes (in children learning to walk)
- Enlarged calf muscles
- Waddling gait
- Learning disabilities
- Gastrointestinal complaints
- Weakening muscles (different diseases will affect different muscles)
- In certain forms of the disease, difficulty swallowing and keeping eyes open/closed
- Hearing loss beginning in infancy
- Abnormal heart rhythm
What are the Conventional Medical Treatments for Muscular Dystrophy?
Note: There is currently no cure for muscular dystrophy. However, certain therapies described below may help delay symptoms and improve muscle function.
- Physical therapy
- Other treatments are also available to help manage the side effects of muscular dystrophy, including drugs to block muscle spasms, antiepileptics, surgery for scoliosis, and other supportive care.
What are Emerging Therapies to Treat Muscular Dystrophy?
- Exon skipping is an investigational technique that can help compensate for the mutations in the dystrophin gene that cause dysfunctional muscle proteins
- Proteasome inhibitors to prevent breakdown of muscle proteins
What Dietary and Lifestyle Changes Can Help Manage Muscular Dystrophy?
Dietary and lifestyle changes cannot directly impact muscular degradation. However, many people with muscular dystrophy have limited mobility, which makes proper nutrition essential. A high-fiber, high-protein, low-calorie diet with proper fluid intake is recommended for many patients with muscular dystrophy.
What Natural Interventions Can Help Manage Muscular Dystrophy?
- Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10, in combination with corticosteroid treatment, may help increase muscle strength.
- Resveratrol. In animal models of muscular dystrophy, resveratrol treatment decreased inflammation and protected the hearts against enlargement and fibrosis.
- Creatine. Treatment with creatine, alone or in combination with corticosteroids, lengthened the time for patients to fatigue and increased muscle strength.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. In animal models of muscular dystrophy, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids prevented degeneration of skeletal muscle.
- Vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D and calcium are essential for muscle and bone function. Decreased bone density is common in some forms of muscular dystrophy, and increasing vitamin D and calcium levels improved bone mass in some patients.
- Taurine. Taurine, alone or in combination with corticosteroids, improved functional measures of muscle health in an animal model.
- Glutamine. Glutamine supplementation in patients with the most common form of muscular dystrophy was associated with inhibition of protein degradation.
- Other promising natural interventions for muscular dystrophy include L-carnitine, melatonin, green tea, vitamin E and selenium, and N-acetylcysteine.