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Q: My husband has been recently diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica and is suffering badly with pain. His doctor has prescribed oral steroids but he’s not happy taking them. Are there any natural supplements which will help. The doctor says there is no cure.

Anne, Kerikeri

A: Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory condition associated with muscle pain and stiffness. It’s a strange condition in that polymyalgia rheumatica-related signs and symptoms usually occur suddenly and may be difficult to treat. This condition may last for several years before spontaneously self-resolving. The inflammation is thought to be due to the immune system becoming over-active and attacking the membranes lining the joint (synovium). The reason for this is unknown although it can be due to stimulation from a virus.

This condition is generally treated with corticosteroids, methotrexate or anti-TNF Alpha drugs. If corticosteroids are used your doctor will likely prescribe daily doses of calcium and vitamin D supplements to help prevent osteoporosis induced by corticosteroid treatment.

Methotrexate is an immune-suppressing medication. It is used to help lower the dose of corticosteroid that's needed, which can help preserve bone mass. It's often given long term, for a year or more.

Anti-TNF Alpha drugs. TNF stands for tumor necrosis factor, which is a substance that causes inflammation. These drugs block that substance and reduce inflammation. Research results have been mixed on using these medications in polymyalgia rheumatica, but they might be helpful for people who can't take corticosteroids, such as people with diabetes or osteoporosis.

However, there are several nutritional supplements that may help treat  inflammation, pain and stiffness.

Firstly our product SIMBA, the African potato tuber (Hypoxis hemerocallidea). The African potato tuber is rich in phytosterols, in particular beta sitosterol. These important plant fats, present in fruit and veggies, play a very important part in balancing and regulating the immune system and restoring normal immune functioning. It’s also a potent natural anti-inflammatory. It takes around 6 weeks to really get into the system and begin to take effect so I would always recommend patience if you decide to try it. Your husband will need to persevere for at least 6 to 8 months before assessing the benefit.

Serrapeptase seems to be a useful supplement to help with inflammation. Other interesting plants which may help PMR include Black Cumin seeds and turmeric. You can check these out on the internet.

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