Parkinson’s Disease, A Nutritionist’s Perspective
Parkinson’s Disease, A Nutritionist’s Perspective
What is it?
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which manifests as uncontrolled tremors, nervousness, or a shuffling gait. The following symptoms make it difficult to perform everyday tasks that most people take for granted like walking across the room, putting a lid on a pot or pain, or shaking someone’s hand. Although the disease can occur at any age it is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 75. Like any diagnosis, Parkinson’s Disease is a collection of symptoms and the cause is thought to be unknown. However, studies have shown that several risk factors can increase someone’s chance of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Toxin accumulation (Heavy metals, molds, pesticides, herbicides, parasites, viruses, bacterias)
Poor dopamine levels (dopamine is a “feel good” hormone which low levels can explain nervousness)
Circulatory dysfunction (such as the cardiovascular or lymphatic function)
Damage to the mitochondria (remember back to basic biology, the powerhouse to every cell)
There are many contributing factors to the development of Parkinson’s Disease but research shows there is one common factor & that is a depletion involving dopaminergic neurons, which may explain why people suffering from the disease have such symptoms mentioned above. It’s my understanding that the cause of Parkinson’s disease is “unknown” because there is no one size fits all for each person who acquires the disease; but there is one common relationship and that is dopamine depletion. The body works in so many different ways and there are hundreds of biochemical pathways happing in the body each and every day which is why it is hard to pinpoint exactly what may be causing the dopamine depletion.
How can we address these imbalances?
As we addressed, Parkinson’s Disease is shown to develop by the “degeneration” of dopamine nerve pathways or poor neurotransmitter connection in the synapse.
So how can we address these imbalances?
Glutathione is an antioxidant which can help to prevent cellular apotheosis (or cell death) due to an abundance of toxins in the body. It is understood that many people are living with glutathione depletion due to poor liver function. Glutathione is an antioxidant which is produced in the liver with the help of several co-factors such as selenium and B vitamins. Toxin overload in the liver can actually affect the bodies ability to produce glutathione which is “our weapon needed to fight toxins”.
Do you see this negative feedback loop happening?
Glutathione depletion may affect the bodies ability to fight off and filter toxins from the body and ultimately lead to dopamine depletion due to toxin overload. According to a research study done on Parkinson’s Disease, they conclude that “Although the exact mechanisms of the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease are not well understood, mitochondrial dysfunction is proposed to play a central role”(Wimalasena, (2016). Mitochondrial dysfunction happens when optimal glutathione levels are not reached.
There are many signs and symptoms which can act as potential clues to the development of the disease and happen even before a diagnosis is presented. Symptoms like constipation, decreased sense of smell, restless leg syndrome, REM sleep (or rapid eye movement), late-onset depression, mood swings, poor handwriting or smaller handwriting, and tremors with stress.
Which are also signs of dopamine insufficiency?
Supplement to address imbalance:
On Supplement that can address such imbalances could potentially be glutathione therapy. Glutathione given sublingually can support the body with optimal levels of the antioxidant and lessen some of the symptoms experienced by those who acquire Parkinson’s Disease. In turn, glutathione may also support optimal detoxification of the liver creating a positive feedback loop. Detoxification of the liver can lessen toxin accusation so the body can learn to promote optimal levels of glutathione on its own which may be compromised due to toxin overload.
It is recommended to take glutathione intranasal or sublingually for optimal absorption of the antioxidant. Patients should consult with a healthcare professional or clinical nutritionist before experimenting with glutathione therapy intranasal or sublingually. Glutathione therapy is known to be safe for most people & side effects are not well known which is why it is important to consult with your health practitioner prior to experimenting with glutathione therapy on your own.
Typical conventional treatments for Parkinson’s Disease consist of surgery or pharmaceuticals which work to increase dopamine levels in the brain. The problem is that when you are giving this medication you are naturally stressing out the liver at the same time by blocking the bodies ability to optimally absorb essential micronutrients such as B vitamins. This is a bandage effect and is, in turn, causing a major negative feedback loop. Conventional practitioners use this tactic due to its ability to help with symptoms. The band-aid effect.
Whats the research say?
Ultimately, research shows that a diet high in phytonutrients can help the bodies natural ability to produce glutathione and protect the body from developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease. In most cases, prevention is key because as you can see there are many pathways which an ultimately be the root cause to the development of the disease.
From a dietary perspective, it is important to eat foods rich in vitamin B and sulfur to ensure your body is able to make neurotransmitters and protect your mitochondria. Leafy green vegetables are a terrific source of vitamin B, especially kale. Onions, garlic, asparagus, mushrooms, cruciferous vegetables, and cabbage are great sources of sulfur to assist the liver and kidneys in the removal of toxins.
It is also important to consume a colorful diet rich in phytonutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, and minerals. Vitamin A supports the immune system, kidneys, & other organs to work properly. Vitamin K supports circulatory systems such as the lymphatic and cardiovascular system. Vitamin C also supports the immune system and helps to detoxify the liver. Vitamin B protects the brain cells and is responsible for many cofactors in the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Vitamin B6, specifically, can increase the conversion of dopamine. Some foods high in vitamin b6 are leafy green vegetables, wild caught fish, eggs, starchy vegetables, and citrus fruits. Minerals are the cofactors to hundreds of different enzymes in the body and essential for biochemical pathways and conversions in our bodies. Omega 3 fatty acids cushion the brain and help to rewire specific synapses supporting impulses to pass by a diffusion of neurotransmitters.
An Interesting study examined multiple brains of postmortem patients who acquired Parkinson’s Disease and it was found that many of them had something in common, Interneuronal inclusions (or Lewy bodies) from lack of dopamine. This explains the tremor-like and gait-like symptoms which manifest from the disease. “Lewy bodies first appear in the lower brain stem of the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus and olfactory system”(Beyer et al 2009). This explains some more connections to the disease. The olfactory system is responsible for a sense of smell and an early symptom to the disease is the loss of smell and taste. The vagus nerve “or the gut-brain axis” can explain how liver dysfunction and GI dysfunction can also be a precursor or “root cause” to the disease.
Ultimately, there is a cause to every dysfunction in the body & a cause of every diagnosis. We can continue to eat the standard American diet, use pharmaceuticals for the answers to all of our problems, and watch our country go bankrupt due to overwhelming health costs… OR we can eat for our vitality and become determined to find the cause of each imbalance rather than the band-aid or one size fits all effect.
Beyer, K., Domingo-Sàbat, M., & Ariza, A. (2009). Molecular pathology of Lewy body diseases. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(3), 724-45.
Mischley, L. K., Standish, L. J., Weiss, N. S., Padowski, J. M., Kavanagh, T. J., White, C. C., & Rosenfeld, M. E. (2016). Glutathione as a Biomarker in Parkinson’s Disease: Associations with Aging and Disease Severity. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2016, 9409363.
Seidl, S. E., Santiago, J. A., Bilyk, H., & Potashkin, J. A. (2014). The emerging role of nutrition in Parkinson’s disease. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 6, 36. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2014.00036
Smeyne, M., & Smeyne, R. J. (2013). Glutathione metabolism and Parkinson’s disease. Free radical biology & medicine, 62, 13-25.
Wimalasena, (2016). The inherent high vulnerability of dopaminergic neurons toward mitochondrial toxins may contribute to the etiology of Parkinson’s disease. Neural regeneration research, 11(2), 246-7.