In my last post, I mentioned that I had put aside a post that I had been working on for two weeks. It’s an important post and I offer it to you now.
I started taking Sinemet in December of 2019 after being medication-free for 16 years. Up until that point, I was a staunch opponent to the use of meds. Still am, actually.
I agreed to go on meds after finding myself in a state of immobility following six weeks of daily panic attacks and an adverse reaction to Lorazepam, an anti-anxiety medication. I worried myself into the panic attacks, in part because of what was going on in my life and in part because I didn’t understand how Bowen Therapy was affecting me [it was overloading my system with cortisol].
When I agreed to go on Sinemet, I was unaware of the wear-off rebound effect that comes with meds, nor did I understand how Sinemet works or how dopamine works. None of of these things were explained to me and I lacked the awareness necessary to know to ask the pertinent questions.
But when you understand how dopamine works and when you understand how Sinemet works you have to ask the question, is this the best approach for treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in the substantia nigra, which is located in the mid-portion of the brain. Dopamine is involved in movement, motivation, excitement, reward and celebration. Whenever you have any of these experiences, there is a release of dopamine.
A lack of dopamine leads to movement disorders, including the symptoms of PD. It is thought that a die-off of dopamine producing neurons leads to this lack of dopamine, but it has not been proven conclusively, nor does medical science know why. Based on my own personal experience, I believe this deficiency of dopamine results mainly from being in a continuous state of fear, stress and worry, resulting in the body being in a constant state of fight-flight-freeze, where the brain and body stop producing feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones, including dopamine. Instead, it is producing the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. I mention this now, because I think understanding this influences how we proceed to correct this chemical imbalance.
According to Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University in California, the brain produces a continuous baseline level of dopamine in order to manage ongoing muscle activity, including that involved in breathing, digestion and blood circulation. Huberman says everyone’s baseline is different. He says our baseline level of dopamine is determined mainly by genetics and our personality. Some people are more enthusiastic and excitable, whereas others are more calm or nervous. I suspect that our experience in the first few formative years also play a role. If we are raised in an atmosphere of love, enthusiasm, praise and encouragement, we will likely have a higher baseline.
When you decide to initiate a movement or when you are feeling motivated to undertake an activity or when you are feeling excited about something, the brain releases a short burst of dopamine, causing it to rise above baseline. When the movement or activity is complete, or when the excitement is over, dopamine release falls below baseline levels in order to restore homeostasis [otherwise, there would be too much dopamine in our system which could lead to other complications, such as, schizophrenia].
Essentially, through this process, you get a short-term dopamine spike followed by a short-term fall off. It is like being on a teeter-totter. If one side of the teeter-totter rises above level then it must fall below level in order to balance out.
Also, according to Huberman, the dopamine boost related to specific experiences wears off over time as you become less excited about that experience.
These short-term spikes in dopamine levels associated with life experiences isn’t the way the meds work.
With PD meds, such as, Sinemet [carbidopa/levodopa], you get an extended flood of dopamine for two to four hours, followed by the equivalent duration and level of fall-off.
Initially [I suspect] you get an additional boost of dopamine from the anticipation and excitement of knowing you’re about to feel better. But this too wears off over time.
When you understand this, you must then ask yourself, is this really the best way to address the symptoms of PD; a rollercoaster of extended peaks and valleys, where you feel great and can move normally for a period of time while the meds are in effect, followed by an equivalent period of feeling really lousy, severe shaking and having great difficulty moving after the meds wear off?
Of course the medical community has found a way to deal with this conundrum. They do it by doling out more medications, such as extended release levodopa, or dopamine agonists … which are meant to increase the number of available dopamine receptors … or in-between meds that are taken during the down time.
This is a real dilemma. Ideally, we want to increase baseline dopamine levels and we want to do it naturally, because whether we take meds or focus on goal setting and reward/celebration exercises, we are essentially going against nature. We are constantly going through this peaks and valleys process, without raising baseline. What do we do?
In earlier podcasts, Huberman has talked about the neuroplasticity of the brain … the ability of the brain to heal itself … but he also says that neuroplasticity diminishes with age. This too creates a dilemma. Whatever we do may take awhile to produce results, if it produces any change at all. On this issue, I prefer to remain optimistic. Simply put, it is more beneficial.
