In Parkinson’s there is degeneration and loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain known as the substantia nigra. One of the functions of this part of the brain is the balancing of different chemical messengers which affect the way you move. People with Parkinson’s disease manufacture inadequate amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The nerves that use dopamine as a neurotransmitter are then unable to work properly. When about 80%of the dopamine has been lost, the symptoms of Parkinson’s appear and the level of dopamine will continue to fall slowly over many years.
On average one person in every 500 is affected by Parkinson’s disease, and 8-10,000 more people are affected by it each year. Most patients are over 40 and it very rarely affects people below this age. The risk rises with age affecting more than 2% of 80 year olds. Both sexes and all races appear to be equally affected. A third of those affected by the disease go on to develop senile dementia. Seriously affected patients may suffer from complications such as pneumonia, septicaemia (blood poisoning), stroke, urinary tract infection and pressure sores and some of these may be fatal.
Research suggests Parkinson’s sufferers may also lack other brain chemicals including serotonin (linked to mood), noradrenaline (linked to blood pressure control) and acetylcholine (linked to mental state).
Besides age, other risk factors may include:
- previous head injury
- impairment of smelling capacity
- obsessive personality
- severe emotional trauma or stress.
- prescription and “recreational” drugs can induce Parkinson type symptoms.
The onset of symptoms is slow and may go unnoticed for several years. Early signs include stiffness of fingers or a stiff shoulder accompanied by stiffness of muscles. Symptoms include a fixed facial expression, wide-eyed stare with infrequent blinking, fluttering of the eyelids, drooling, reduced manual dexterity, illegible handwriting, monotone voice, and rhythmic movement of the fingers, hand, foot, or arm when at rest.
People with Parkinson’s disease often have difficulty getting out of bed or a soft chair, and may tend to stand stooped over and walk leaning forward with limited arm-swing and small, shuffling steps. Depression and decreased mental functioning are also common symptoms in advanced stages.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Co-enzyme Q10||Studies show that in people with early Parkinson’s disease it significantly slowed the progression of the disease, compared with a placebo.||1200mg daily|
|Anti-oxidant formula||Some preliminary studies have indicated that high dietary intakes of anti-oxidant nutrients, are associated with a low risk of Parkinson’s disease.||As directed|
|Vitamin D||People with Parkinson’s disease are at higher than normal risk for osteoporosis and vitamin D deficiency as they often get insufficient sun exposure and have reduced levels of activity that adversely affect calcium metabolism||400 – 1000iu per day|
|Psyllium seed husks||Preliminary research has shown that psyllium seed husks improve constipation and bowel function in people with Parkinson’s disease and constipation. A typical recommendation for psyllium seed husks is 3 to 5 grams taken at night with a one to two glasses of fluid.||3 to 5 grams daily|
|St Johns Wort||Inhibits the reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. St. John’s wort is able to act as an antidepressant, by making more of these neurotransmitters available to the brain.||as directed|
|Valerian||Generally, valerian makes sleep more restful as well as making the transition to sleep easier, but does not tend to increase total time slept, according to studies.||150 – 300mg 45 mins before bedtime|
|B Vitamins||B vitamins are essential for the health of the brain and nervous system.||as directed|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
With Parkinson’s, it’s important to keep as physically and mentally active as possible. In this way, mind and body functions can be maintained to the greatest possible degree. Regular weight-bearing exercise and exercises to increase flexibility and balance may be helpful in preventing osteoporosis and improving the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.
Some people with Parkinson’s disease have a tendency to become depressed and isolate themselves, but it’s vital for Parkinson’s sufferers to remain active and get out as much as possible. Frequent, stimulating interaction with relatives, friends or special interest groups will be beneficial.
Clinical studies have shown that one can enhance the action of L-dopa and improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by modifying the diet. If you are taking a drug that contains levodopa, eat a low-protein breakfast and lunch, followed by a high-protein dinner to enhance the action of levodopa and improve symptoms This dietary approach is now well-accepted, but must be carefully monitored by a qualified healthcare professional in order to avoid deficiencies of protein and certain vitamins and minerals.
Consumption of large amounts of broad beans, might increase the action of L-dopa and possibly lead to L-dopa overdose. Parkinson’s disease patients should, therefore, talk with a doctor before adding broad beans to their diet.
It’s important to eat high-fibre, nutritious food preferably organic, so include 5 to 7 portions of fruit and vegetables in the diet. Eat high quality free range meat and poultry and include oily fish, rich in omega 3.
Suggested further reading:
- Parkinsons explained
- Stem cell research