Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological condition affecting movements such as walking, talking and writing. Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system which causes tremors and rigidity.
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What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Do you recognise the man in the photos on this article? Yes, it is Michael J Fox. He has Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is not an ‘old man’s disease’, many younger people are struck down with this neurological illness as well.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition affecting movements such as walking, talking and writing. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system which causes tremors and rigidity.
The disease affects about one in 500 people; men and women equally being affected. Approximately one percent of people over 60 have Parkinson’s. However, approximately 10 percent of those with the disease are under age 40. My mother’s older aunt had Parkinson’s when I grew up as a child, we used to call her “aunt Anne with the shaking hands”, she always wore sweaters she made herself and sent me a birthday card each year which was impossible to read!
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
About 70 percent of people with Parkinson’s have a tremor. Tremors usually begin in one hand or arm and are more likely to occur when the part of the body affected is relaxed. They usually decrease or disappear when the affected part is being used and often become more noticeable when a person is anxious or excited.
Muscular rigidity or stiffness is a common early sign in people with Parkinson’s. People may experience, because of rigidity. Some people find their posture becomes stooped, or that their face becomes stiff, making facial expressions more difficult. Stiffness can affect everyday tasks and can sometimes be quite painful. It can lead to deep aching in the arms and legs.
Slowness of Movement
People with Parkinson’s often find that initiating movement becomes more difficult or that it takes them longer to perform movements, or it affects rapid limb movements. Lack of co-ordination when making movements can also be a problem. Bradykinesia (slow movements) can cause a face which is flat/free from expression, hard to roll over in bed, loss of sense of balance.
Other symptoms may include constipation, tired and depressed, as well as experiencing unusual skin sensations such as tingling or a buzzing sensation.
Disease Process Underlying Parkinson’s
The process of Parkinsonism development is typically slow-paced but progressive, with clinical symptoms tending to manifest relatively late as the disease progresses. The hallmark of Parkinson’s has been the degeneration of the dopamine-producing nerve cells, found in the relatively small part of nervous tissue in the basal ganglia, called the substantia nigra (SN).
Parkinson’s occurs when the myelin sheaths (the cells which make up the nerve cells) of neurons are damaged by oxidation. Oxidation is a process caused by the excessive generation of free radicals. Neurotoxins has been implicated in the development and progression of the disease process. Usually, by the time Parkinson’s has been diagnosed, 75% of the dopaminergic (i.e. dopamine-using) neurons in the SN of Parkinson’s patients have already been Myelin sheaths are 80% primarily composed of phospholipids and glycolipids, which are compound lipids.
Pharmaceutical treatment: Levodopa
Currently, Parkinson’s is managed mainly through dopamine replacement therapy – pharmaceutical drugs are aimed at replacing dopamine in the brain or mimicking its actions at dopamine receptors. Most commonly used drugs combo: the dopamine precursor levodopa in combination with carbidopa (Sinemet). Levodopa is usually effective for motor symptoms at the beginning, but over time (2-5yrs) tends to cause side-effects, The vast majority of Parkinson’s patients experience benefits initially, but rarely do the benefits persist, typically, after 2-5 years on levodopa drugs the patient’s responses become erratic. Nausea may develop, and muscular actions which feature excessive and uncontrollable movements, mental confusion, “freezing” and inability to move, low blood pressure episodes, sleep disturbances, and hallucinations. These side-effect symptoms can become so disabling long term that surgical treatment becomes the only apparent option for restoring quality of life. Other adverse side effects usually pose a major ongoing challenge to the Parkinson’s patient.For example, the combined effects of the disease and the drugs used to treat it produce sleep problems in an estimated 70% of patients and daytime hallucinations in about 30%.
High Homocysteine and Parkinson’s
Are you a Parkinson patient reading this article, and currently taking L-dopa perhaps? Do at least this: the next time you visit your doctor, insist that they do a fasting homocysteine test. Parkinson’s patients treated with levodopa sometimes develop elevated plasma homocysteine. Hyperhomocysteinemia is a major risk factor for vascular disease. Dangerously elevated plasma homocysteine may provide a key to the increased mortality attributed to vascular disease in patients with Parkinson’s.
