What is Parkinson’s disease (PD)?
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive neurological movement disorder, which means that the symptoms of this disease gradually get worse over time. The exact cause of the disease is still unknown. There is also no cure for this medical condition, but multiple treatment options are available, which can help manage the symptoms. Parkinson's disease involves the death or malfunction of cells in the brain called nerve cells or neurons.
Primarily, Parkinson's disease affects the neurons in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Some of these dying neurons produce dopamine, which is a chemical that sends messages to a certain part of the brain that is responsible for controlling movement and coordination. As the disease progresses, the amount of dopamine in the brain starts to decrease and leaves the person unable to control its own normal movement.
Parkinson’s disease usually affects people 55-75 years old, although it may affect younger people, too. It is a neurological disorder that affects the movement of the muscles, their control, and balance.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
- Finding it difficult to walk, balance, and a lack of coordination
- Tremors in the hands, feet, and certain parts of the body
- Digestive problems
- Slurred speech
- Memory and thinking problems
- Difficulty in eating and swallowing food
- Rigid muscles
There are three ways to treat Parkinson's disease: therapies, medications, and surgery. Conventional medications for PD would involve drugs that can help increase the activity of dopamine. The doctor would evaluate your condition and then explain the best treatment option for you. The treatment varies from person-to-person. While the cause of the disease is still unknown, it has been said that environmental toxins such as pesticides or herbicides could be one of the possible culprits.
Researchers have found out that those who are suffering from Parkinson's disease have a high level of these chemicals present in their brain. Moreover, the cases of Parkinson's disease is much higher in areas where there is greater use of these chemicals. Thus, it is advisable to stay away from such environmental toxins as much as possible. It is also important to note that avoiding the intake of dietary toxins such as caffeine or alcohol can lead to body detoxification.
Homocysteine is an amino acid, which can get toxic if the amount of it in the body increases above a certain level. Studies have shown that the level of homocysteine in individuals with Parkinson's disease is at elevated levels. At this particular stage, it becomes unclear whether higher levels of homocysteine can contribute to the development of the disease or whether the disease itself leads to generating higher levels of homocysteine in the body. In either case, the best solution is to maintain healthy levels of homocysteine in the body.
The important nutrients required to reduce homocysteine levels in the body are vitamin B12, zinc, folate or folic acid, trimethylglycine or TMG and vitamin B6. Few of these nutrients are considered as cofactors for the production of dopamine.
The conventional methods of treatment do have their own pros and cons. However, it is also best to go for natural methods of treatment along with the traditional ones. Consult your doctor before taking any kind of supplement to avoid drug reactions. Below are some of the natural supplements that can be taken for Parkinson’s disease:
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
One of the benefits of increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet would be to reduce the chances of developing Parkinson’s disease. A study was conducted on mice, wherein they were given chow laced with omega-3 fatty acids. It was found that may have better brain defenses against the disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are quite important not only for the body, but also for brain development.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are found mostly in wild fish including mackerel and salmon. Another omega-3 fatty acid is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is mostly found in green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils such as soy oil or canola, flaxseed, and nuts. The body is unable to produce its own omega-3 fatty acids, so they need to be sourced from foods or supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are also being studied for their effect on heart health, managing the symptoms of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and other medical conditions.
According to one of the studies conducted on mice, the results suggested that being DHA-deficient is a major risk factor when it comes to the development of Parkinson’s disease. A dosage of 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil is known to reduce the signs of inflammation along with supporting the neurological health of the individual.
Mood disorders are also one of the common features seen among people with Parkinson’s disease, and there have been a number of research mentioning the mood-boosting properties present in omega-3 fatty acids. In one of the small placebo-controlled group testing, the pilot trial had reported a significant amount of improvement in treating depression in individuals suffering from Parkinson's disease. These individuals were treated with omega-3 fatty acid supplements versus the placebo ones. Foods that are rich in omega-3s are found in fish such as:
2. Calcium and Vitamin D
When an individual is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, getting the required amount of calcium becomes quite difficult since people who have the disease find that dairy items are more likely to inhibit levodopa absorption than proteins. However, calcium can be taken in some forms to meet the body's daily requirement. They include:
- Breakfast cereals
- Fortified food items that contain calcium
- Calcium-fortified orange juice
- Calcium-fortified rice
- Soy milk alternatives which can be used in cereals, smoothies, and other types of food preparations
- Calcium citrate supplements
- Chewable calcium tablets
Vitamin D is also very important for our body. This vitamin is produced in our body when the skin gets exposed to the sun. Without adequate amounts of vitamin D, calcium would not be absorbed in the body. For those individuals who live in sunny regions, getting at least an hour of sun exposure per week should not be a difficult thing. Expose your hands, face, and arms to the sun. It is also important to note that vitamin D gets stored in the body during the summer and can be conserved for the winter season.
For those who cannot get daily sun exposure, another option of taking vitamin D is to consume fatty fish such as fish liver oil or salmon, eggs, milk and its substitutes, margarine, cereals, liver, and vitamin D supplements. The current recommendation of vitamin D would be 400 IUs for those who are 50 years and above and 600 IUs for those above 70 years old.
3. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that could help slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease. According to studies, patients with Parkinson's disease have low levels of coenzyme Q10 in their blood and brain. The mitochondria are said to be responsible for producing energy for the cells in our body. However, in the process of production, there is a creation of a by-product of spare electrons. When these electrons tend to escape the cells, they are called as free radicals, which are damaging and are often responsible for oxidative damage to the brain along with being linked to cognitive problems.
Every cell in the body is said to contain a powerful antioxidant known as coenzyme Q10, which fight off oxidative damage. However, those individuals who have high levels of oxidative damage may even need more of it such as a daily coenzyme Q10 supplementation of 1,200 mg.
4. Folate or Folic Acid
Genetic defects and environmental toxins may lead to the emergence of Parkinson’s disease. However, a new study conducted on mice has shown that folic acid or folate can help prevent this form of degenerative brain disorder. Folic acid is widely known for preventing central nervous system birth defects. There has also been a lot of evidence that it can help prevent heart disease, especially in individuals who have too much homocysteine. Folate tends to decrease the levels of homocysteine in the body.
Folate or vitamin B9 is considered very good for memory and brain health. Folic acid is considered vital for the development of the nervous system. In the research conducted on mice, it showed that the ones who were kept on a low folic acid diet were very much likely to get Parkinson’s disease than those who were on a normal folic acid diet. There are about 50,000 Parkinson's cases every year in the US.
The disease is mostly due to a deficiency in the production of dopamine. Being dopamine deficient leads to movement disorders such as tremors in the hands, stiffness in the muscles, and slow movements. The levels of homocysteine in the body could be reduced when folic acid is taken along with vitamin B12 and B6. Taking these supplements may prevent the occurrence of a stroke or heart attack. They can also help maintain a strong memory.
5. Green Tea Polyphenols or GTPs
GTPs have antioxidant properties along with free radical scavenging activities. There are current studies being conducted, which suggest that GTPs have a neuroprotective impact with the potential of treating Parkinson's disease. Ongoing studies are being conducted by the Chinese Ministry of Health along with the Michael J. Fox Foundation whether GTPs can slow down the progression of Parkinson's disease.