Living With Polio
Post-Polio Health, Volume 26, Number 4, Fall 2010
Ask Dr. Maynard
Frederick M. Maynard, MD
Question: I have seen advertisements for products that claim to “cure” PPS. From all I know, there is no cure. Do these products have any beneficial ingredients that may help us?
Answer: One must always be skeptical of anything advertised as a “cure” for PPS, because it is a condition that almost certainly has many causes. Most advertised products are nutritional “super-supplements” and/or herbal remedies. What some of them may do is decrease or alleviate PPS symptoms in some people, particularly if they correct a deficiency that is producing their symptoms.
If disabling symptoms end and a polio survivor can exercise and become more active, they may even regain some lost strength and function. Remember PPS symptoms are not specific and can be imitated by many other conditions – from vitamin deficiency to depression to even early cancer. See Post-Polio Health, Vol. 25, No. 2 (www.post-polio.org/edu/pphnews/PPH25-2sp09p4-5.pdf).
Regarding beneficial ingredients in advertised products: Most of these nutritional supplements contain some type(s) of antioxidants, which are compounds that have a neutralizing capacity on free radicals. Free radicals are circulating compounds in the blood and cells that are produced as a result of energy use by the body’s cells and have a destructive effect on cell health. All diseases and injuries, including vigorous exercise, increase free radical production, and the body requires more antioxidants to neutralize them and maintain stable cell health (also known as homeostasis). Anything that promotes antioxidant capacity and activity within cells is probably good for health.
Some products contain glutathione (GSH) or promote its production. GSH is the most powerful antioxidant that occurs naturally in all cells and is made by most cells. Probably any supplement, as well as certain foods and lifestyle behaviors that promote the production of GSH, is helpful for maintaining good health. Nevertheless, specific studies are needed to document how valuable these are for health maintenance and potential disease treatment.
The best thing I can say about the use of the complementary and alternative medicine products, many of which are sold through marketing programs with questionable claims, is that they have little risk of harm and may have some benefit to individuals that can only be discovered by a “try it and see” approach.