Parkinson’s: General Recommendations
I treat Parkinson’s in my office, with my usual approach – individualized diet, individualized supplement protocols, and aggressive detoxification routines.
First, Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease of the substantia nigra-globus pallidus regions of the brain, responsible for moderating and controlling movement, technically, motor function. In these areas, dopamine, a neurotransmitter derived from the amino acid phenylalanine, acts as an inhibitor, that is, it suppresses unwanted and unneeded fine movements. In Parkinson’s, dopamine tends to be quite deficient, so that the inhibition is lost, and patients develop uncontrollable tremors in their hands, an odd gait, the inability to stop walking once started, abnormally small handwriting (micrographia as doctors call the problem) and mood disturbances, particularly depression.
Officially, the cause of Parkinson’s, like many neurodegenerative disease, remains a mystery. In fact some researchers have linked the illness to exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment, particularly pesticides. Nearly all patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s that I have treated report some unusual exposure to some type of very toxic chemical in their past.
One patient of mine, who has since done well for many years, lived right next to a grain processing plant in the Midwest, which 24 hours a day spewed forth a fine dust that penetrated the air of my patient’s home. I think the constant exposure to the dust, which contained pesticide particles along with wheat grain particles – since the plant did not process organic grains – probably precipitated the problem. As a simple start, I told him to move, a suggestion he followed to great benefit.
In the orthodox medical literature, recent studies have suggested that two particular nutrients help significantly even with patients suffering advanced forms of the disease: Coenzyme Q10 and good old vitamin E. Coenzyme Q10, or ubiquinone, is a vitamin like molecule that we produce in all our cells and is necessary for energy production in the mitochondria. Without adequate CoQ10, our cells, in whatever organ they may be, simply cannot produce sufficient energy for effective normal metabolism. Since CoQ10 is so ubiquitous, required by all cells – hence the name ubiquinone – deficiencies can negatively affect any tissue or organ. In fact, deficiencies of CoQ10 have been associated with heart failure, gum disease, and neurological problems such as Parkinson’s. Years ago, a group of scientists reported good responses in patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s receiving in the range of 1200 mgs a day.
Unfortunately, the varieties of CoQ10 available in the health store are not well absorbed, with some products providing only 10% absorption. Most of these supplements come as the ubiquinone form. Recent evidence shows the alcohol molecule, ubiquinol, is considerably better absorbed and provides greater therapeutic effect. Life Extension Foundation provides ubiquinol supplements with great potency.
Studies going back several years also reported high dose vitamin E, up to 2000 units daily, also seemed to help stabilize Parkinson’s. In my experience, no vitamin generates more discussion, more hostility, and more confusion that vitamin E. Recent studies have both lauded the vitamin for its benefit against heart disease, and attacked it as worthless for the same problem.
Much of the confusion and contradictory opinions stem from the simple fact that vitamin E comes in at least eight different forms, the alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherols, each of which then come as multiple salts – ie:, alpha tocopherol acetate and alpha tocopherol succinate, for example, with different biochemical activity. The picture becomes more complicated because each vitamin E molecule exists in a biologically usable form and its less active mirror image (or technically its enantiomer).
The late Shute brothers based in London Ontario began using vitamin E for the treatment of heart disease in 1948, and over a thirty year period treated over 30,000 patients primarily with this nutrient. Even these two brothers, with more experience with the vitamin than anyone who has ever lived, couldn’t always agree which form was best for what problem – one brother believed the alpha tocopherol succinate best for heart disease, the other, alpha tocopherol acetate.
Fortunately, preparations of the mixed tocopherols, in the natural active form, are available. I like the Elite 400 unit variety of mixed vitamin E from Carlson, a very good company and a very good form of vitamin E. With my Parkinson’s patients, I start at 400 units a day and move on up slowly.
Vitamins do have side effects in pharmacological doses; in sensitive patients, vitamin E in doses above 400 units can occasionally raise blood pressure and lead to headaches. At times, high dose vitamin E has been associated with fatigue, and increased bleeding time (actually one of its benefits in terms of preventing blood clots that can lead to heart attacks). I dose cautiously and have never found a problem with our Parkinson’s patients with doses in the 1000 unit range or higher.
Of course, I never just use these two supplements, but rather a whole range of nutrients in my protocol with every patient including those diagnosed with Parkinson’s. But CoQ10 and vitamin E are a start.
I also find that my Parkinson’s patients usually do best with a varied diet, that includes not only fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains, but a fair amount of animal protein including eggs, good quality organic dairy, eggs, fish, poultry and red meat, 2-4 times weekly.
By Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D.