After Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is ranked as the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world. As of 2017, nearly ten million people in the world are affected with Parkinson’s disease, with about one million of them being Americans.
Although Parkinson’s disease is of itself not fatal, the complications arising from the condition can be life-threatening. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the complications arising from Parkinson’s disease are rated as the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Natural Remedies For Parkinson’s Disease: Useful Essential Oils, Supplements & Vitamins
Therefore, it is important that there is a proper understanding of the disease in order to better manage its symptoms and possible complications.
So, while the title of this article is “Natural remedies for Parkinson’s disease”, the focus, however, will be on natural alternatives to the treatment of Parkinson’s symptoms.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Named after James Parkinson, Parkinson’s disease, or simply Parkinson’s, is a type of degenerative medical condition that affects the central nervous system – the part of the nervous system that comprises the brain and the spinal cord.
This type of disease causes damage to the brain over time and is characterized by several symptoms, such as loss of muscular coordination and involuntary vibration.
Causes of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s affects primarily neurons in the midsection of the brain called ‘substantia nigra. This part of the brain – substantia nigra – is an important part of the central nervous system as it is the location for the production of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) that is responsible for regulating emotions and body movement.
A person with Parkinson’s disease has low levels of dopamine due to a loss (death) of neurons in the substantia nigra. It is this decrease in dopamine that leads to the many symptoms associated with the disease.
The exact cause of the loss of neurons in the substantia nigra remains unclear; hence, Parkinson’s disease is most times regarded as an idiopathic disorder. However, researchers believe that several factors contribute to the cause of the disease.
Risk factors for Parkinson’s disease
The following are the major factors that contribute to the risk of developing Parkinson’s:
- Age: Doubtless, age is the most prominent risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. Generally, Parkinson’s disease affects people older than 60 years of age. However, the symptoms begin to develop when a person is above 50 years.
- Gender: The gender of a person is another factor. It is considered that men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than women.
- Family history: While this factor is not as prominent as the first two, people who have had family members with Parkinson’s are also likely to develop the disorder.
- Environmental factors: It has also been found that prolonged exposure to pesticides and herbicides can also increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Trauma to the head and never taking caffeine may also contribute to the risk.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by three major symptoms, which are:
- Impairment in coordination of the muscles
- Tremor or involuntary vibration of some parts of the body, and
- Slowness in movement (Bradykinesia)
Aside from the three major symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, the following are some other symptoms that the sufferers may experience:
- Lack of sleep
- Anosmia or loss of the sense of smell
- Loss of memory
- Difficulty writing
- Changes in the way the person speaks
- More sweating
Stages of Parkinson’s disease
It is also important to note that the intensity of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can vary depending on the stage of the condition. The stage of the disease usually depends on the number of years that the person has been living with it. Researchers differ on the number of stages of Parkinson’s. Some use a 3-staging system for the condition, while others use 4 or 5. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, there are five stages of the disease:
- Stage 1: At this stage, the primary symptoms are usually less severe and do not disrupt the affected person’s daily routine. The symptoms are only experienced on one side of the body.
- Stage 2: During stage 2, the symptoms get worse and begin to affect both sides of the person’s body.
- Stage3: Here, in addition to the primary symptoms, the person begins to experience Bradykinesia (slow movement) and imbalance.
- Stage 4: At stage 4, the symptoms become so severe that the person cannot be able to do things by himself/herself.
- Stage 5: This is the most intense stage of Parkinson’s where the sufferer begins to get hallucinations, and is unable to stand without help.
Diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease
The symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease can also be found in other health conditions; hence, a proper diagnosis needs to be done to ascertain the disease and prevent a misdiagnosis.
Although there is no particular test for Parkinson’s diagnosis, some guidelines have been introduced to aid the process. An example is the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale.
While there is no specific test to distinguish Parkinson’s, diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease will usually involve a combination of tests and neurological examinations on the affected person. This diagnostic process for Parkinson’s is usually done by a neurologist (brain doctor).
The process begins with an assessment of the patient’s condition by referring to his/her medical history. Here, the doctor asks the patient several questions, including whether any other family member has the condition.
The neurological examination involves checks for movement and coordination.
Prognosis of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease affects people differently. This means that, besides the common symptoms, the type of symptoms that a person gets and the time when the symptoms arise are unique to each person.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s can get worse as the disease progresses. As a result, it can be difficult for the affected person to carry out normal daily activities without help.
However, while most persons will generally experience improvement in the symptoms, a few may become critically affected, even after treatment. And as previously mentioned, Parkinson’s disease does not cause death in itself, but complications can.
That said, the advancements in medicine are continually making it possible for people with Parkinson’s to live a normal life.
Conventional treatment options for Parkinson’s disease
Presently, there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease. This is in part because of the fact that the exact cause of the disease remains unclear. However, the symptoms of the disease can be managed through a combination of several treatment methods.
Common medications for the disease include drugs that help in elevating dopamine levels in the brain, medications to help improve non-motor symptom, and other drugs used for altering some brain chemicals.
