Healthy Choices

Healthy Choices Healthy Choices

Healthy Choices to Consider

Diet and nutrition

Eating right is good for us all. But for people living with dermatomyositis (DM) or polymyositis (PM) it’s even more important. A healthy diet can help you manage your weight. And it can keep you feeling fit and well. Talk with your doctor or nutritionist. He or she can work with you to create a diet plan that’s right for you and your specific condition.

Here, you’ll find tips to help guide you when making decisions about your daily meals. But before you make any changes to your diet, you should always consult your doctor.

Maintaining a well-balanced diet is important with myositis



A low-fat source for fiber and energy, these foods include brown and wild rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, rye, oats, quinoa, corn, and barley.


Fruits and vegetables

Low in salt and fat, these foods are also high in antioxidants, and vitamins C and A. Choose fresh or frozen vegetables over the canned ones. Avoid dried fruit and fruit juices because of their high sugar content.


Dairy products

These foods are high in calcium, which is needed for healthy bones and muscles. Dairy is also an excellent source of zinc, B vitamins, vitamin D, and selenium. You should eat at least 3 servings of dairy per day.


Meat, fish, and poultry

These foods offer an important source of protein, as well as zinc, B vitamins, and iron. The standard serving size is 4 ounces.


Beans, nuts, and seeds

A source of vegetable protein and fiber, these foods are also high in vitamin E and selenium. Examples of these include unsalted nuts, low-sodium beans (Brazil nuts), wheat germ, flaxseed, soybeans, kidney beans, tofu, walnuts, and lentils.


Healthy fats

Foods rich in monounsaturated oils (such as olive oil) include nuts, seeds, and avocado. Avoid butter, margarine, shortening, and lard.



Foods with omega-3s are believed to reduce inflammation (good for people with dermatomyositis and polymyositis). Omega-3s are found in salmon, sardines, bluefish, mackerel, tuna, halibut, ground flaxseed, walnuts, pecans, canola oil, walnut oil, and flaxseed oil.

For more information about eating right, including dietary guidelines, healthy food plans, and more, visit

Spinach may have anti-inflammatory properties. And it may be a healthy addition to your diet if you live with dermatomyositis or polymyositis. Always talk to your healthcare team before making a change to your diet.

Follow an anti-inflammatory diet

Dermatomyositis and polymyositis are known as inflammatory muscle diseases. Muscle tissue becomes inflamed when the immune system attacks it. Some health experts believe that an anti-inflammatory diet might help to relieve your symptoms.


Remove the following foods from your diet: soft drinks, sugar, white flour products, and “junk” or packaged foods. These foods are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Also, limit the amount of salt you eat, and avoid foods that are rich in saturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as:

  •  Corn oil
  •  Cottonseed oil
  •  Sunflower oil


Drinking certain herbal teas and juices may be helpful. Also, add the following foods to your diet: spinach, blueberries, strawberries, and fresh pineapple and fresh papaya (avoid canned fruits). In addition, eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These include cold-water fish, such as herring, mackerel, salmon, and sardines.

Always talk to your healthcare team before making a change to your diet.

Other dietary recommendations

Some experts also recommend a diet high in protein for people who suffer from dermatomyositis or polymyositis. In addition, the diet should include:

  •  High calcium intake. Sources of calcium include orange juice, skimmed and low-fat milk, low-fat sugarless yogurt, and salmon
  •  Zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and vitamin E

Always talk to your healthcare team before making a change to your diet.

Read a list of high-protein foods here.

Swallowing problems and dietary changes

Many people living with dermatomyositis and polymyositis develop problems with swallowing. These issues may occur due to dry mouth. But muscle weakness can also cause this. If you develop problems with swallowing, your doctors may recommend:

  •  Soft foods that are easier to swallow
  •  Foods that are moist
  •  Drinking fluids between bites
  •  Eating more soups and smoothies that are pureed
  •  Recording which foods are easy to swallow
  •  Staying away from dry foods, such as crackers, dry cereal, and muffins

If your swallowing difficulties are making it difficult to eat a balanced diet, the followings tips might help:

  •  Add pureed or finely chopped vegetables to soups
  •  Add yogurt to creamed soups and smoothies
  •  Add pureed fruit or applesauce to yogurt or hot cereals
  •  Cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger are a great source of antioxidants


    Chemicals that may prevent cell damage. Antioxidants can be natural or man-made and are found in fruits, vegetables, and dietary supplements.


