Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system affecting movement and speech, as well as other functions.
The primary symptoms result from insufficient levels of the important brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine plays a crucial role in behaviour, cognition, movement, motivation, pleasure and alertness. In Parkinson’s disease there is chronic and progressive loss of one of the parts of the brain that makes dopamine, the substantia nigra.
- Slow or impaired movement
- Postural instability
- Small handwriting
- Mask-like face
As the condition progresses other symptoms and complications may develop, including:
- Cognitive disturbance
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty swallowing
- Speech difficulty
- Impaired movement
- Excessive salivation
- Urinary dysfunction
- Pins and needles
- Disturbance in sense of smell
- Skin problems
- Pill rolling (tremor or rhythmic shaking that may lead to repetitive rubbing back and forth of the thumb and forefinger)
Many cases of Parkinson’s have no known cause, although some are related to genetics, head injuries, certain diseases and the use of some drugs.
Oxidative damage: the major underlying cause of Parkinson’s disease is thought to be oxidative damage, which is caused by chemicals called free radicals.
Free radicals occur naturally: some are made in the body and others come from our environment, for instance from pollution. Normally the body has very good mechanisms for mopping up free radicals before they do us any damage. However, constant exposure to high levels can overwhelm our body’s defence mechanisms, leading to disease.
If you’re concerned about exposure to free radicals, an Oxidative Stress Test assesses how much oxidative stress your body is under and how well its defence mechanisms are working.
Environmental toxins: certain toxins such as agricultural chemicals and pesticides have been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease. In our modern world these chemicals are becoming more and more common, and our bodies can struggle to deal with the increasing load.
Heavy metals: one specific group of toxins that has been linked to Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders is heavy metals. The body finds it very difficult to get rid of certain metals so they accumulate within our systems and can push out some of the essential metals we need to function properly. They can also form free radicals and add to our oxidative stress.
If your occupation exposes to heavy metals, or you’re just interested in finding out whether you have any heavy metal toxicity, a Hair Mineral Analysis measures levels of metals excreted into the hair shaft, which is representative of metal levels throughout the body.
Poor diet: a diet high in refined and processed foods and low in fruit and vegetables can greatly impact both the toxic and free radical load in the body.
Eating the right food is key to ensuring your body has everything it needs to fight free radicals and other disease processes. Smart Nutrition can advise you on the best foods to eat to combat damaging free radicals and keep your nervous system healthy and reduce toxic load. These are all sensible strategies for helping to prevent the processes that contribute to Parkinson’s and other diseases.
Stress: stress causes the body to produce many more free radicals than normal, which can lead to the increased levels of oxidative damage associated with Parkinson’s disease. In fact, unremitting stress is known to be a key risk factor for the development of Parkinson’s.
If you think stress is a big factor in your life, a Stress Test can identify key imbalances in stress hormones.
Nutritional therapy for Parkinson’s sufferers
Food and medication interactions: it’s very important for Parkinson’s patients to take medication at the right times around meals because interactions between medications and foods can adversely affect your control of movement.
Smart Nutrition can help you to design an eating plan around your medication so that you get the best results from your drugs and a better quality of life.
Nutritional deficiencies: many people with Parkinson’s disease demonstrate certain nutritional deficiencies. This can be due to both dietary difficulties, as well as differences in the way the body uses these nutrients.
A NutrEval Health Test is an excellent way to quickly identify these deficiencies, which can then be easily corrected with the help of a diet and supplement programme. Correcting deficiencies can make huge differences in energy and quality of life.
Bowel function: constipation and diarrhoea are common complications of Parkinson’s disease. They are often simple to manage with proper diet and lifestyle advice: dietary changes can make all the difference and help you to be much more comfortable.
Weight management: the combination of problems with swallowing, movement and bowel function can all make managing your weight very difficult with Parkinson’s.
Support from a nutritional therapist can be invaluable in ensuring meals provide an adequate level of calories and nutrients, as well as being easy to digest. We can also work with your speech and language specialist who may already be helping you with any swallowing difficulties you may have. Please use the button at the bottom of the page to find out more.