Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive disorder of the CNS characterised by tremor, rigidity, postural instability and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination. It is caused by the destruction of dopaminergic neurons in the brain, which leads to depletion of dopamine, a neurotransmitter needed to control muscle movement. It affects both men and women, and usually occurs after the age of 50.
Causes of Parkinsons Disease
The aetiology is unknown, but it is believed that there may be genetic, infectious, toxic and/or auto-immune factors involved. Treating the person and supporting intestinal permeability, bacterial overgrowth of the colon, SIBO, methylation and detoxification are vital. Following an AIP style diet and removing reactive foods in required to make considerable change in patients.
- Infectious or toxic agents
- Family history of Parkinsonism
- Elevated homocysteine: some studies have found increased homocysteine levels in patients with PD
- Methylation imbalances – affects homocysteine, neurotransmitters, detoxification and DNA and RNA replication
Signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
- Rigid or stiff muscles, often beginning in the legs
- Tremors: usually occurs in the limbs at rest and disappear on movement
- Muscle aches and pains
- Slow and difficult movements
- Problems with balance and walking
- Slow blinking
- Difficulty swallowing / drooling
- Mask-like expression
- Slow, quiet and monotone speech
- Stooped position
- Cognitive function may become impaired
TREATMENT STRATEGY FOR PARKINSONS DISEASE
Complementary therapies do not take the place of pharmaceutical treatment – a therapeutic response to levodopa should confirm the diagnosis.
- Repair intestinal permeability
- Investigacte and correct bacterial overgrowth of the gut
- Address SIBo is present
- Clear and viral or parasitic infections
- Reduce inflammation and oxidative damage to nerves
- Protect CNS and support nerve signaling
- Support dopamine production
- Reduce muscle tension / fatigue / rigidity
- Reduce homocysteine levels if elevated
- Manage stress
- Assess toxicity level and assist with detoxification if indicated
- Assess and optimize key nutrient levels
Diet plan guidelines for Parkinson’s Disease
- Fresh, whole food, unrefined, low-GI, diet – We commonly start patients on an autoimmune paleo diet (AIP) to begin with.
- Emphasise anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory diet: mostly plant-based diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, turmeric, berries, ginger, green tea etc. Meats to be organic or grass fed.
- Reduce intake of pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidant foods: excessive animal foods, damaged fats, sugars, refined carbohydrates and processed foods.
- Reduce or eliminate dairy foods: dairy product consumption is positively associated with Parkinson‘s disease, especially in men (Chen et al, 2006)
- Increase foods that support nerve structure and function: egg yolks, oily fish, nuts and seeds etc
- Ensure adequate protein to support dopamine production (from tyrosine): fish, eggs, grass fed meats, liver
Supplement considerations for Parkinson’s Disease
- Omega-3 fatty acids – : to reduce inflammation and protect neurons
- Phosphatidylserine – to support nerve signaling
- Tyrosine – support production of dopamine
- B6 – supports production of dopamine
- N-acetyl carnitine – supports production of dopamine and supports energy production
- CoQ10 – reduce oxidative stress and improve muscle energy
- Magnesium – relaxant to nervous and muscular system
- Vitamin D – enhances brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF)
- B-complex – supports energy production and neurotransmitter synthesis
- Broad-spectrum antioxidants – Vitamin C, E, Selenium, zinc etc
Herbal Medicine that supports Parkin’s Disease
- Antispasmodics – valerian, cramp bark
- Dopamine increasing – Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean, traditional Ayurvedic herb to treat Parkinson‘s); withania, St John‘s wort, periwinkle,
- CNS stimulant – gingko, gotu kola, bacopa
- Antioxidants – turmeric, green tea, rosemary, St Mary‘s thistle, grapeseed
- Nervines – St John‘s wort, scullcap, oats, lemon balm, passionflower
Lifestyle / Physical measures
- Acupuncture may be useful, particularly for the tremor
- Massage helps to boost dopamine and will also improve circulation, muscle spasm and overall sense of well-being
- Stress management techniques: regular exercise, meditation, breathing, relaxation
- Yoga: may help to maintain flexibility and strength
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE TREATMENT OF PARKINSONS
Parkinson’s disease is a multifactorial disease that has underlying autoimmune disease traits. Many Parkinson’s disease patients when they first come to our clinic have multiple system dysfunctions that need to be cleared.
Addressing gut health is a primary focus, improving intestinal permeability, clearing and gut pathogens or parasites, removal of fungal overgrowth and clearing SIBO are all paramount. Once this system is operating efficiently, addressing other dysfunctions such as poor methylation, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, detoxification pathways and improving the production of dopamine are regularly required.
Advising patients to follow a whole foods diet that at least initially follows the AIP principles or similar is also advised. At our Perth clinic of Advanced Functional Medicine we have experience with people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
If you or a family member are suffering from Parkinson’s disease we would love to hear from you. What diet changes have you made that have improved your symptoms? How are you supporting your dopamine production? Have you taken steps to address your gut health, if so, what are they? Please leave a comment below.