Until now, because there are so many books and so much information available on the Internet, I haven’t felt the need to post a blog ‘about’ PD. Instead, I’ve focused on how to go about healing it naturally. However, given the feedback I’ve received and the questions I’ve been asked, it seems this would be helpful. So here goes!
Most of what I know about PD, I learned on my own, because as I’ve learned with the neurologist, if you don’t ask the questions, he’s not going to give you the answers … in the rather brief 15 minutes you’re allotted every six months! In other words, the onus is on us to manage our health … and rightfully so!
I’m going to cover the following topics:
- What is Parkinson’s Disease
- Other neurological conditions
- What causes Parkinson’s Disease
- How is Parkinson’s Diagnosed
- How do you treat Parkinson’s Disease
- What does the future hold
1. What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease (PD)is a progressive, degenerative condition of the central nervous system (which is composed of the brain and spinal cord). It was first identified by an English doctor, James Parkinson, in 1817. PD is thought to be the result of a deficiency of the neurotransmitter (chemical messenger), dopamine, which is produced in the substantia nigra section of the mid-brain, the part of the brain that controls movement. A deficiency of dopamine impairs the flow of nerve impulses from the brain to the muscles resulting in trembling and other symptoms. This deficiency occurs when cells in this part of the brain begin to prematurely and inexplicably die off.
PD, considered a movement disorder, typically occurs in people over the age of 60 and when symptoms begin prior to age 50, it is considered young onset PD..
PD is most commonly associated with the trembling that occurs when the muscles are inactive.
Parkinsonism is a term used to describe all conditions (including PD) that have three prevalent symptoms: trembling, muscle rigidity and bradykinesis (slowness of movement). They may or may not be caused by a deficiency of dopamine. Other conditions include: Essential Tremors, Multiple System Atrophy and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.
2. Other neurological conditions.
Wikipedia lists a mind-boggling 308 neurological conditions, some of which are very closely related. The more common conditions include:
- Alzheimer’s – dementia
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS … Lou Gehrig’s)
- Epilepsy – seizures
- Essential Tremors (this is what Katherine Hepburn had) – it is considered the most common neurological movement disorder. It is characterized by involuntary, trembling or shaking, usually the hands and arms, especially when they are being used for activities such as writing or eating.
- Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) – is a degenerative condition characterized by low blood pressure when standing. It may lead to rigidity, ataxia, fainting, or incontinence. Also known as Shy-Drager Syndrome.
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – is a disease which attacks the myelin sheath, the protective covering wrapped around the nerves of the central nervous system.
3. What causes Parkinson’s Disease?
The premature cell die-off in the substantia nigra which causes the dopamine deficiency is thought to be the result of genetics, heavy metal toxins, over exposure to pesticides and/or head injuries, but the reality is, medical science is uncertain about the exact cause.
Based what I have learned in my search to heal myself, I have a theory. I believe that all disease has three levels of cause:
- Poor diet
- Chronic stress
- Unresolved emotional trauma
- Unhealed physical trauma
These four conditions lead to level 2 which is essentially a disruption in the body chemistry. It takes the body out of homeostasis.
- Leaky gut
- Acidosis (acidic body)
- Chronic inflammation (PD is considered an inflammatory condition)
- Clogged up lymphatic system
When the body is in this state, we quickly move into level 3 … a weakening of what keeps us healthy.
- Weakened immune system
- Weakened chi (life force energy)
Once we’ve reached level 3, we then become susceptible to developing a disease. The specific disease could be virus or bacteria related, or it could involve cell death (ie, Parkinson’s) or cell mutation (ie, cancer) or some other manifestation. It could also depend on the mix and degree of level 1 causes, for instance, if diet or chronic stress is more of a factor.
It could also depend on the predominant emotional pain a person is holding on to. For example, anger inflames us emotionally, which could inflame us physically, leading to Parkinson’s or arthritis, etc. Similarly, resentment and guilt eat away at us emotionally, which could lead to cancer, a disease that eats away at us physically. Or consider unresolved grief from a broken heart due to loss. This could lead to heart disease or a blood disorder.
The type of disease we develop could also be due in part to personality traits, genetics, exposure to toxins, or it could simply be destiny!
Whatever the cause, once we have hit level 3, disease appears inevitable.
4. How is Parkinson’s Diagnosed
PD is typically diagnosed through clinical observation, because there is no standard diagnostic test. The neurologist observes your symptoms and makes a diagnosis. The neurologist will observe you:
- standing up (to check for ease of movement)
- standing in one place and being pushed (to check for balance)
- walking (to check for shuffle walk)
- extending both arms straight out in front (to check for resting tremor)
- resting your hands in your lap (to check for resting tremor)
- rapidly touching your thumb and index finger on each hand (to check for slow movement)
- extending both arms out to the, then touching your nose (to check for coordination)
- writing (to check for impaired handwriting)
The battery of observations are similar to a police sobriety test because experiencing PD is a lot like being drunk … at least it looks the same.
The neurologist will also look for responsiveness to PD medications to support their diagnosis.
The neurologist may also send you for an MRI in order to rule out any structural damage to the head.
Unfortunately, because there is no definitive diagnostic test for PD, and because PD symptoms are similar to those of other neurological conditions, the misdiagnosis rate can be quite high, particularly in the early stages. For this reason, it is worthwhile to seek a second opinion, particularly with a neurologist with specific expertise in movement disorders.
