Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system. Nerve cells in the brain that control movement deteriorate and die, causing problems with movement, especially tremors in the hands and rigidity in the face. The disease affects men and women equally, primarily after age 60. However, about 10% of people with the disease are under age 40. Symptoms become worse over time, although the disease usually progresses gradually. No cure is available, but drug therapy can help alleviate the symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms:

Tremor, often beginning with a mild shaking in the hand
Loss of balance
Stiffness and rigid limbs
Walking problems
Slow movement
Not blinking

Secondary symptoms may include the following:
Memory loss
Sleep disturbances
Speech, breathing, swallowing problems
Stooped posture.

What Causes It?:

The cause of Parkinson's disease is unknown. The disease, however, is characterized by loss of brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) dopamine, which affects muscle activity. Risk factors include having a relative with Parkinson's, being exposed to certain pesticides and herbicides, age, and reduced levels of estrogen in women.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office:

Since no test can positively identify Parkinson's, your health care provider will rely largely on interviews with you and your family. Your health care provider may order brain scans to measure dopamine activity. Genetic testing may help identify a specific illness (like Huntington's disease) linked to the disease. Tests may be needed to rule out other disorders that cause similar symptoms.

Treatment Options:

Exercise, especially intensive exercise, has been shown to improve symptoms and help maintain balance and mobility. Walking, swimming, jogging, or even dancing can be beneficial. Because people with Parkinson's disease have low levels of vitamin D, they are at risk of osteoporosis. Lifting weights can help reduce that risk. Your doctor may recommend an exercise program for you.

Drug Therapies:

Several drugs treat the symptoms of Parkinson's, but they do not cure the disease. It is quite common for your health care provider to change medications and adjust dosages. Certain drugs used for the treatment of other diseases, especially glaucoma, heart disease, and high blood pressure, can influence the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Sometimes doctors may try to delay drug therapy, because the drugs tend to become less effective over time. Among the drugs used are:
Levodopa (L-dopa) and carbidopa, which increase amounts of dopamine in the brain. With long-term use, the period where the drug is effective gets shorter (wearing off effect), and some people may experience involuntary movements, called dyskinesia. Continuous infusion of levodopa into the small intestine of Parkinson's patients markedly reduces motor fluctuations over oral therapy.
Selective monoamine oxidase type (MAO-B) inhibitors, which can delay the intro of levodopa by about 9 months.
Dopamine agonists, which mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain.
Selegiline (Eldepryl), which delays the breakdown of dopamine and increases the effectiveness of levodopa and carbidopa.
Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors, which block an enzyme that breaks down dopamine.
Botulinum toxin, which may reduce jaw tremor, dystonia, and other conditions associated with Parkinson's.
Anticholinergic drugs, which help control symptoms.
Amantadine, which improves muscle control and lessens stiffness

Psychotherapy can help you cope with associated conditions such as depression. Speech, physical, and occupational therapy may help.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies may provide some relief of symptoms and slow progression of the disease.

Nutrition and Supplements:

A low protein diet helps the body use levodopa and carbidopa most efficiently, so people who take these drugs are advised to control their intake of protein, and eat most protein in the evening and very little at breakfast or lunch. Your doctor should monitor your diet to make sure you get enough nutrients. In addition, a fiber supplement may help avoid constipation, which is a common symptom of Parkinson's.

