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Parkinson's Disease

How can I ease the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease?

Question

I have just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and start my medication next week. I would be grateful for advice on diet supplements, exercise, etc that would help with the symptoms and, I hope, hold back the illness.

Answer

The distinguishing feature of Parkinson's disease is the tremor, or involuntary movement, that worsens with any increase in emotion. Initially this may affect one part of the body and then become more generalised. The problem with it is very specific the person finds it hard to get moving, but once they do they can't stop, and keep going even when they're trying to be still. It's as if you're trying to push a huge round boulder; you struggle to get it moving and when you do, it just keeps on rolling inexorably.

Parkinson's disease is a neurological condition caused by problems in the messages from the brain. The voluntary movements of your body (ie, the ones your brain decides to make) are controlled by a part of the brain called the cortex. The activity of the cortical cells is modulated by other cells in the midbrain called substantia nigra (literally 'black substance') which produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which transmits nerve impulses- messages- from one cell to another. In Parkinson's disease, the substantia nigra cells have somehow become damaged, with the result that the messages are not properly transmitted. If the messages telling your body when and how to move don't get through clearly, the result is uncontrolled and unpredictable movement.

Parkinson's affects the face as well as the body, and the ability to speak as well as to move. The mimicry muscles around the eyes, which control expression, lose tone, and the blinking reflex is retarded which gives a blank look. This may give other people the impression that the patient is 'stupid' and can't comprehend what is going on. In fact Parkinson's does not affect the intellect patients understand every word that is being said and react to it in their minds, but, frustratingly, as the condition worsens, they become increasingly unable to express themselves. It's important for you to bear in mind that the more stressed you are, the slower your reactions are likely to be, and the more difficult the general situation will be for everyone.

There are specific drugs that can replace the neurotransmitters produced by the substantia nigra cells. These can be very helpful, in the same way that insulin is helpful for diabetics or oestrogen for women who have gone through surgical menopause (removal of womb and ovaries). Although there may be minor side effects from the medication, including the possibility of addiction to the drugs, the disadvantages may be outweighed by the quality of life gained. It's important that you are with a good specialist who can select the optimum drug dose to mitigate the side effects and optimum the benefits.

Here are a few things that you can do for yourself:

  • Make sure your weight is under control. With any physical disability, weight gain is an added problem: so avoid sugar, cheese, fatty meal butter and excess oil in cooking.
  • Potassium is useful for muscle function, so drink freshly juiced organic carrot, apple and ginger juice (three or four carrots, topped and tailed, three or four apples, and an inch or so of peeled fresh ginger) two to three times weekly.
  • Relax! Listen to a relaxation tape, practise meditation, be still. The more relaxed and unstressed you are, the smoother your movements.
  • Take one capsule of Dr Ali’s Relaxation formula at bedtime; this Ayurvedic supplement will help you to relax and stay calm.
  • Practise therapeutic yoga for coordination; this is explained in Therapeutic Yoga, which I co-wrote with Jiwan Brar.
  • Before you start any activity, slow down your breathing by practising retention breath. Inhale to a count of three, hold for six, and exhale for six. Do this for two to three minutes. You will find immediately that moving becomes easier.
  • Have massages weekly and/or ask a partner or friend to massage your neck and shoulders two or three times a week with Dr Ali's Lifestyle Oil, or
  • make your own with two to three drops of lavender essential oil in one tablespoonful of sweet almond base oil. This is vital to improve blood flow to the brain and prevent further deterioration.
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