Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is not just an issue of lack of dopamine production but in fact a multi-faceted neurological disease with many factors contributing to or causing PD. This applies as well to other brain diseases resulting in dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Though conventional treatment of PD focuses on increasing dopamine production and reducing motor coordination issues and tremors primarily through medication, drugs to do not attempt to address the underlying reason as to why a person gets PD and what can be done to address these risk factors that can cause and/or contribute to the worsening of the PD disease and related symptoms.
So, for example, dopamine synthesis is reduced due to the aggregation of and misfolding of alpha synuclein, which is seen in exams as clumpings within the dopaminergic neurons located primarily in the substantia nigra pars compacta part of the brain. This results in the formation of Lewy bodies, which in turn causes brain nerve cell death, resulting in classic symptoms of PD including poor ability to complete normal daily functions, motor coordination issues and tremors, rigidity, and reduction in cognitive and motivational function. Alpha synuclein in normal cases has many essential functions such as supporting dopamine synthesis, storing and releasing neurotransmitters (responsible for synapse that determines communication between cells), supporting mitochondria, brain plasticity, and more.
Underlying Factors that Impact Brain Functioning and Brain Disease
Some factors that can cause or contribute to Parkinson’s include: exposure to toxins such as mercury, manganese, iron, lead, arsenic, as well as low levels of antioxidants (glutathione is the antioxidant found in the highest levels in the brain), excessive free radical activity, poor diet, chronic inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction (mitochondria provide the energy for our cells), compromised autography (our brains clean-up system), brain barrier compromise, gut imbalances, lack of exercise, plus more discussed in the book below.
A primary factor in Parkinson’s is the aggregation and misfolding of alpha synuclein which result in the build-up of lewy bodies, also found in some patients with Alzheimer’s, but what causes this is what is attempted to be outlined in summary in this article and the book mentioned below in greater detail.
Diets should be mostly comprised of vegetables and low sugar fruits such as berries (bananas and melons for example are very high in sugar). These foods are alkaline oriented and considered anti-inflammatory, while acidic foods which promote inflammation include carbohydrates (particularly refined carbohydrates found in white flour, rice, pasta, and well as all sugars (stevia is excellent as an herbal sweetener with no negative side effects and actually have positive side effects including lowering blood pressure and balancing sugar/insulin).
The following should be completely avoided as they produce substances that are toxic to the brain: fried foods, sugary drinks including most juices, canned foods and artificial sweeteners (these should be avoided at all costs as they produce phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol. Phenylalanine and aspartic acid interfere with the transport of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, increases neuronal hyperexcitability and leads to degeneration in astrocytes and neurons essential for synapses (the passing of information from cell to cell)..
Top 10 Nutrients to Protect the Brain
In the book mentioned below, over 50 nutrients (herbs, vitamins and essential oil) are reviewed with study citations that support brain health, and have been shown to reduce the symptoms of PD, including some that reduce alpha synuclein build-up, help prevent apoptosis (cell death), reduce inflammation, depression and anxiety, support better sleep, improve cognitive function, and much more. Below is a brief review of 10 of the top nutrients to help protect the brain related to Parkinson’s:
- Ashwagandha – is an ayurvedic herb used commonly as a nerve tonic and adaptogen helping the body handle stress, boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation and neuronal cell death, reversing behavioral deficits, stimulating dendrite formation and neurite growth, improving synaptic function, reducing anxiety, improving concentration and even reducing beta amyloid build-up related to Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Bacopa Monniera – is known to have neuroprotective and cognition-enhancing effects. Importantly, it helps prevent dopaminergic neurodegeneration. Bacopa Monniera addresses a cause of the loss of neuron brain cells responsible for dopamine production (alpha-synuclein aggregation).
- Baicalein – is a flavonoid used as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent without side effects. Baicalein reduces alpha-synuclein naturally, and has neuroprotective properties.
- Curcumin – some of the benefits of curcumin or turmeric include reducing oxidation and the free radicals that cause the deterioration of neurons. This yellow spice reduces age-related mental decline and inflammation. Curcumin increases neurogenesis and regulates enzymes essential for enzyme disbursement. It also improves mitochondrial regulation, gene expression, and oxidative stress, and more.
