Can a gluten-free diet help reduce signs and symptoms of polymyositis?

Answers from April Chang-Miller, M.D.

Polymyositis (pol-e-my-o-SY-tis) is a rare muscle disease. A few studies that looked at small numbers of people with polymyositis over a number of years found that a gluten-free diet was linked to symptom reduction.

Without stronger evidence, though, having polymyositis doesn't mean you need to cut out gluten — unless you also have celiac disease.

In celiac disease, an abnormal immune system reaction keeps your small intestine from absorbing gluten, which is a protein in wheat, rye and barley. Eating these grains invariably causes digestive distress, as does eating processed foods containing gluten. A gluten-free diet is the basic requirement for living with celiac disease.

If you have polymyositis and you develop persistent iron deficiency anemia with weight loss and frequent bouts of diarrhea, your doctor may recommend testing for celiac disease.

May 08, 2014