In addition to the familiar trembling, Parkinson’s and Parkinsonism are characterized by a number of symptoms including:
- Imbalance…standing, sitting and walking
- Bradykineses – slowness of movement and expressionless face
- Loss of strength, mobility, control, dexterity and coordination on one side of the body
- Clenching (Dystonia)… particularly in the hands
- Constriction in the throat
- Softening of the voice
- Impaired handwriting
- Shuffle walk
- Freezing (sudden inability to move)
- Slow urination
- Leg cramps
- Weight loss
- Loss of sense of smell
- Pain in one or both shoulders
- Tension in the neck & back
- Mental fog
6. How do you treat Parkinson’s Disease?
Given that at present, there is no known cure for PD, we only have two options:
- Manage the condition and minimize some of the symptoms through medications and other treatments, while attempting to slow its progress through exercise and meditation, and or,
- Attempt to heal it naturally.
Managing Symptoms with Medication and Other Treatments:
I don’t take any medications, so I’m going to refer you to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s website for details about the various medications available to treat PD symptoms. The most common of these is Sinemet, which is a combination of levadopa & carbadopa.
While I don’t take medications, I would like to point out that on the positive side, medications provide relief from certain symptoms, particularly trembling. On the negative side, they don’t help with all symptoms, there are side effects (including nausea, depression, dyskinesia and hallucinations), they don’t slow the progression of the disease and they lose their efficacy over time, eventually becoming completely ineffective. Your decision whether to take medications (or not) needs to be made in consultation with the neurologist you see, so make sure you know if he or she is aware of or trained in alternative approaches. Ask lots of questions (such as does the neurologist receive kickbacks or funding from drug companies) and do your homework. You have a choice!
Another procedure that is available in certain countries primarily for those for which medication is no longer effective is Deep Brain Stimulation. According to the Davis Phinney Foundation, DBS involves the surgical implantation in your brain of a device similar to a heart pacemaker neurostimulator. Electrical impulses (referred to as stimulation) can have a positive effect on tremor, stiffness, slowness, dyskinesia, medication wearing off and some types of walking problems.
A Natural Approach:
Taking a natural approach with PD attempts to accomplish three things:
- Manage symptoms
- Slow the progression of the disease
- Heal the disease
To date, I have discovered six ways of minimizing symptoms:
- Body Stress Relief – significant reduction in trembling and constriction in throat
- Laying on my back – minimizes trembling
- Being in or on water – minimizes trembling
- Practicing Qigong – no symptoms while practicing (especially helps with balance)
- Exercise walking – eliminates shuffle walk, clenching in left hand and loss of control in left leg & foot
- Tossing a ball while standing – helps with balance
Slowing the progression of the disease:
Here’s what I’ve been doing to slow the progression of the disease:
- Exercise – walk, practice martial arts & Qigong
- Stretching – half hour a day
- Meditate – 5 to 20 minutes a day
- Stress reduction – practice living in the present moment and accepting the present circumstances, do what I love (teach martial arts and blog), don’t watch the news
- Healthy diet
The rate of progression differs for everyone and while I don’t know for certain if what I am doing has helped, my neurologist did say that, given the length of time since I first started experiencing symptoms, I’m doing very well.
Healing the disease:
If my hypothesis is correct and the root cause of all disease is poor diet, chronic stress, unresolved emotional trauma and unhealed physical trauma, then it would seem logical that in order to heal PD, these four factors must be addressed first. That means:
- Eating a strict healthy organic diet of fruit, vegetables (especially green), nuts & seeds, olive & coconut oils, grass-fed meat and wild caught fish
- Reduce Stress – practice living in the present moment and accepting the present circumstances, do what I love (teach martial arts and blog), don’t watch the news, practice Qigong
- Heal unresolved emotional pain (especially anger) through forgiveness, prayer, counseling and other techniques
- Heal the body through Body Stress Release, massage, chiropractic, Reiki, Reflexology and other techniques
Other natural healing modalities & techniques that could be beneficial, particularly as it relates to minimizing symptoms and slowing the progress of the disease:
- Breathing exercises like anulom vilom pranayam
Taking a natural approach with PD is not at all easy for several reasons:
- You have to (and I repeat, HAVE TO) give up all those yummy foods and snacks, which means no cheese, no chocolate, no fast foods, etc
- You are giving up getting relief from symptoms (particularly if the symptoms are severe) through medications, but as mentioned above, there are natural techniques that are beneficial (and you don’t have to deal with the side effects).
- Detoxing (which is what happens when you purify your diet) can be very unpleasant as you release toxins, heavy metals and mucous from your body.
- Similarly, healing the physical body can be unpleasant as tension and pain are released.
- Releasing emotional pain is also not easy, especially as buried emotions start coming to the surface. You will feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster.
At the end of the day, however, the unpleasantness of natural healing is well worth it, particularly considering the alternative.
7. What does the future hold?
I’m an optimist, so I like to believe the future holds great promise. I know in my heart Parkinson’s can be overcome!
Whether you choose to take medications or not, I urge you to follow the healing protocol I have outlined in this and other posts because I am convinced that it is the path to wellness. Besides, what have you got to lose by exercising, eating healthy foods, reducing stress, letting go of emotional pain and healing the physical body?
Please be patient! Healing takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight, just like you didn’t become unwell overnight!
Godspeed on your journey!