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Natural Support for Parkinson’s Disease

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Natural Support for Parkinson's disease using Functional Medicine
Every hour, two people are newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s. A degenerative condition, meaning symptoms become worse over time, Parkinson’s can make everyday tasks a challenge. To support Parkinson’s Awareness Week, read on to find out more about the condition, the causes of its symptoms and how you can naturally support yourself or a loved one living with Parkinson’s.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s develops slowly, often the first sign being a slight tremor in one hand. Over time, limbs become stiff, movements slow and shuffling, and those living with Parkinson’s often experience poor muscle strength, and problems with balance, speech and facial expressions. Because of its effects on mobility, it can lead to premature death.

However, there are over forty symptoms of Parkinson’s, and the condition affects everyone differently.

Parkinson’s is more commonly found in people over 60 years old, but it can affect anyone at any age, and men are more prone to develop Parkinson’s than women.

Brain Changes in Parkinson’s

As the condition develops there is a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain known as the substantia nigra, responsible for controlling voluntary movements. Cells in this area produce dopamine, a chemical responsible for communicating messages from your brain to the rest of your body. People living with Parkinson’s produce less dopamine than average in their brain.

The loss of nerve cells is caused by abnormal deposits of protein called Lewy bodies in the brain. These accumulations disrupt brain functioning, block the production and transmission of dopamine and eventually destroy brain cells.

Conventional treatments for Parkinson’s include drugs to replace dopamine or prevent its breakdown. However, these don’t address the root causes of Parkinson’s or prevent its progression.

What Causes Parkinson’s?

  • Gut Health

 

Scientists have been trying to find out what causes Parkinson’s for many years, and recently they have turned their attention to the gut.

Research has found the composition of the microbiome, the bacteria resident in the gut, is different in people suffering from Parkinson’s. Their microbiomes contain more inflammation-boosting bacteria than usual and tend to have certain types of bacteria colonising the small intestine, a condition known as SIBO.

It’s thought the inflammation caused by the errant bacteria causes proteins in the gut to fold up incorrectly so they clump together and don’t work as they should. This is what happens to a protein called alpha-synuclein, which then travels from the gut to the brain via the vagus nerve, and forms the main constituent of Lewy bodies. Misfolded proteins are thought to form in the gut some time before Parkinson’s symptoms develop. In fact, many patients report suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms, especially constipation, for years.

Another clue to the importance of the gut was demonstrated by a study showing people were far less likely to develop Parkinson’s if they’d had their appendix removed. Your appendix, far from being a defunct organ sitting there doing nothing, is involved in your immune system. Researchers discovered misfolded alpha-synuclein had accumulated in the appendix of people living with Parkinson’s, suggesting it may act as a reservoir for the toxic protein.

An unhealthy microbiome leads to the production of a substance called lipopolysaccharide (LPS). If your intestinal lining has become too permeable because of ongoing inflammation, LPS can be absorbed into your bloodstream and reach your brain, causing inflammation and destruction of dopamine-producing brain cells.

Natural Support for Parkinson's Disease

Environmental Toxins

Research has uncovered a correlation between exposure to environmental chemicals such as pesticides and toxic metals and the development of Parkinson’s. Toxins are known to be capable of damaging brain cells as well as causing inflammation and harming the intestinal lining.

Mitochondrial Health

Your mitochondria, the cellular energy-producing factories, can become damaged and dysfunctional over time due to oxidative stress and inflammation. When the mitochondria in your brain are damaged, brain cells can be destroyed.

Natural Support for Parkinson’s

Because your gut is so important for brain health, the first priority when putting things right will be maximising gut health. Restoration of a healthy microbiome and healing your intestinal lining are incredibly important.

Nutrients typically depleted in Parkinson’s like B vitamins, vitamin D and omega 3 fats may need to be replaced, and protective antioxidants like glutathione, co-enzyme Q10 and vitamin C may be useful to protect mitochondria.

These measures are best combined with healthy lifestyle behaviours, because although scientists believe there is a genetic predisposition to Parkinson’s, whether those inherited tendencies are switched on depends on lifestyle factors. Exercise is very important – studies have shown regular exercise can slow or even reverse the progression of Parkinson’s, as well as reducing the likelihood of its development.

Functional tests can detect nutrient deficiencies, microbiome dysfunction, toxin accumulation and bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.

Happily, even if brain cells die, their neighbours are capable of reaching out to make connections and new pathways. Knowing your brain is not static is empowering, meaning it’s never too late to support your brain function.

We offer natural support for Parkinson’s Disease. Let us help to help you make meaningful changes to your physical and mental health by contacting Embracing Nutrition today.

Our practitioner for Natural Support for Parkinson's Disease

Natural Support for Parkinson's Disease with Lottie Strutt

Lottie Strutt

Functional Medicine Trained Nutritional Therapist

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