Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative disorder of the nervous system, in which voluntary movement is impaired or lost. Although the disease may come to affect your entire body, it most noticeably weakens your ability to control motions categorized as semivoluntary: keeping your jaw in place so that the mouth stays closed; swing- ing your arms as you walk; moving your tongue so that your speech is clear and pre- cise. Parkinson’s disease rarely affects people under sixty years of age, and men are about 30 percent more likely to develop it than women are.
Although muscle movement is an extraordinarily complex process that involves mil- lions of nerve cells, this disease pinpoints relatively small sections of the brain, called the basal cell ganglia. When the nerve cells there begin to deteriorate, they create a chemical upset that can ultimately render the whole body disabled. In a healthy brain, two neurotransmitters, called acetylcholine and dopamine, work in tandem to regulate muscle actions. Acetylcholine helps muscles contract—without it, we’d be limp, unable to stand or even sit down—while dopamine tempers acetylcholine’s effect. But the brain deterioration of Parkinson’s throws this chemical duo off balance, reducing the quan- tities of dopamine and resulting in muscles that are too tightly contracted.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s develop gradually, usually over a period of ten or ﬁf- teen years. The ﬁrst sign is usually a tremor in one hand, which disappears when you move the hand or go to sleep. As the disorder progresses, the trembling is more pro- nounced and spreads to other parts of the body, usually the arms, the legs, and the head. The arms and the legs, in addition to shaking, may feel heavy and rigid, and you gradually lose the ability to write smoothly and speak clearly. As your muscles tighten, you may have trouble moving your bowels regularly. You may shufﬂe as you walk, with your head, neck, and shoulders hunched over and your arms held to your sides. One or both hands develop the characteristic “pill-rolling” movement, in which the thumb and the foreﬁnger rub against each other, one making a clockwise circular motion, the other moving counterclockwise. Parkinson’s often keeps the facial muscles in a nearly constant state of contraction; the face may take on a masklike appearance, with staring, unblinking eyes and a drooling mouth. Eventually, everyday tasks become dif- ﬁcult to manage. Simply getting out of a chair or speaking a clear sentence may be impossible. Although the muscular debility in these advanced stages is overwhelm- ing, the person’s mind is unaffected, and the affected body parts usually don’t hurt or even feel numb.
Scientists still haven’t determined exactly what causes the nerve cells of the basal cell ganglia to deteriorate, resulting in low dopamine levels, but we can base some tentative theories on several clues. For one, the incidence of Parkinson’s is rising at an extraordinary rate: the percentage of cases in the United States has increased ten- fold since the 1970s. This soaring rate suggests that the disease is strongly inﬂuenced by environmental factors. Finally, medications—both prescription and illicit—and environmental toxins are known to induce tremors in individuals. Given these facts, it seems likely that a poisoned body system greatly increases the risk of incurring Parkinson’s. Bodies can be made toxic from exposure to heavy metals, carbon monoxide, pesticides, insecticides, and drugs; they can also be poisoned by a poor diet or allergic responses to food. Finally, free radicals, which destroy or damage cells, are a suspect in any degenerative disease.
