Mental Health in Old Age - Parkinson's disease

2020-06-25 23:20:54 |

Age-related memory declined is not inevitable. Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease can be prevented or even arrested with the right nutrition. @ Shutterstock


Parkinson's disease isn't just an affliction of old age. There are sufferers ranging from teenagers to the elderly. Whatever the age of the person with Parkinson's, the condition can be very tough to live with.

People with Parkinson's disease first show symptoms of tremor, rigidity, unsteadiness and slow movement. The reason for these problems with muscular control and function has been attributed to a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Conventional treatment is based on drug therapy giving L-dopa, the direct precursor of dopamine, which is made of the amino acid phenylalanine, found in dietary protein. Other drugs may increase the effectiveness of L-dopa. There are surgical methods of helping control the tremors.

However helpful, drugs and surgery do run the risk of side-effects. As such, so many people with Parkinson's opt for drugs only when they cannot function effectively enough without them. With the right nutritional support, this threshold may never be reached.

Many roads to dopamine deficiency

There are many answers to the question about an individual's impaired ability to make this key neurotransmitter.

In some cases, the neurons that produce dopamine don't work properly because they lack raw materials or the enzyme that turns the building blocks, amino acids into neurotransmitters. The neurons can die off or be damaged by oxidants or environmental toxins such as pesticides and herbicides. Deficiency of nutrients such as folic acid can also make these dopamine-producing brain cells more susceptible to damage.

The balance of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, is controlled by the process of methylation. Homocysteine levels affect methylation patterns. Patients with Parkinson's found have a high homocysteine level. Along with folic acid B12 linked to lower homocysteine, B6 deficiency also leads to an increased risk of Parkinson's. Either way, testing for homocysteine and supplementing homocysteine-lowering nutrients accordingly.

There are other factors cause faulty methylation such as prolonged stress, genetic predispositions, and liver toxification leaving neurons unprotected.

The studies from the researchers found that 100% of patients with Parkinson's had nutritional deficiencies within cells. They also found that many people were deficient in stomach acid and digestive enzymes, leading to poor digestion, and had increased intestinal permeability, leading to faulty absorption of nutrients. Intestinal permeability is tested by drinking polyethylene glycol (PEG 400), a substance that shouldn't pass through the gut wall, and then measuring levels of PEG 400 in the urine. Using this test, people of Parkinson's may show an increase in gut permeability or malabsorption. Therefore, the researchers have found that correcting these deficiencies often helps.

Brain toxins, oxidants and the liver

The brain's neurons can't protect themselves from toxins, they depend on the liver. A simple example of this is alcohol - once you drink more than your liver can detoxify, you get drunk, which is what happens when brain cells are exposed to this toxin. In excess, you lose muscular control and movements, including speech, slow down.

Problems with liver detoxification are often a hallmark of Parkinson's patients. One of the liver's best detox allies is the sulphur-containing amino acids, which have the ability to mop up undesirable toxins in a process called sulphation. Faulty sulphation in Parkinson's can be helped by supplementing cysteine, methionine, molybdenum and avoid wine, coffee, certain cheese and chocolate, all known inhibitors of sulphation. Eating foods rich in glucosinolates, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and helps the liver to detoxify.

The greatest toxins of all are oxidants or 'free radical'. Giving antioxidants helps to prevent free radical damage to brain cells and slows the progression of the disease.

Along with its negative effect on neurons, Parkinson's also damages function in the mitochondria, which are the energy factories in our cells where energy conversion takes place. One of the most critical antioxidants for protecting mitochondria is co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10). The older you are, the more likely you are to be deficient.

Personalized nutrition works best

The best results with Parkinson's come from a total optimum nutrition approach. This involves both diet and supplements, helping to improve digestion, absorption, liver function and the cell's ability to work properly and to produce dopamine, thus enhancing cellular metabolism and energy production.

The ability to make dopamine efficiently depends on many vitamins and minerals. These are nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, and B vitamins, especially B6 and B12. The reason for this is that without B12, or folic acid, the body produces too much homocysteine, a toxic substance that damage brain cells and so hinders dopamine production.

The researchers found that the best approach involves a tailor-made nutritional programme of diet and supplements, which reduce symptoms and make drugs more effective, thus optimizing dosage. They recommend many supplements based on patients' biochemical individuality such as vitamins, minerals, essential fats, amino acids, antioxidants, phospholipids and brain-friendly herbs like ginkgo.

Managing stress is also important because we respond to stress by producing stress hormones noradrenaline and adrenalin, which are made from dopamine. This is why symptoms of Parkinson's often get worse when the sufferer is stressed.

L- dopa medication and diet - what to eat when

L-dopa is affected by protein-containing foods that contain significant amounts of the amino acids tyrosine, phenylalanine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, tryptophan, methionine, and histidine.

  • Foods which contain these amino acids include eggs, fish, meat, poultry, dairy produce (not butter), pulses, green peas, spinach, sago, soy, couscous, bulgar, coconut, avocado, asparagus, and gluten-containing grains (oats, rye, wheat, barley, spelt)

  • Take L-dopa medication (Wait ONE HOUR before eating any of the foods listed above).

  • After eating any of the foods listed above, wait TWO HOURS, if possible, before taking L-dopa medication again

This dietary protocol has been developed and proven helpful by Dr. Geoffrey Leader and Lucille Leader and is reproduced with their kind permission.

While taking medication, be careful to avoid these foods including strong cheese, ripe avocado, pepperoni, salami, soy sauce, old liver pate, overripe bananas, chocolate or caffeine (large quantities), fish (pickled, salted, or smoked), miso soup, caviar.

It is important to get enough protein from foods at other times. Good whole proteins include fresh fish, soy products, and eggs.

It is also important to have a well-balanced diet throughout the day including fruits and vegetables, gluten-free whole grains and plenty of fluids.

A common problem in Parkinson's is constipation. Having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water throughout the day makes a big difference. Having few prunes, figs, or dried apricots with each meal, or psyllium husk capsules between meals with water.



Holford P. (2007). Optimum Nutrition for the Mind. Mind.

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