This article is focused on natural ways to both prevent and manage Parkinson’s disease (PD). The traditional approach focuses on drugs to slow down and manage symptoms (as well as recommending regular exercise), but does not attempt to address many of the underlying causes or contributing factors. In other words, complementary or alternative medicine takes a step back to look at each person uniquely to try to determine the best natural approaches for preserving both mental and physical health, which as holistic practitioners know are integrally connected.
The suggestions below are based on more than 600 peer reviewed research studies, and most of recommendations are relevant to other brain related diseases as well including Alzheimer’s disease.
The medical community primarily focuses on supporting and increasing dopamine production which has been damaged by the build-up of alpha synuclein turning into Lewy Bodies, primarily in the substantia nigra pars compacta part of the brain (as well as the locus coeruleus as well), damaging among other functions the dopaminergic neurons essential for dopamine production.
Extensive research shows us that Parkinson’s and brain-related disorders are in fact multi-neurological diseases with many possible causative factors. From a holistic perspective, the goal is to slow down or stabilize the progression of the disease, reduce the medications dosages as much as possible (based on your doctor’s combining the natural approaches with the medications) which have many minor and substantial side effects for many, and reduce the symptoms of the disease such as the tremors and motor coordination issues and nonmotor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s.
Some of the factors needed to be included in the patient evaluation include:
Cholinergic circuit dysfunction – which affects aspects of memory formation and motivational and volitional behaviors.
Free radical increase and nigral cell loss – which results in loss of healthy brain cells.
High sugar levels – in the brain is toxic and result in cell loss.
Inflammation – Parkinson’s (and Alzheimer’s) is characterized by neuroinflammation that appears in old age when chronic inflammation in the body compromises the immune system.
Mitochondrial dysfunction – contributes to neurodegeneration with a role in apoptosis through excitotoxicity and signaling. Mitochondria are the batteries the produce energy within our cells.
Heavy metal build-up – such as mercury, lead, arsenic causes cell death and may alter neurotransmission and lead to neurodegeneration that can manifest as cognitive problems, movement disorders and learning and memory dysfunction.
Misfolded protein – affects the ability in the brain to “clean house,” referred to as autography which enables the brain to recycle waste products, including damaged mitochondria and large protein aggregates.
Environmental factors – Epigenetics is the study of the effect of the environment on gene expression. Environmental factors such as childhood nurturing and diet of us and our parents, stress and other factors affect how one’s brain develops. Growth factors that promote the survival and regeneration of neurons, can be impacted.
Brain-Blood Barrier – keeps pathogens and harmful substances from reaching the brain, while allowing healthy nutrients into the brain essential for maintaining brain health.
Dysfunction in the brain-gut microbiota axis – may cause IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), depression and anxiety, as well as neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Dementia with Lewy bodies – is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with the same abnormal protein deposits (Lewy bodies) found in Parkinson’s but in widespread areas throughout the brain. It is also seen in some patients with Alzheimer’s.
Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as B1, B6, B12, D and E, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc—all can mimic PD through their symptoms.
Leaky gut syndrome and alterations in gut microbiota can not only mimic PD, but are now widely accepted as relevant to the etiology, course and treatment of many neuropsychiatric disorders, including PD.
Let’s Look at 10 of the Top Nutrients
• Bacopa monniera: is known to have neuroprotective and cognition enhancing effects. Importantly, it reduces alpha-synuclein aggregation (resulting in loss of neuron brain cells responsible for dopamine production), prevents dopaminergic neurodegeneration.
• Baicalein: is a flavonoid used as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent without side effects, reduces alpha-synuclein naturally, and has neuroprotective properties.
• Curcumin: some of the benefits include reducing oxidation and the free radicals that cause the deterioration of neurons, reducing age-related mental decline, reducing inflammation, increasing neurogenesis and regulating enzymes essential for enzyme disbursement. It also improves mitochondrial regulation, gene expression and oxidative stress plus more.
• DHA: also crosses all the brain health categories, with benefits that include supporting neuron communication, helping prevent neuron cell death, reducing inflammation and improving memory and cognition. Low DHA levels are also known to lower brain and cellular growth factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (growth factor). BDNF plays an important role in neuronal survival and growth
• Ginseng: has many wonderful benefits that include improving learning and memory, reducing apoptosis (cell death), inhibiting neuroinflammation, improving neuroplasticity, potentiating neuronal growth, repairing damaged neuronal networks, and reducing depression and anxiety. Ginseng may also reduce amyloid and neurofibrillary fiber build-up related to Alzheimer’s.
• Glutathione: is the antioxidant found in highest amount in the brain, and tends to be low in PD patients, and is an essential part of neutralizing ROS (reactive oxygen species) and other free radical activity in the brain.
• Lutein: Lutein’s content in neural tissue has been positively correlated with cognitive function and has been found to accumulate in the brain. Lutein has been found to be significantly related to multiple measures of temporal processing speed, an important aspect of sensory and cognitive function.
• Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ): PQQ is a quinone compound reported to improve learning ability; it may also enhance working memory, as well as improve cerebral blood flow that can help protect against cognitive decline and dementia in the elderly. PQQ may have neuroprotective properties against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cognitive injuries, and is critical in supporting healthy mitochondrial function.
• Vitamins B1, B6, B9, B12, D3 and E: are all essential in supporting healthy brain (and cognitive function), and when deficient, can mimic symptoms of PD and dementia.
• Essential Oils: There are many more nutrients studied as well (more than 50) related helping Parkinson’s patients, including essential oils such as frankincense, helichrysum, veviter, lavender, peppermint, lemon sage (and much more) which, depending on which ones are used, can help improve both the motor and nonmotor symptoms of PD, reduce anxiety and depression, improve sleep, increase energy and the desire for social activity, for example.
The recommended diet is an alkaline diet which includes lots of green leafy and other vegetables, fruit, particularly berries which are low in sugar (organic preferred when possible), and avoid or minimize all refined carbohydrates and sugars as well as unhealthy oils such as trans fatty acids often found in margarine, chips and even frozen dinners (read labels). The Mediterranean or South Beach diets for example of excellent ones to follow.
Completely avoid all artificial sweeteners (stevia is an excellent and safe alternative). Diets high in meat and dairy increase the risk of PD onset.
Acupuncture and herbs have been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms of PD, along with the daily practice of Qigong and/or Tai Chi to complement other exercises recommended by your practitioner. Daily use of light therapy (1,000-1,500 lux, one hour daily exposure for two weeks) was shown to reduce the medication needs by 13 to 100 percent. Intravenous glutathione therapy also is effective in reducing tremors and motor issues.
Some of the best brain foods include avocados, mulberry, mushrooms (particularly lion’s mane, reishi and shiitake), nuts and berries, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, berries and pomegranate juice.
Michael Edson is a co-founder and President of Natural Eye Care, Inc. He is co-author of Natural Eye Care: A Comprehensive Manual for Practitioners of Oriental Medicine and Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision and Healing, 2019. His latest book is Natural Parkinson’s Support: Your Guide to Preventing & Managing Parkinson’s (Jan, 2020). His upcoming book, Natural Brain Support: Ways to Help Prevent and Treat Dementia and Alzheimer’s Naturally will be published in 2020. For more information, visit www.naturaleyecare.com.