The most common therapy for this disease is levodopa (L-dopa), which is sold in the United States under the brand name Sinemet. Levodopa is taken up by the brain and changed into dopamine. For some patients, it signiﬁcantly improves mobility and allows them to function more normally. As Parkinson’s disease worsens over time, larger doses must be taken. The drug can have debilitating side effects for some patients, such as involuntary movements, tics, and hallucinations. Also carbidopa, the other active ingredient (besides levodopa) in the drug Sinemet, works to prolong the effects of levodopa and help reduce its side effects. Carbidopa works by slowing the conversion of levodopa to dopamine in the bloodstream so that more of it reaches the brain. Another common drug is Comtan (entacapone), which has the same effect as carbidopa when taken along with levodopa. It blocks a key enzyme that is responsi- ble for breaking down levodopa before it reaches the brain. Similarly, the drug deprenyl (Eldepryl) can enhance and prolong the levodopa response by delaying the breakdown of levodopa-formed dopamine. Other medications such as Parlodel (bromocriptine), Requip (ropinirole), Permax (pergolide), and Mirapex (pramipex- ole dihydrocholoride) work directly on cells of the substantia nigra in the brain in a way that imitates dopamine. Still other drugs like Artane (trihexyphenidyl), Symme- trel (amantadine), and Cogentin (benztropine) are used to help improve tremors. The most common side effects of drugs for Parkinson’s disease are hallucinations, men- tal confusion, and dyskinesia. Surgery is generally used as a last resort. This involves destroying certain parts of the brain that are overactive in this disease. A less inva- sive option than destroying certain brain tissues is deep brain stimulation, where a thin electrode is implanted into the brain to block signals that cause symptoms of Parkin- son’s disease, especially tremors.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, you should be under the care of an expe- rienced neurologist. He or she will usually want to place you on medications that reduce the symptoms of the disease. Sometimes these drugs are highly effective, but they almost always have strong side effects, so it’s important to choose a doctor who lis- tens to your concerns and helps you make informed decisions about the medications
A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology that analyzed data con- cerning pesticide use in California counties reported that there
was an increased mor- tality rate from Parkin- son’s disease in counties that used agricultural pesticides. The same study also reported that Califor- nia growers use approximately 250 million pounds of pes- ticides annually, accounting for a quar- ter of all pesticides used in the United States.
or the procedures you try. You should also support your body with good nutrition and take up a cleansing regime to rid yourself of possible toxins. Speciﬁc supplements, such as coenzyme Q10, should also be highly considered. In addition, holistic doctors report impressive results with intravenous glutathione therapy.
• Rigid or heavy-feeling arms and legs
• A “pill-rolling” motion of the hand and the thumb
• Difﬁculty speaking
• A shufﬂing gait, with the arms close to the body
• A stooped posture
• A masklike facial expression
• Eventually, an inability to perform most voluntary and semivoluntary movements
There are no deﬁnitive causes known for Parkinson’s disease. Suspect causes or aggra- vating factors may include
• Insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides
• Heavy metals
• Carbon-monoxide poisoning
• Inﬂammatory brain disorder
• Free radicals
• Poor nutrition
• Food allergies
Studies have found that eating most of the day’s protein intake at dinner and keeping protein levels low earlier in the day is helpful. This type of diet should be supervised by a health-care professional.
Raw foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) are high in ﬁber, which will keep you regular, and contain antioxidants that ﬁght free radical damage. Follow a diet that is composed of 50 to 75 percent raw, organic foods. If you can’t ﬁnd or afford organic products, make sure to wash everything in clean water before eating.
When you do eat protein, focus on beans, legumes, soy products, or ﬁsh (from a clean water source). Note: The consumption of beans has been found to lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Use cold-pressed oils in salad dressings. They’re high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that’s important in the prevention and the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Fresh vegetable juices are excellent for their mineral content.
Eat live unsweetened yogurt or another cultured product every day. The “friendly”
bacteria in cultured foods will help your digestive system to work smoothly.
Drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours. Clean—not tap—water will ﬂush toxins and other impurities from your body and will also lend general support to every body system.
The following tests help assess possible reasons for Parkinson’s disease: Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen,
progesterone)—saliva, blood, or urine
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially CoQ10)—blood
Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal Toxic metals—hair or urine analysis
Pesticides and other environmental toxins—urine or blood
Food to Avoid
It has been observed that a high percentage of people with Parkinson’s have an over- abundance of protein in their diets. Many patients who stop eating animal meats have noted an improvement in muscle control and coordination.
Do not eat processed or junk food, which contains high levels of chemicals and other toxins.