Huberman says one of the best ways to increase dopamine, naturally, is through cold water therapy. He explains that when you immerse yourself in cold water for up to two minutes you get an immediate release of adrenalin, followed by a longer duration release of dopamine. He suggests immersing ourselves in cold water by taking a shower or bath, or by jumping in a cold body of water, for up to two minutes. I’ve tried it and it works. If you’re going to try this, I would suggest taking it slow. Also, be aware, that like all other dopamine release protocols, it diminishes over time.
It strikes me that if the reason we ended up in this Parkinson’s state is due to being in an extended period of fight-flight-freeze, perhaps we also need to focus on calming the mind through meditation and breathing exercises, including, Physiological Sigh breathing, in order to activate our parasympathetic nervous system. This could raise baseline dopamine levels by activating dormant neurons and neural pathways.
Because of the body’s natural tendancy to return to homeostasis, it may be advantageous to expose ourselves to a little bit of stress before meditating or doing breathwork.
If medication is not the long-term solution and if short-term dopamine spikes through goal setting and achievement or cold water immersion is not the ideal approach for longterm healing, then, I think, the solution to increasing our baseline dopamine levels lies in changing our personality. Remember, Huberman says baseline dopamine levels are largely determined by genetics. Also, as American chiropractor and neuroscientist, Joe Dispenza advocates, if you want to recover from disease, you can’t be the same person who developed the condition. You have to change your personality. See my recent post on this topic.
If my personality and experience got me into this condition, that is to say, if worry, living-scared, regret, anger, impatience, people-pleasing and unresolved emotional pain, are at the root of the symptoms I’m experiencing, it stands to reason that changing my personality and approach to life should help correct it. If I can live in a state of forgiveness, acceptance, trust, faith, self-assurance, optimism, cheerfulness, patience, poise and calm, it is possible that this could activate my parasympathetic nervous system and stimulate the creation of new dopamine producing neurons. If I can live in divine love, I believe I can be healthy.
How to accomplish this may appear daunting [I covered this in detail in my previous post], but it is less so when you consider that all we have to do is be mindful of the present moment. If we can confine our focus to the present moment we have a much better chance for success. We can do so by making each present moment as joyful, peaceful and loving as possible. We can also express gratitude and appreciation. We can send loving compassion. We can focus on our breath or our surroundings. We can repeat mantras. These exercises are made more effective when we do them in conjunction with exercise, meditation and spending time in nature.
I like to repeat mantras. One I recently started repeating [several times a day], goes like so: I am divine love. Love is within me. Love moves throughout me. Love surrounds me. Love protects me. Love embraces me. Love inspires me. Love eminates from every aspect of my being. I am divine love.
To live without fear, regret, shame and anger are far more meaningful goals for me than living without the symptoms of PD. Wouldn’t be so wonderful to live in a state of contentment, I ask myself? Isn’t it more joyful to live in a state of gratitude and appreciation?
The dilemma I am facing at present, is how do I get from where I am, to where I want to go. That is to say, how do I go from being on meds [300 mg of levadopa per day], to being meds-free, recovered and producing dopamine naturally, while still being able to move and function to a certain degree. I’m already having some difficulty. When I’m on meds, I’m fine. But when the meds are off, I am very unsteady on my feet and I experience significant freezing and trembling. Quite frankly, I’m not sure that I can do it.
Having said that, I am certain that before I can stimulate the natural creation of new dopamine producing neurons and neural pathways, I have to be off meds. Otherwise, I’m going to be impeded by unnatural flooding and crashing affects of the synthetic levadopa.
So, when I’m ready, I’m going to start slowly weaning off the meds while attempting to stimulate the natural production of dopamine through cold water immersion, goal-setting-and-celebration, meditation, breathwork and present-moment-awareness, while working on transforming my personality through mantras, practicing the laws of attraction and emotional healing.
My first priority is to map out a plan and a process. I’ve actually already started doing everything, but it is somewhat haphazard. I will create a well-defined process and routine which I will communicate in a future post, once I have tested it.
I have learned so much through this process and I am very excited about this new undertaking based on my new understanding!
As I said in my previous post, I incarnated into a certain family, in a certain culture, with certain genetics and had specific early childhood experiences in order to develop a certain personality with certain beliefs that would eventually lead me on a certain path where I would develop this condition the medical community calls Parkinson’s Disease. While certain beliefs and personality traits have worked against me [so to speak], others [namely, optimism, perserverence, compassion, kindness, generosity, gratitude and the belief that anything is possible] have the potential to see me through this challenge.
Wishing you contentment!