Natural health: Complementary medicines for Parkinson’s disease

My husband was diagnosed recently with Parkinson’s disease. His doctor has encouraged us to find out as much as we can about complementary medicine.

A. Parkinson’s disease, named after Dr James Parkinson, is due to a gradual degeneration of the nerve cells in the region of the brain responsible for controlling body movements. 

Dr Parkinson originally referred to this condition as shaking palsy. It is essential that anyone with suspected Parkinson’s symptoms consults a specialist immediately — the earlier the treatment, the more successful the results. 

Slightly more common in men than women, this condition affects around one in every 100 individuals over the age of 65. It is not passed from one generation to the next, nor is it contagious.

This disease usually begins with a sensation of stiffness and weakness in the limbs, often accompanied by a slight trembling of the hand when it is at rest. As this disease is chronic and progressive, the shaking and trembling will increase and spread to other parts of the body.

This makes co-ordination, balance, and even the most simple of tasks very challenging. 

Parkinson’s disease is not life-threatening, but it does impact on quality of life for the individual A combination of medication and surgical intervention is the typical method for managing symptoms.

It is good to hear you have found a doctor supportive of alternative therapies being used alongside conventional treatment, as this can help to support the effectiveness of the treatment.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), found in bananas, beef, fish, liver, oatmeal, peanuts, potatoes, and whole grains, interferes with the action of Parkinson’s medication (usually called Levadopa or L- Dopa), so you may need to reduce your intake of these foods. 

Broad beans, on the other hand, are a natural source of Levadopa. Half a cup of broad beans contains around 250mg, which is the equivalent of one L-Dopa pill, so this is worth discussing with your doctor or specialist.

Hot spices are not recommended, since they can trigger uncontrollable physical movements in some individuals.

High meat consumption typically aggravates symptoms due to the fact that it inhibits the uptake of essential vitamins, so a dietary ratio of 7:1 (carbohydrates: proteins) is usually advised.

Environmental exposure to pesticides or toxins is thought to be linked with this condition, which is why foods such as fruit, vegetables, seaweeds, fresh vegetable juice, sprouted grains, spelt, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are usually recommended as part of dietary therapy — organic if possible. 

It is important to avoid processed foods, coffee, tea, artificial sweeteners, sugar, tobacco and alcohol since they will over-stimulate an already stressed nervous system.

The exact cause or trigger for developing Parkinson’s disease is difficult to pin point, but can include adverse reactions to prescription or illegal drugs, stroke, thyroid and parathyroid disorders, head trauma, brain tumour, hydrocephaly (excess fluid around the brain), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), or in rare cases a viral infection. 

There are many natural supplements used to help with symptoms management including, but not limited to, GABA (Gamma- aminobutyric acid), Probiotics, Co-enzyme Q-10, Magnesium, Evening Primrose Oil, NADH (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide hydrogen), and vitamin C. You will need to discuss supplementation or dietary changes with your specialist.

* For further support and information, visit www.parkinsons.ie  or phone 1800 359 359


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