Avoid artiﬁcial sweeteners and preservatives that are known as “excitotoxins.” These include aspartame and monosodium glutamate.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, as they can disrupt neurological function. Overeating leads to a dangerous number of free radicals in your body. It’s never a
good idea to stuff yourself at mealtimes, but people with Parkinson’s should try to keep caloric intake low, while maintaining an excellent nutritional status. Following the rec- ommendations to avoid animal meats and processed food will go a long way toward keeping your calorie count down.
Food allergies are a possible aggravator of Parkinson’s disease. Read the Food Aller- gies section, and follow the elimination diet there. If you feel better after abstaining from certain foods, keep them out of your diet.
Every month, do a raw foods fast for two to three days (under a doctor’s supervision), meaning that you eat nothing but raw foods and juices (although you can have hot herbal teas). This will help move toxins out of your body and will help step up your digestive process so that you absorb nutrients more efﬁciently.
Regularly consume fresh vegetable and fruit juices, water, broths, and herbal teas.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Parkinson’s Disease
Note: These supplements should be used under the supervision of a doctor.
Super Prescription #1 Coenzyme Q10
Take 1,200 mg daily. Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that has been shown in one preliminary study to reduce the progression of early-stage Parkinson’s disease.
In a trial of peo- ple with early Parkinson’s disease, the combination of vitamins C (750 mg four times daily) and E (800 IU four times daily) was able to delay the need for drug ther- apy (i.e., L-dopa) by an average of about two and a half years, when compared with people not taking the vitamins.
Super Prescription #2 Vitamin C
Take 750 mg four times daily. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that prevents free radical damage.
Super Prescription #3 Vitamin E-complex
Take 800 IU four times daily. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that prevents free radical damage.
Super Prescription #4 Greens formula
Take an organic greens formula containing one or more of the super green foods, such as spirulina, chlorella, and wheatgrass. This approach supports detoxiﬁcation.
Super Prescription #5 Essential fatty acids
Take a ﬁsh oil product that will provide at least 1 gram of DHA and EPA daily. Flaxseed oil and evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis) are additional options.
Super Prescription #6 Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH)
Take 5 mg twice daily. Preliminary research has found that this supplement improves brain function and reduces symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Super Prescription #7 N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
Take 500 mg three times daily. NAC increases levels of glutathione, an important antioxidant.
placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial led by Clifford Shults, M.D., of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, looked at a total of eighty people with Parkinson’s disease at ten centers across the country to determine whether coenzyme Q10 is safe and whether it can slow the rate of functional decline. During the study period, the group that received the largest dose of coenzyme Q10 (1,200 mg/day) had 44 percent less decline in mental function, motor (movement) func- tion, and ability to carry out activities of daily living, such as feeding or dressing themselves. The greatest effect was on activities of daily living. The side effects of supplementing CoQ10 were mild, and no one had to reduce his or her dosage. Researchers believe that coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) works by improving the mito- chondria, the energy production unit of cells. Mitochondria function is impaired in people with this disease. Coenzyme Q10 also has potent antioxidant effects.
Ginkgo biloba improves blood ﬂow and has potent antioxidant properties. Take a standardized extract containing 24 percent ﬂavone glycosides, and take 60 to 80 mg twice daily.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is another detoxifying herb that allows your liver to throw off accumulated toxins and pre- vents damage from pharmaceutical treatment. Take 250 mg three times daily of an 80 to 85 percent silymarin extract.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) contains a rich source of antiox- idants and substances that assist detoxiﬁcation. Drink the organic tea regularly (2 cups or more daily), or take 500 to 1,500 mg of the capsule form.
Calcium and magnesium are important for nervous system function. Take 1,000 mg of calcium and 500 mg of magnesium.
Calming teas can help you deal with the stress produced by a degenerative disorder. Try passionﬂower (Passiﬂora incar- nata), skullcap, or valerian.
