What is Myasthenia Gravis?

Myasthenia Gravis is a chronic autoimmune disease.

According to NIH the disease is characterised by varying degrees of weakness of the skeletal muscles of the body.

So what is the cause of Myasthenia Gravis?

Basically it is the impairment of the acetylcholine transmission at the neuromuscular junctions.

Acetylcholine is the chemical that motor neurons release in order to activate muscles.

The immune system produces antibodies that damage acetylcholine receptors on the muscle side of the junction—thus preventing transmission of the nerve impulse across the junction to the muscle.

What are the symptoms?

In 80-90% of the patients the External ocular muscles are the most likely to be affected.

These are the six muscles that control the movement of the eye.

Also affected are the muscles you use to chew, speak, swallow, breathe and exhibit facial expression.

It tends to affect the  proximal limb muscles as well—the muscles closer to the body’s midline.

Below are the common symptoms of the affected muscles in Myasthenia Gravis:

  • Ocular muscles – drooping eyelids, double vision and strabismus
  • Bulbar muscles – chewing difficulties, dysphagia, nasal voice and changes in facial expression
  • Cervical muscles – sore neck and difficulty in maintaining “head up” posture
  • Upper limb muscles – wrist drop, inability to extend wrist and fingers and difficulty in grasping objects
  • Respiratory muscles – shortness of breath and chest oppression
  • Lower limb muscles – difficulty in raising leg

How can Chinese medicine treat Myasthenia Gravis?

Chinese medicine is an effective for treating the symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis.

Chinese medicine may not be able to cure the disease but it can greatly help to manage and improve the symptoms.

It can also help improve the wellbeing and quality of life of the patient, and prevent the worsening and recurrence of the disease.

After the successful completion of the prescribed treatment plan, the patient can resume a normal, symptom-free life.

The Chinese medicine treatment includes Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, oriental dietary and lifestyle advice.

Exercise recommendations including Tai-chi, Qigong, or Yoga will benefit massively.

Exercise for Myasthenia GravisExercise for Myasthenia GravisExercise for Myasthenia GravisExercise for Myasthenia Gravis

Exercise for Myasthenia GravisCommon Chinese medicine patterns for Myasthenia Gravis in my clinic include:

  1. Spleen Qi deficiency – digestive disorders and weaknesses
  2. Kidney Qi/Yang deficiency – adrenal fatigue and exhaustion
  3. Liver yin deficient heat – impact from emotions and mental stresses

Chinese medicine is always tailored specifically for the person being treated…..

….each case is unique and may require a different treatment strategy.

The choice of treatment for the disorder is also based on several factors including:

  •  age
  • overall condition of the patient’s health
  • severity of symptoms
  • and rate of disease progression 

There are no surprises…all these factors are discussed at the initial consultation to achieve the best results for you.

How can Chinese medicine help if you’re already on western medicine?

Western medicine treatment of Myasthenia Gravis can control symptoms and improve the overall condition of a patient—yet the side effects of the anti-cholinesterases or immuno-suppressants take a toll on the body.

By combining the two medical approaches, we can reduce the side effects, and improve the patient’s response to western medication.

Astragalus for Myasthenia GravisAstragalus for Myasthenia GravisAstragalus for Myasthenia Gravis

Chinese herbs like Huang Qi (astragalus) and Dang Shen (codonopsis pilosula) can be used in the supporting herbal formulations—they regulate the body and benefit the immune function.

Acupuncture can also help to stimulate a person’s spleen and stomach system.

In Chinese medicine we adopt this strategy to strengthen the fatiqued muscles and the nervous system—this empowers the body to become more robust and heal naturally.

The stimulation of the acupuncture points like “Hegu” or LI4 is an excellent way to promote “Qi” and “blood” flow to fast track healing.

What diet is recommended if you have Myasthenia Gravis?

Since the majority of Myasthenia Gravis conditions are related to depletion and deficiency of Spleen Qi, bitter and cold natured food are advised against.

This includes foods such as:  cucumber, water chestnut, persimmon, water-melon, tomato, peppermint, and bitter gourd.

Raw and chilled fruit and vegetables should be avoided as well.

We recommend food that is easy to digest and fortifies the spleen.

These foods include: congee, sweet potato, Chinese yam, Chinese dates (jujube), millet and black sesame seed.

To understand more on Chinese Dietary principles click here.

Due to the nature of this disease most cases of Myasthenia Gravis require ongoing treatment.

However Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture can help to improve the overall quality of life.

It helps you maintain your vitality in general health and reduce dependence on heavy medication.

If you’d like to find out more about the benefits of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in treating Myasthenia Gravis, call us on 1300 432 639.

About the Author Dr Scott Ling

Dr. Scott Ling is the Chief Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist and the founder of Sustain Health. He holds a PHD Doctorate Degree in Chinese medicine from Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine. Dr Ling's extensive qualifications also include a Master of Reproductive Medicine (western medicine). Due to his unique medical background, Dr Ling’s approach stresses on the integration of Chinese and Western medicine to ensure patients get the greatest benefits from the best of both medical systems.