A speech therapist or a nutritionist can work with you if swallowing problems persist. He or she can develop a diet plan with foods that will not place further strain on your throat muscles.


Exercise and physical therapy

Medicine is one very important way to help manage DM and PM. But there’s more you can do. Physical therapy (PT) can also play a big role in your overall treatment plan. It may help strengthen damaged muscles.

Studies have shown that exercise may be helpful for people living with dermatomyositis or polymyositis. Depending on your condition, it may be recommended as a part of your treatment plan. Based on the research, it can include both aerobic and strength training. Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise routine. Or ask to be referred to a physical therapist.

Mild to moderate exercise under the care of a doctor may offer many benefits, including:

  •  Improved ability to perform daily activities and chores
  •  Enhanced quality of life
  •  Improved strength and balance
  •  An increase in walking speed
  •  Reduced inflammation
  •  No increase in muscle damage

Furthermore, an exercise plan started as soon as 2-3 weeks following a flare-up may be helpful.

Working with a physical therapist

It’s important to partner with a physical therapist familiar with myositis. Ask your doctor for a referral. When you consult with the therapist, it’s important that he or she:

  •  Has experience with DM and PM patients
  •  Is open to answer all of your questions
  •  Works with you and your doctor to set proper goals
  •  Checks your pain level and physical ability
  •  Reviews how you’re doing regularly

Types of training

Your physical therapist will develop a plan that’s tailored specifically for you, and may include the following types of exercises:

  •  Balance and coordination training to help improve posture; may include training for specific tasks
  •  Strength training such as resistance exercises
  •  Relaxation or breathing exercises to help strengthen your diaphragm. This can help you while performing other exercises. It can also help you with other daily tasks
  •  Hydrotherapy (water exercise) is helpful if you suffer from pain. It also lessens the effect of gravity on your body. Exercise can include walking, jogging, or stretching in a pool. A whirlpool bath may also be helpful for sore muscles
  •  Aerobic motion, which can include swimming, group exercise, dancing, and tai chi. Exercise equipment can include an exercise bike, elliptical trainer, or arm bike
  •  Flexibility exercises that include stretching and range of motion movements
  •  Gait training to help improve your walking ability if you have lower-body weakness

Chair yoga

Not all exercise needs to be done while standing up or with expensive equipment. It can be simple and low-impact. In fact, it can be done while seated. Chair yoga is a perfect example. If you are having issues with movement, chair yoga may be a safe and simple way to practice breathing and stretching exercises.

Learn about 8 seated yoga poses you can do from a chair

Important reminder: Always talk with your doctor before starting an exercise routine. And ask him or her to refer you to a physical therapist trained in DM and PM.

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Chemicals that may prevent cell damage. Antioxidants can be natural or man-made and are found in fruits, vegetables, and dietary supplements.


Vitamin A

Plays a role in your vision, immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A is found in vegetables like carrots and broccoli, as well as dairy products.


B Vitamins

An array of vitamins that help the body make energy. B vitamins are found in many foods you eat such as dairy products, fish, poultry, and vegetables.


Vitamin C

Helps protect your body from disease. Vitamin C comes from fruits and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, and potatoes.


Vitamin D

Used by the body to help absorb calcium and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D is found in certain foods and is formed when skin is directly exposed to the sun. It is also available as a supplement.


Vitamin E

A nutrient that helps to protect the body from viruses and bacteria.



A nutrient the body needs to make proteins and DNA. Zinc also helps heal wounds and fights off invading bacteria and viruses.



Protein is found in every part of our body and is needed to build and maintain bones, muscles, and skin. Protein can be found in meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products.



A nutrient that protects and helps the body fight off infection.


Monounsaturated Fat

A healthier fat that can improve blood cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats are found in food and oils such as olive oil, canola oil, avocados, and many nuts.



A mineral needed for many body functions. Iron carries oxygen from our lungs throughout the body (with the protein, hemoglobin). A low iron level affects the body and is called anemia. This can happen from a poor diet or blood loss.



The immune system’s response to an injury that results in pain, redness, and swelling.



A mineral that has many benefits for the body. Calcium keeps bones strong and helps blood and muscles contract and expand.