Parkinson’s disease is a prolonged neurodegenerative disorder that leads to the weakening of the motor system. It potentially affects the basal ganglia structure in the midbrain called substantia niagra. It depletes the neurons that secrete dopamine which is responsible for coordinating proper body movement. The disease impacts natural and smooth body movements, making it harder for an individual to perform normal day-to-day tasks like swallowing, sleeping, walking, and speaking. Apart from impaired body movements, the disease also affects learning, motivation, and mood.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
The real cause of the disease is still unknown. However, the presence of Lewy bodies coupled with the depletion of the dopaminergic neurons in the brain stem is one of the aggravating factors. Genetic issues, exposure to heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals, toxic water, and other environmental conditions are also among the risk factors that can intensify the development of the disease. Parkinson’s usually affects individuals aged 50 and above. During the diagnosis of the disease, neurodegenerative disorders are often excluded first. The symptoms of the disease are classified into two main categories: 1) mood; and 2) motor-related symptoms. The common symptoms include rigidity, trembling, bradykinesia, and postural instability. Other mood-related symptoms include sleeping difficulties, sexual dysfunction, and speaking problems.
Naturopathic Medical Perspective and Approaches on Treating Parkinson’s disease
Although curative drugs can be taken to relieve or stabilize a patient’s mood and improve their motor system, there are various natural approaches that can help patients with this disease.
Exercise is paramount in delaying and reversing the gradual decline in motor functioning, coordination, gait speed, and balance in an individual. Exercise also helps to improve non-motor-related functions, like sleep and mood, thus improving one’s quality of life. Studies have shown that other forms of exercise such as aerobic exercises are neuroprotective and can help slow down the development of Parkinson’s disease. It fights off depression and anxiety to maintain and improve health.
According to a study done in the Netherlands, eating diets rich in omega-3 from plant-based alpha-linolenic acid can help reduce the risk of contracting the disease. Patients are advised to eat omega-3 rich diets such as walnuts, seeds, and salmon. Patients who are on dopamine therapy are encouraged to reduce their intake of protein to 0.8g/kg every day. This helps to improve the intake of levodopa into the brain. However, proper caution should be taken to ensure that the body gets optimal nutrition. Other foods that can help improve the condition include raw fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich foods, healthy fats, cold-pressed oils, vegetable juice, and green tea. Other supplements to take include foods rich in vitamins C, D, and E; fish oil; and coenzyme Q10. The foods to avoid include those with too much protein, processed foods, food with added sugar or artificial sweeteners, and alcohol. These are considered toxic and can worsen the disease.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can help relieve the symptoms of the disease. It generates the neural response in brain sections such as the thalamus and putamen that are affected by inflammation. The approach has been used for years to treat insomnia, anxiety, pain, and stiffness. It also slows the rate of cell death and mitigates dopaminergic damages in the substantia niagra.
Just like any other degenerative disorder, Parkinson’s disease is multifaceted with its causes ranging from toxic exposures to genetic vulnerabilities. A balance of natural approaches such as good diet, exercise, and integrative approaches can help relieve the symptoms and even delay or reverse the progress of the disease.