Persons seeking optimal heart-health should strive their plasma ( blood) levels to reach: under 6 – 7 micro-moles per litre.
Each 3 mm increase in homocysteine levels (above 6 mm per litre) is associated with a 35% increase in heart attack or stroke risk.
High homocysteine is a particularly lethal combination if found in a person with high blood pressure and an elevated fasting cholesterol test.
These findings also suggests patients taking levodopa might benefit significantly from: a Vitamin B-12 Complex formula, containing Vitamin B6, B12 and Folate, all of which have shown to reduce elevated homocysteine. Take 3 to 4 capsules twice per day if your reading comes back too low
Parkinson’s Disease Treatment
Besides taking the straight medical approach and learning to expect the inevitable from occurring, you do have various treatment options. When considering the natural treatment approach to Parkinson’s, like any complex and chronic illness, the best results will be obtained when your complaints are tackled from a holistic viewpoint, i.e., from a dietary viewpoint, correct any structural problems, correct any nutritional deficiencies, detoxification may be required, and eventually to correct the lifestyle habits which may underpin the whole problem. The rational management of PD requires:
especially to lower calories. A trial of a 6-month low-protein diet, reduce protein intake in the morning and afternoon (restricting dietary protein to the evening meal) has been used to enhance the effectiveness of L-dopa therapy. Once you have worked at it, this diet may well require a reduction in the dosage of L-dopa.Ina 1988 report entitled “Case-control study of early life dietary factors in Parkinson’s disease” published in Archives of Neurology, researchers discovered that simple dietary sources of vitamin E profoundly reduced the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Compared to those who didn’t, those who consumed diets rich in nuts had a risk of Parkinson’s disease only 39% of those who avoided nuts. Consumers of seed based salad dressings had a risk only 30% of normal, while consumption of plums was associated with a risk reduced to an incredible 24% of the average population.
In a recent study appearing in Annals of Neurology, researchers from Harvard demonstrated an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease in men consuming higher levels of dairy products compared to those consuming less. In fact, the risk for this disease almost doubles in the high dairy product consumers. This is powerful information. Avoiding dairy products may substantially reduce your risk for a profoundly debilitating disease.
Diet and Parkinson’s: New evidence that pesticides play a role.
A study had found that rats exposed to the organic pesticide, rotenone, had developed Parkinson-like symptoms as well as changes in the brain closely resembling those seen in Parkinson’s disease in humans. The study, conducted by Dr. Greenamyre was first reported at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, America’s largest gathering of brain researchers. Rotenone is widely used on home-grown fruits and vegetables, on family pets (flea powders), and in lakes and rivers to kill unwanted fish. While it is much too soon to say that the pesticide, rotenone, causes or contributes to Parkinson’s disease in humans, the scientists said the finding was “the best evidence thus far that chemicals in the environment may be factors in the cause of Parkinson’s disease”.
The modern Kiwi diet is suspect, with many vegetables and fruits and grain sources containing various pesticide residues. One could wonder then if consuming only organic produce could lead to an decreased risk for developing Parkinson’s.
Re-balancing essential fatty acid intake
Eat less of the omega 6 oils, for example corn and soy, or deep fried oils (trans-fatty acids) such as fish and chips. Consume more omega-3, they are the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins are found in flax seed oil, walnut oil, and marine plankton and fatty fish. Octacosanol (a component of wheat-germ oil), 1-2 mg/day, may reduce Parkinson’s symptoms, without causing side effects. A larger dose of octacosanol (5 mg, 3 times per day) was effective in 3 of 10 patients in a double-blind trial, but caused side effects or exacerbated L-dopa/carbidopa-related dyskinesia in some patients. Try a dessertspoon of wheat germ Vitamin E oil daily.
This naturally occurring amino acid, called glutathione, is a vital brain chemical, and is also profoundly deficient in Parkinson’s disease. And yet, this deficiency seems to receive very little attention. Dr. David Perlmutter was the first doctor to administer intravenous glutathione to Parkinson’s patients in 1998. The effectiveness of this brain antioxidant in Parkinson’s disease is nothing short of miraculous. Following even a single dosage of intravenous glutathione, many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are rapidly and visibly improved, often in as little as 15 minutes. Injections are typically repeated from 2 times a week to as often as daily.
