Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, debilitating central nervous system disorder that results in damage to the brain cells. Men are 50 percent more likely to get Parkinson’s than women. Though the disease is usually associated with the people over 60, young people may become affected as well due to such things as carbon monoxide, encephalitis, heavy metal poisoning, or drug use. Parkinson’s occurs when the area of the brain called the substantia nigra, which is responsible for producing dopamine, deteriorates or dies. Adequate levels of dopamine are responsible for making neuronal movement fluid and smooth. When there’s an inadequate level of dopamine, abnormal movements occur, including rigidity, tremors, shuffling, slow gait, and loss of balance.
Symptoms Associated with Parkinson’s Disease
A small tremor in the hands or a slight dragging of the foot is the initial signs of Parkinson’s. Symptoms are more pronounced when the person is fatigued or stressed. Voluntary movements can become increasingly difficult. Walking suddenly becomes slower and stiffer. Visual acuity and problems with speech come next. Then the face becomes both expressionless and motionless which is due to increased muscular rigidity. Since the facial muscles are paralyzed, drooling usually occurs. There may also be numbing of the extremities (hands and feet). Thinking processes are intact, but it as if the afflicted are trapped in their own body. As symptoms worsen, a great depression will set in.
Causes of Parkinson’s Disease
Though the causes of Parkinson’s is unknown, there are several environmental risks, including exposure living in a rural environment, exposure to pesticides and herbicides, drinking well water, and living near industrial plants. Parkinson’s can also be induced by the use of illicit drugs that are laced with toxic chemicals.
Prevention of Parkinson’s Disease
Currently, there is no known way to prevent Parkinson’s disease other than to avoid exposure to toxins, especially toxic pesticides. Stay away from cigarette smoking as cigarette paper has a high amount of cadmium.
How Parkinson’s Disease is Diagnosed
A doctor makes the diagnosis based on the symptoms presented by the patient. Brain imaging and blood tests are also done to rule out neurological illnesses such as any autoimmune diseases and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Parkinson’s Disease Possible Treatments
Drugs are usually given in an attempt to correct imbalances of brain chemicals, such as dopamine and acetylcholine, but these often have unpleasant side effects. In order to relive tremors, treatments have also been given to destroy parts of the brain. For example, the nerve to the area may be cut, or alcohol may be injected into certain areas.
In the natural arena, major lifestyle changes must be addressed. Parkinson's patients do require a great deal of therapy, but major improvements are possible through natural means.
The objective of each treatment is to either replace dopamine, such as levdopa (L-dopa) or to function like dopamine (bromocriptine and pergolide). Selegiline may protect neurons and delay the need for L-dopa early in the course of the disease. Since these drugs either replace or function like dopapmine, rigidity, tremors, and other Parkinson’s symptoms are reduced. Carbidopa is givenalong with L-dopa to reduce the side effects, which include vomiting, nausea, and hallucinations. Catechol-o-methyl-transferase (COMT) inhibitors are also prescribed to increases the effectiveness of L-dopa.
A procedure implants electrodes in the brain which stimulates targeted areas with electric impulse. Another procedure destroys parts of the brain that responsible for Parkinson symptoms. Stem cell treatment also has been investigated, in which stem cells are implanted into the damaged part of the brain.
A diet consisting of fresh food can aid the healing process. The diet should incorporate alkaline foods with green drinks, like chlorella, barley grass, wheat grass, spirulina, once or twice a day. To reduce ingestion of toxins, only bottled or filtered water should be used.
There are several herbs one may want to consider using, but if under doctor’s care for Parkinson’s, it is advisable to consult with doctor before trying any kind of natural therapies.
BROAD BEAN (Vicia faba)
One of nature’s best plant sources of L-Dopa, broad bean is a cheaper alternative to the L-dopa drugs out there. A 16 ounce (455 gram) can of broad beans administers enough of a physiological effect on Parkinson’s. Recent news has also show that the broad bean sprouts contain 10 times more L-dopa than the unsprouted beans, which will reduce the cost of the physiological dose even more. Broad bean also contain lechithin and choline, compounds which have positive effects in preventing Parkinson’s or may help relieve some of the symptoms. Broad beans are high in fiber, which can prevent constipation, which is a common symptom of Parkinson’s. The initial problem reported with broad bean is flatulence, which subsided after taking broad bean after a long time or after using over the counter product, Beano.
VELVET BEAN (Mucana, various species)
Similar to broad beans, velvet beans contain a decent amount of L-dopa, somewhere around 50,000 parts per million. Though in contrast to broad beans, velvet beans have been used and proven effective in clinical trials to treat Parkinson’s.
EVENING PRIMROSE (Oenethorea biennis)
Evening primrose oil was shown to improve Parkinson’s induced tremors in 55% of those that took two teaspoons a day for several months. This may be due to the traces of the amino acid tryptophan in EPO. Tryptophan has the ability to boost the effectivenss of L-dopa.
Melvyn Werbach, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and author of Nutritional Influences on Illness, recommends taking two grams of tryptophan 4 times a day in combination with L-dopa for treating Parkinson’s.
GINGKO (Ginkgo biloba)
The more popular use of gingko is for stroke recovery and treating Alzheimer’s disease. It can also help with Parkinson’s as it improves blood circulation throughout the brain, and delivering more L-dopa where it will be needed. It is suggested to take three capsules a day; each capsule contains 300 to 500 milligrams of standardized 50:1 gingko extract. Side effects include irritability, diarrhea, and restlessness.
PASSION FLOWER (Passiflora incarna)
Passion flower contains two effective anti-Parkinson’s compounds, harmine and harmaline alkaloids.
ST JOHN’S WORT (Hypericum perforatum)
St John’s wort is an herbal MAO inhibitor. It has been found that smoker’s have a low risk of Parkinson’s. This could be due to the fact that nicotine increases the release of dopamine. MAO has been shown to decrease the levels of dopamine, so naturally when a medication can inhibit MAO, dopamine levels would increase, decreasing the risk of Parkinson’s. Those afflicted with Parkinson’s must be careful when taking St John’s wort since there is some potential for interaction with other foods and medicines. It is also wise to avoid smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, and consuming pickled food. St John’s wort should not be taken with cold and hay fever remedies, narcotics, tyrosine, and amphetamines. Pregnant women should not take St John’s wort. Intense sun exposure should also be avoided since the herb can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
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