- DHA – crosses all the major brain health categories, with benefits that include supporting neuron communication, helping prevent neuron cell death, reducing inflammation, and improving memory and cognition. Low DHA levels are also known to lower brain and cellular growth factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (growth factor) (BDNF). BDNF plays an important role in neuronal survival and growth.
- Ginseng – has many wonderful benefits that include improving learning and memory, reducing apoptosis (cell death), inhibiting neuroinflammation, improving neuroplasticity, potentiating neuronal growth, repairing damaged neuronal networks, and reducing depression and anxiety. Ginseng may also reduce amyloid and neurofibrillary fiber build-up related to Alzheimer’s.
- Glutathione – is the antioxidant found in highest amounts in the brain. Levels tend to be low in Parkinson’s patients. Glutathione is an essential part of neutralizing ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) and other free radical activity in the brain.
- Lutein – Lutein’s content in neural tissue has been positively correlated with cognitive function and has been found to accumulate in the brain. Lutein has been found to be significantly related to multiple measures of temporal processing speed, an important aspect of sensory and cognitive function. Lutein i=
- Pyrroloquinoline Quinone (PPQ) – PQQ is a quinone compound reported to improve learning ability. It may also enhance working memory, as well as improve cerebral blood flow that can help protect against cognitive decline and dementia in the elderly. PQQ may have neuroprotective properties against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cognitive injuries, and is critical in supporting healthy mitochondrial function.
- Sage – contains over 160 distinct polyphenols which are plant-based chemical compounds that act as potent antioxidants and have been shown to buffer one’s brain defense system. It appears to halt the breakdown of the chemical messenger acetylcholine (ACH) that plays an essential role in memory, promotes neurogenesis (production of new brain cells), and is one of the nutrient found to be deficient in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients
- Vitamins B1, B6, B9, B12, D3, and E – are all essential in supporting brain health and cognitive functioning. Deficiencies can mimic symptoms of Parkinson’s and dementia. Seniors have less efficient digestion, and may need supplementation.
Issues that Can Mimic Symptoms of PD
Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as Vitamins B1, B6, B12, D, and E, iron, as well as deficiencies in magnesium, selenium, and zinc can mimic Parkinson’s symptoms.
Leaky Gut Syndrome and alterations in Gut Microbiota can mimic Parkinson’s disease as well. This are now widely accepted as relevant to the etiology, course, and treatment of many neuropsychiatric disorders.
Digging Deeper into Parkinson’s Disease and Neurological Diseases
Drugs and PD
The traditional approach focuses on drugs that help slow down the progression of PD and reduce motor issues and tremors. Though these drugs do help, they often can have serious side effects as well including over time increasing the side effects of PD such as poor motor coordination and tremors, ideally using natural approaches for managing PD while minimizing the dosages of drugs needed could prove much more beneficial to the patient, particularly regarding trying to determine and addressing the underlying causes of PD, some of which are mentioned above.
Other Helpful Modalities
These include essential oils, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, yoga, tai chi, Qi gong, dancing, regular exercises, meditation, intravenous glutathione therapy, light therapy and essential oils. Studies have shown that for example light exposure, 1,000-1500 lux, 1 hour daily for just 2 weeks, resulted in improving mood, social activity and motor function. In some cases, patients were able to reduce their DA dosages by 13% – 100%.
Some of the Best Brain Foods
Avocado, blueberries, aged garlic, ginger, goji berries, green, leafy vegetables, mulberry, mushrooms (particularly Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Shiitake), nuts and berries, walnuts. Add some ginseng as well.
Michael Edson is the co-founder and President of Natural Eye Care, Inc. He is a New York State licensed acupuncturist and co-author of Natural Eye Care: A Comprehensive Manual for Practitioners of Oriental Medicine and Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision and Healing, 2019. His latest book is Natural Parkinson’s Support: Your Guide to Preventing & Managing Parkinson’s. His upcoming book, Natural Brain Support: Ways to Help Prevent and Treat Dementia and Alzheimer’s Naturally, will published in the late 1st quarter of 2020
For more information on “Natural Parkinson’s Support: Your Guide to Preventing and Managing Parkinson’s”, go to www.naturaleyecare.com where you can see the Table of Contents, an introduction and to order his latest book on Parkinson’s.