People newly diagnosed with the symptoms of Parkinson’s invariably ask, what do I do? Do I take meds or not? If I do take meds, which one[s] do I take? If I don’t take meds, what can I do to slow the progression of the disease?
If you know anything about PD, the diagnosis can frankly be quite frightening. But it’s not a death sentence and there is much you can do.
Even though I take meds, I am not an advocate. I found myself in a situation in late 2018, where I felt I had no choice but to start on meds, but if I had been better informed, and if I had known then what I know now, I would have taken a different approach.
This post applies to those who have chosen not to take medication, as well as, those who have, because even if you are on meds, in order to recover, you will eventually need to get off them.
The question, what do I do, was recently posted on one of the PD Facebook groups, and it received a lot of helpful responses. Clearly there is a lot of experience and learnings people are happy to share.
For me, the single most important thing to do, is minimize stress/worry/anxiety/fear, because this is what causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s and it’s what causes the symptoms to progress. As such, my focus is on minimizing dietary stress, physical stress and mental stress.
In the twenty years I have been living with the symptoms of PD … the first 16 years, medication-free … I’ve learned a lot about how to live effectively with this condition, and I think it boils down to three things:
- Eat healthy
- Be active
- Have fun [be cheerful]
In order to slow the progression of the symptoms of PD and recover my health, I learned that I need to restore my body to homeostasis. This means, restoring gut health, srengthening my immune system, unclogging my lymphatic system, eliminating inflammation and alkalining my body. [For more information on this, check this blog post.]
Restoring homeostasis requires a healthy diet. This means, eliminating junk food, fast food, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, while minimizing dairy, processed foods and alcohol. Depending on your preference, you may choose a ketogenic diet, caveman diet, paleo diet, Mediterranean diet, vegetarian or vegan diet. My preference is the high-fat, ketogenic diet mainly because I can’t tolerate sugar of any kind, including natural fruit sugar.
There is a direct connection between the gut and the brain via the vagus nerve and medical science has demonstrated … although, it is still learning … that gut health directly affects the production and health of neurotransmitters in the brain.
I have learned, through direct experience, that exercise is absolutely critical for both my physical and mental well-being. I have developed an extensive exercise program that keeps me active throughout the day, but doesn’t overdo it. I walk, cycle, do jumping-jacks, skipping, foot work, push-ups, stomach crunches, stretching and weight-lifting. I power-walk every day, quite often, twice a day, for a total of 4 to 6 kilometers. I also play golf, kayak, shovel snow and split and stack firewood.
To be living with the symptoms of PD is to be in a continual state of stress, where the body is in a constant state of fight-flight. It is to have a body coursing with cortisol, the fight-flight hormone. One of the purposes of cortisol, is to stimulate us to get moving, so exercise is essential to help us transition from the fight-flight, sympathetic nervous system, cortisol-producing state, to the parasympathetic/calm nervous system state where our bodies are producing dopamine, serotonin and other feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones.
For me, exercise has to be joyful. It has to be fun. I have to be diligent in making sure that while I am exercising, I am doing so joyfully, and that I am not lost in worry or negative thought.
Now you might think I’ve lost my marbles. This would be a legitimate thought. How can we have fun living with the symptoms of Parkinson’s? After all, they’re are in-our-face every moment of the day, including while we sleep … and they’re not pleasant.
And yet, having fun is absolutely critical. As I mentioned above, we need to get the brain/body of the sympathetic nervous system state, into the parasympathetic nervous system state, and there is no better way to do that, than to have fun.
I believe I developed the symptoms of PD after a lifetime of living in fear, stress and worry. Yes, there were other factors … excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, emotional trauma and head injuries … but living in a constant state of fear was the primary factor. I wasn’t living joyfully.
PD in my view is a fascinating condition. It is caused primarily by fear/worry and it feeds off itself by causing fear/worry. The best way to break this cycle is to have fun. It is to be joyful, optimistic, calm, excited and euphoric as much as possible. For me, this has sometimes meant, faking it until I make it. It is not always easy, as I’m sure you know, to be joyful. This condition can be very trying. It has helped me immensely, that I believe wholeheartedly, that I can and will recover my health. It has also helped me to immerse myself in spiritual practice: to live in the present moment and to know that everything has a purpose. And it has helped me to be a student of this condition … to let PD be my teacher … and one of the things it has taught me, is to have fun!
May you live in harmony with the flow of life!