Parkinson’s disease is a multi-neurological disease. Currently, most Parkinson’s treatments focus on increasing dopamine production and reducing motor symptoms and tremors through medication. However, this disease has many causative or contributing factors that cause changes in healthy brain function. Many of these factors are also relevant for dementia, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Wilson’s diseases as well. Which factors impact brain functioning and the development of brain disease? Are there natural approaches to preventing and slowing the progress of such devastating diseases? This article offers a brief overview, based on the new book, Natural Parkinson’s Support: Your Guide to Preventing and Managing Parkinson’s. (Note: Full explanations and individual references are in the book.)
Factors that Impact Brain Functioning and Brain Disease
Cholinergic circuit dysfunction – which affects aspects of memory formation and motivational and volitional behaviors.
Free Radical Increase and Nigral Cell Loss – which results in loss of healthy brain cells.
High sugar levels – in the brain are toxic and result in cell loss.
Inflammation. Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s are characterized by neuroinflammation that appears in seniors when chronic inflammation in the body compromises the immune system.
Mitochondrial Dysfunction – contributes to neurodegeneration with a role in apoptosis through excitotoxicity and signaling. Mitochondria are the batteries that produce energy within our cells.
Heavy Metal Build-up – such as mercury, lead, and arsenic causes cell death and may alter neurotransmission and lead to neurodegeneration. This can manifest as cognitive problems, movement disorders, and learning and memory dysfunction.
Misfolded Protein – affects the ability in the brain to “clean house,” referred to as autography, which enables the brain to recycle waste products, including damaged mitochondria and large protein aggregates.
Environmental Factors. Epigenetics is the study of the effect of the environment on gene expression. Environmental factors such as childhood nurturing and diet, stress, and other factors affect how the brain develops. Growth factors, which promote the survival and regeneration of neurons, can be impacted.
Brain-Blood Barrier – keeps pathogens and harmful substances from reaching the brain, while allowing healthy nutrients into the brain essential for maintaining brain health.
Dysfunction in the Brain-Gut Microbiota Axis may cause inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), depression, and anxiety, as well as neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with the same abnormal protein deposits (Lewy bodies) found in Parkinson’s disease but in widespread areas throughout the brain. Lewy bodies appear in some patients with Alzheimer’s.
Brain Disease Mimics
Certain Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies, such as B1, B6, B12, D, and E, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc, can mimic Parkinson’s through their symptoms.
Leaky Gut Syndrome and Alterations in Gut Microbiota can mimic Parkinson’s disease. They are now widely accepted as relevant to the etiology, course, and treatment of many neuropsychiatric disorders.
Digging Deeper into Parkinson’s Disease and Neurological Diseases
The above factors are just some of the issues that need to be considered when treating Parkinson’s patients. They are discussed in much greater detail in Natural Parkinson’s Support: Your Guide to Preventing and Managing Parkinson’s. This book covers over 50 nutrients that support healthy brain functioning. Some of the nutrients help improve motor coordination and reduce tremors. Some improving the ability to function mentally. The book contains a chart that cross-references all these nutrients as to how they benefit the brain, broken down into 15 different categories. We offer a summary of 10 of these nutrients below.
Top 10 Nutrients to Protect the Brain
Based on research studies, Natural Eye Care has identified 10 top nutrients to help protect the brain from disease:
Bacopa Monniera – is known to have neuroprotective and cognition-enhancing effects. Importantly, it helps prevent dopaminergic neurodegeneration. Bacopa Monniera addresses a cause of the loss of neuron brain cells responsible for dopamine production (alpha-synuclein aggregation).
Curcumin – some of the benefits of curcumin or turmeric include reducing oxidation and the free radicals that cause the deterioration of neurons. This yellow spice reduces age-related mental decline and inflammation. Curcumin increases neurogenesis and regulates enzymes essential for enzyme disbursement. It also improves mitochondrial regulation, gene expression, and oxidative stress, and more.
Baicalein – is a flavonoid used as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent without side effects. Baicalein reduces alpha-synuclein naturally, and has neuroprotective properties.
DHA – crosses all the brain health categories, with benefits that include supporting neuron communication, helping prevent neuron cell death, reducing inflammation, and improving memory and cognition. Low DHA levels are also known to lower brain and cellular growth factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (growth factor) (BDNF). BDNF plays an important role in neuronal survival and growth.
Ginseng – has many wonderful benefits that include improving learning and memory, reducing apoptosis (cell death), inhibiting neuroinflammation, improving neuroplasticity, potentiating neuronal growth, repairing damaged neuronal networks, and reducing depression and anxiety. Ginseng may also reduce amyloid and neurofibrillary fiber build-up related to Alzheimer’s.
Glutathione – is the antioxidant found in highest amounts in the brain. Levels tend to be low in Parkinson’s patients. Glutathione is an essential part of neutralizing ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) and other free radical activity in the brain.
Lutein. Lutein’s content in neural tissue has been positively correlated with cognitive function and has been found to accumulate in the brain. Lutein has been found to be significantly related to multiple measures of temporal processing speed, an important aspect of sensory and cognitive function. Lutein is also important for protecting the macula in the eye.
Mucuna Plant (Dopa Bean) – has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine, and is a natural form (versus synthetic). Dopa Bean contains a relatively higher amount of L-dopa than other plants, while providing strong antioxidant properties.
Pyrroloquinoline Quinone (PPQ). PQQ is a quinone compound reported to improve learning ability. It may also enhance working memory, as well as improve cerebral blood flow that can help protect against cognitive decline and dementia in the elderly. PQQ may have neuroprotective properties against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cognitive injuries, and is critical in supporting healthy mitochondrial function.
Vitamins B1, B6, B9, B12, D3, and E – are all essential in supporting brain health and cognitive functioning. Deficiencies can mimic symptoms of Parkinson’s and dementia. Seniors have less efficient digestion, and may need supplementation.
Some of the Best Brain Foods
- aged garlic
- goji berries
- green, leafy vegetables
- mushrooms (particularly Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Shiitake)
- nuts and berries
The Natural Parkinson’s Support book also discusses the role of essential oils for Parkinson’s disease patients, different forms of exercise, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, yoga, modern diets, and much more.
For more information, go to www.naturaleyecare.com where you can see the Table of Contents, an introduction and to order.
Source: Edson, Michael MS, L.Ac. (2020) Natural Parkinson’s Support: Your Guide to Preventing and Managing Parkinson’s. New Paltz, NY: Natural Eye Care Inc.