Inclusion Body Myositis – Nutrition and Weight Control


Nutrition affects everyone’s health, but is perhaps even more important if you have a chronic illness. There is no special diet for inclusion body myositis, but it makes sense to supply your body with plenty of nutrients so your muscles can stay as healthy as possible. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, and limit sugar and refined starches.

Adequate protein is important, since muscles have high protein content. Muscles are constantly being broken down and new muscle is constantly being made in an ongoing process of muscle remodeling. Even healthy people can lose muscle if protein intake is insufficient. The elderly utilize protein less efficiently than young adults, and therefore can more easily have a protein deficient diet. A recent study demonstrated that protein and nutrient supplementation can help men over 70 grow more muscle. Good sources of protein are meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, beans and peas, tofu, nuts, and seeds.

The Impact of Dysphagia (Trouble Swallowing) on Nutrition

Dysphagia, or swallowing difficulties, can affect nutrition. People with dysphagia sometimes avoid certain foods, or simply eat less, leading to weight loss and accelerated muscle wasting. See your doctor if you think swallowing difficulties are affecting your nutrition.

Weight Control

Maintaining a healthy weight is extremely helpful if you have inclusion body myositis. Overweight and obesity have numerous detrimental impacts in IBM:

  • Extra weight, combined with weak muscles, makes physical activities harder.
  • Joints are stabilized by muscles. When muscles are weak, joints are stressed and less stable, which can aggravate osteoarthritis. This is one of the causes of pain which affects some IBM patients. Increased weight adds to the problem.
  • Overweight and obesity cause metabolic changes that encourage muscle wasting.
  • If you fall or need assistance, extra weight makes it more challenging for others to help you.

Weight control may be difficult for people with inclusion body myositis because of muscle atrophy (muscle wasting, or shrinkage) and inactivity. Muscles are metabolically active — they burn a lot of calories. Inclusion body myositis causes a loss of muscle, and therefore a decreased need for calories. In addition, people with IBM become less active due to their physical limitations, further reducing the need for calories.

Dieting to lose weight must be approached carefully. If you consume fewer calories than you use, your body burns stored fat, which is the desired goal. However, your body can also burn muscle protein, and IBM patients can’t afford to lose muscle. Try to lose weight gradually rather than quickly and consume adequate protein. Combine calorie restriction with exercise, since exercise helps prevent muscle loss while dieting.

by Kevin Dooley, MD

Revised December 13, 2019

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