Consult with a holistic doctor for intravenous glutathione treatment. Glutathione is one of the body’s most potent antiox- idants, and some doctors report beneﬁt for people with Parkin- son’s disease from this nontoxic therapy.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C, or 12C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improve-
ment, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consultation with a homeo- pathic practitioner is advised.
Argentum Nitricum is for people who lose their balance and have uncoordinated movement as early symptoms. Tremors of the hands may prevent them from writing. It is also helpful for tremors that appear periodically.
Causticum is for slow paralysis, with the right side being more affected, and hand tremors that are worse when writing.
Gelsemium (Gelsemium sempervirens) is for tremors, difﬁculty controlling the tongue and the eyes, and a staggering walk.
Helleborus is for very slow speech. The patient appears to be in a deep fog. Mercurius Solubilis or Vivus is helpful if your hands are trembling so much that
it is difﬁcult to eat or drink. You have slow or stammering speech.
Natrum Muriaticum is for hand tremors that occur when you write. You constantly nod your head and drop things easily. You suppress your emotions.
Plumbum is for progressive paralysis and muscle wasting. Cramping accompanies the paralysis.
Rhus Toxicodendron will ease muscle stiffness (usually accompanied by little or no trembling) that feels better when the affected body part is in motion. You ﬁnd it hard to walk on ﬁrst attempt but are successful once motion is started.
Acupressure or acupuncture from a qualif ied practitioner is highly advised for improved nerve function.
• Gallbladder 20 will stimulate better coordination of the nerves and the mus- cles.
• Stomach 36 helps you digest and absorb food properly.
Enjoy a lymphatic massage on a daily basis. It will drain toxic build-up from fatty deposits; better still, a massage can keep you in touch with your body during a time when you may feel estranged from it.
As with most body-wide disorders, it’s best to work the entire foot for Parkinson’s treatment. If you have limited time or want to concentrate on a few speciﬁc areas, work the brain and the spine regions to stimulate blood ﬂow and strengthen the central nerv- ous system.
Lavender, jasmine, rose, and geranium all help reduce stress. Use them in baths, dif- fusers, massages, or any way you like.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
In the early stages of Parkinson’s, yoga is a good choice for stress reduction, because it offers the additional beneﬁt of stretching your muscles and improving coordination.
Meditation is a perfect technique for people who are more sedentary.
Current research is underway for the use of the macuna bean. Macuna beans (Mucana pruriens) have been used in Brazil and India by traditional healers for people with Parkin- son’s disease. These beans are a natural source of L-dopa, as well as a rich source of vitamin E. They appear to have similar beneﬁts to L-dopa pharmaceutical treat- ment, but further research will clarify their effectiveness.
After a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, you may feel like withdrawing. Although some quiet, private time may be helpful for a while, try to stay engaged with your usual activities. If that becomes impossible, at least try to keep meeting with friends and family members. Their support is crucial to your health.
Bach Flower Remedies
Following are some suggestions,determine the best remedy for your particular needs. Once you’ve chosen a rem- edy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Take Rescue Remedy to see you calmly through the shock of a Parkinson’s diag- nosis or through any crisis periods of the illness.
If fear of the future causes you to dwell excessively on past good times, to the extent that you neglect your current life, take Honeysuckle.
Oak is for people who are usually brave in the face of adversity but who feel that they can no longer put up a ﬁght against their illness.
• Some form of regular movement is quite beneﬁcial during all the stages of Parkinson’s. Walking is appropriate for the early and the middle stages; for a more advanced case, passive stretching and movements, usually carried out by a physical therapist, keep the body in the best shape possible.
• Plan ahead. Install guardrails and banisters in your house, and invest in a few chairs with high arms to help keep yourself mobile as long as possible.
Among children ages ﬁve and under, 60 percent of poisoning exposures are by nonpharma- ceutical products, such as cosmetics, cleaning substances, plants, foreign bodies and toys, pesticides, art supplies, and alco- hol. The remaining 40 percent are from pharmaceuticals.