Glutathione is a critically important brain chemical, and has been found to clearly be one of the most important brain antioxidants. Whilst I used to practice with medical doctors at a integrative medicine clinic some years ago, I noticed significant improvements with our Parkinson’s patients receiving Dr. Perlmutter’s IV glutathione treatment protocol. Our patients had been experiencing profound improvements with respect to reduction of rigidity, increased mobility, improved ability to speak, less depression, and decreased tremor.
Glutathione, due to its ability to act as a premium antioxidant, has the added benefit of protecting the brain from free radical damage, thus slowing the progression of the underlying illness. There are essentially no reported side effects of giving intravenous glutathione.
(Vitamin C 3,000 mg/day) plus Vitamin E (Vitamin E – 3,200 IU/day) may slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Several uncontrolled trials show promising results with Parkinson’s improving with the daily addition of a good quality Antioxidant formulation.
The Four Key Brain – “Smart Nutrients”
With a formal understanding of the biochemistry of energy production, nutritional researchers have explored a variety of interventions designed to “jump start” the lethargic brain cells, often with dramatic results. And best of all, most of the research has involved non-pharmacological products. The following nutrients can also be found together in a good brand name
The most promising of these cellular activators are:
According to Dr. M. Heal at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Parkinson’s patients demonstrate a profound deficiency of coenzyme Q10 which may partially explain why their brains produce an inadequate supply of dopamine. Orally administered CoQ10 is readily absorbed, well tolerated, and measurably increases cellular energy production. Are you taking a prescribed drug which lowers your cholesterol? Then you are probably deficient in this important vitamin!Phosphatidylserine is one of the key components of nerve cell membranes -the site where brain cells both receive and transmit chemical messages. PS is a phospholipid (A fat) that plays a key role in electro-chemical transmission between the neurons. Dosage is about 50mg per day.
Good sources of PS are organic or free range egg yolks and soy lecithin. I would recommend a dessertspoon twice daily of a high quality lecithin granules. Acetyl-L-carnitine enhances energy production in damaged nerve cells. But in addition, it is one of the most important and specific antioxidants for Parkinson’s disease, according to Dr. Perlmutter, Neurologist renowned for his work with nutritional treatment of complex neurological disorders. . Several studies have re- affirmed the potency of acetyl-L-carnitine as an important antioxidant specifically useful in Parkinson’s disease. Dosage is about 400mg per day.
NADH is an enzyme which has a pivotal role in energy production in all living cells, and particularly in brain cells. Pioneering work published by Dr. Birkmayer in 1993 revealed just how potent NADH can be as part of a comprehensive program for the Parkinson’s patient. Of 885 patients who received NADH in his study, an astounding 80% showed “moderate to excellent improvements in their disability. The dosage for NADH is 5mg given twice daily.
It has long been recognised that most Parkinson’s patients manifest flaws in their ability to detoxify various chemicals to which they are exposed. Parkinson’s disease is much more prevalent in individuals with a history of occupational exposure to agricultural pesticides or various other toxic chemicals. While not every person exposed to pesticides or other toxins develops Parkinson’s disease, those unfortunate few who harbour an inherited flaw in their detoxification pathways are at far greater risk to the brain damaging effects of a wide variety of toxins.
There are many ways you can detoxify the liver. But common sense ways are to reduce or preferably stop alcohol, junk type foods and caffeine, eat more fish and chicken and take some liver herbs like St Mary’s thistle or lesser known Ayurvedic herbs such as picrorhiza or Andrographis. See your naturopath about going onto a short two to three week cleanse.
With good medical treatment Parkinson’s has a limited affect, if any, on life expectancy and may short term initially improve, but will fail to improve the quality of life overall. With good quality holistic nutritional and medical support along with a positive outlook, Parkinson’s patients can expect lead to lead a productive life for many years after diagnosis.
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