Among the conventional treatment options for Parkinson’s disease, levodopa (L-dopa) is regarded as the most effective. Levodopa is a form of dopa – amino acid that is converted to dopamine in the brain – that is used is used for treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s. However, prolonged use of L-dopa can cause adverse side effects.
When all treatment options have been used and the symptoms are not waning despite the use of medications, surgery can be used to bring temporary relief. One type of surgery called DBS (deep brain stimulation), which is a process that involves stimulation of the brain by implanting electrodes in it, is common for patients who show little response to medications.
Ayurvedic treatment options for Parkinson’s disease
Natural remedies for Parkinson’s disease
- Increase your omega-3 intake: Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil and wild-caught salmon should be taken more by people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This is because omega-3 fats help to reduce systemic inflammations in the body, as well as in increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Other good sources of omega-3 are nuts and seeds.
- Acupuncture: Some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be improved through acupuncture, according to a research conducted in London. The study found that inflammation in some sections of the brain, like the putamen, can be reduced using acupuncture. Apart from this, acupuncture can also help in reducing oxidative stress and nerve cell death in the brain.
- Probiotics: Probiotics, or beneficial gut bacteria, help in maintaining gut health by improving food absorption and in detoxification. Examples of foods rich in probiotics include kefir and sauerkraut.
- Coenzyme Q10: Coenzyme Q10 is a major component of the human cell. This chemical compound is helpful in fighting off free radicals in the body due to its antioxidant properties. According to some studies, people with Parkinson’s disease have been found to have low coenzyme Q10 levels in their brains. So, it is recommended that Parkinson’s patient are to take coenzyme Q10 supplements daily (1200 mg) to make up for this deficiency.
- Essential oils: Essential oils can also be used in treating some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as insomnia and anxiety. This is because the oils have a calming effect on the body that helps in relieving stress. Besides the calming effect of essential oils, they are also effective in reducing inflammations in the brain. Common examples of essential oils that can be used for this purpose include frankincense oil, vertiver oil, and helichrysum oil.
- Practice Tai Chi: Tai Chi is a Chinese system of martial art involving slow meditative movement. Tai Chi has been shown to be helpful in maintaining balance and good health in people who practice it. Symptoms of Parkinson’s like loss of coordination and difficulty in walking can be improved through sessions of Tai Chi.
- Exercise: Various studies have confirmed that exercise can help in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. And although Parkinson’s patients may not be able to use their bodies as before, they can take part in simple exercises to reduce the symptoms of the disease. Dancing, walking, swimming, and stretching are effective in improving Parkinson’s symptoms. Even more, exercise can help in reducing the risk of developing Parkinson’s.
- Increase your vitamin B intake: Deficiency in vitamins B9 and B12 are linked to some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s, like depression and dementia. Increasing the intake of vitamin B by eating foods rich in the vitamin or through supplements is an effective way of improving these symptoms.
- Eat vitamin C-rich foods: Vitamin C is an important component of the body’s immune system; so, a deficiency of this vitamin can cause the patient’s immunity to be compromised, leading to other complications. Moreover, the antioxidant properties of vitamin C help in combating free body radicals. Fruits such as oranges and guavas are loaded with vitamin C and should be taken by Parkinson’s disease patients.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for good bone health as it helps in the absorption of calcium. Deficiency of vitamin D can make it easy for the bone to be affected. Exposure to sunlight is one of the simple ways of getting vitamin D. Supplements and foods rich in vitamin D should also be taken to prevent a deficiency.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E supplements should be taken daily by people who have Parkinson’s disease. This is because vitamin E is a vital compound that helps in fighting oxidation in the brain.
- Green tea: Green tea is highly beneficial to general body health. Green tea also helps in treating Parkinson’s disease due to the presence of polyphenols. Polyphenols are known to have antioxidant properties, which should be helpful in eliminating free radicals. Perhaps the biggest advantage of drinking green tea for improving Parkinson’s disease symptoms is the presence of theanine. This is because theanine has been found to help in increasing dopamine levels in the brain.
- Limit your protein intake: Excess consumption of proteins is believed to worsen some symptoms of Parkinson’s. Thus, cutting down on the intake of protein by a person with the disease is a natural way of slowing down some of the symptoms.
- Limit your alcohol intake: Alcohol intake has been linked to Parkinson’s. This is because alcohol affects the proper functioning of the nervous system. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to complications. Therefore, people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are advised to limit their alcohol intake.
- Stay away from refined sugars: Artificial sweeteners or refined sugars are dangerous to overall body health and should be avoided by individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
- Stay away from likely food allergens: Some symptoms of Parkinson’s may get worse when a person is exposed to food allergens. As a result, it is advised that Parkinson’s patients are to stay away from possible food allergens.
- Eat more fiber-rich foods: Eating more fiber-rich foods like greens and berries is another natural way of improving symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This is due to the fact that many Parkinson’s patients are known to get constipation.
- Eat fresh foods: This is a very important action to be taken by Parkinson’s patients. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is a healthy way of treating Parkinson’s symptoms. These foods are good because they are packed with important nutrients which help in strengthening the body’s immune system.
- Avoid these foods: In addition to the refined sugars and food allergens, Parkinson’s patients need to avoid the following: processed foods, cured meat and fish.