Because many supplements may interact with medications you take for Parkinson's, or may only be effective at particular doses, do not take any supplements, even vitamins, without your doctor's guidance.
Coenzyme Q10. Several studies suggest that supplementing with coenzyme Q10 (1,200 mg per day), a substance made by the body that helps cells get energy from oxygen, can slow the progress of Parkinson's, especially in the early stages.
In one study, high doses of antioxidants vitamin C (1,000 mg three times a day) and vitamin E (800 IU four times per day) helped postpone the need for drug therapy. But taking vitamin E alone did not seem to have the same effect. More studies are needed to confirm the benefits.
Cytidinediphosphocholine, or CDP-choline, is another substance made in the body that appears to increase dopamine levels. In one study, people who took 400 mg three times per day were able to lower their levodopa dose.
L-tyrosine is an amino acid that converts to levodopa in the body. One preliminary study showed good results with 45 mg per pound of body weight as a dose, but more research is needed. L-tyrosine should NOT be taken with levodopa.
L-methionine (5 g per day), another amino acid, may also reduce some symptoms, but it may interfere with the action of levodopa.
Phosphatidylserine (PS), a phospholipid, is made by the body and is important to brain function. People with Parkinson's often have low levels of PS. One study showed that taking 100 mg of PS three times per day improved mood and brain function in people with Parkinson's.
Omega-3 fatty acids (1 tbs. per day or 1,000 mg one to two times per day), such as those found in fish oil, help maintain neurological health. High doses can have a blood-thinning effect, so make sure all prescribing doctors are aware that it is being used. Use a formula with low levels of vitamin A to avoid toxic levels of vitamin A when taking high doses of fish oil.
NADH (5 mg per day), the active form of vitamin B3, helps raise levels of dopamine in the brain, but studies in Parkinson's disease have shown mixed results, and some have used injections rather than oral doses.
Glutathione, an antioxidant produced by the body, has been given as a supplement intravenously to reduce symptoms. The treatment is controversial, however, because evidence for its effectiveness is lacking.
Vitamin D (400 - 1,000 IU ) is often deficient in people with Parkinson's. Supplements can be helpful in preventing osteoporosis.
S-adenosylmethionine or SAMe (400 - 1,600 mg per day) occurs naturally in the body and may be lowered by taking levodopa. SAMe may be effective in treating depression in people with Parkinson's. Long-term use, however, might decrease the effectiveness of levodopa.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) has been used to treat Parkinson's disease, but not without some controversy. Vitamin B6 can actually interfere with the metabolism of certain Parkinson's medications, making them less effective. Some naturally oriented physicians have used vitamin B6 specifically for this reason, to reduce the side effects of these medications. If your doctor suggests such an approach, the treatment should be done only by prescription and with the knowledge of all prescribing doctor.
Creatine can enhance the benefits of resistance training and improve functional performance.
Coffee and caffeine may lower the risk and progression of Parkinson's.
Fava beans (Vicia faba) can have both beneficial and harmful effects in people with Parkinson's diesase. Fava beans contain levodopa. Some additional levodopa from a dietary source may help some patients, while in others it may cause a dangerous overdose. Consult a qualified botanical prescriber before using fava beans, and make sure all prescribing doctors know about adding them to your diet.


Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to diagnose your problem before starting any treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, you should make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink two to four cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is an antioxidant that improves blood flow to the brain and may help with dopamine delivery (as a supplement 80 mg two times per day).
Cowhage (Mucuna pruriens) contains levodopa. One small study showed that it had better results than the form of levodopa given as prescription medication. Doses ranged from 22.5 - 67.5 g per day divided in 2 - 5 doses. More studies are needed.
Brahmi (Bacopa monniera) is an Ayurvedic herb that is often used to treat people with Parkinson's. Studies have pointed to its effectiveness as an antioxidant for the brain and suggest that it improves circulation to the brain, as well as improving mood, cognitive function, and general neurological function. Dosage guidelines vary among practitioners, but 100 - 200 mg twice daily is often recommended.


Consult a trained homeopath who can determine the appropriate remedy and change it as often as symptoms change.
Argentum nitricum for ataxia (loss of muscle coordination), trembling, awkwardness, painless paralysis
Causticum for Parkinson's with restless legs at night
Mercurius vivus for Parkinson's that is worse at night, especially with panic attacks
Plumbum metallicum especially with arteriosclerosis
Zincum metallicum for great restlessness, and depression.


May help with increasing circulation and decreasing muscle spasm. Cranio-sacral therapy, an osteopathic form of body work that focuses on the brain and spinal column, may decrease tremors and improve function.

Movement Therapies:

May help people with Parkinson's improve motor skills and balance, and help them walk better.
Music therapy: A recent study showed symptoms improved with music and dance therapy compared to physical therapy.
Alexander Technique: emphasizes posture and balance. May help improve mobility and gait.
Feldenkrais Method: aims to re-educate the body about movements that are difficult. May improve gait.

Mind-Body Therapies:

Tai chi and yoga can improve balance, flexibility, and range of motion in people with Parkinson's disease. They may also improve emotional well-being.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture:

Traditional Chinese Medicine views disease as caused by internal imbalances. It has historically been used to treat Parkinson's with acupuncture and individually prepared herbal remedies. One study showed that acupuncture improved symptoms significantly in a small group of people with Parkinson's. In particular, scalp acupuncture and acupuncture with electrical stimulation have shown positive results in some cases. People with Parkinson's also experience sleep and rest benefits from acupuncture. If you consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, make sure your doctor is aware of any suggested treatment.

Following Up:

Since Parkinson's disease advances with time, you will need to be under constant medical care. Drug treatments often become less effective over time, and you must keep a close eye on your symptoms.

Special Considerations:

Exercise will also help you improve mobility.

No comments:

Post a Comment