Parkinson’s disease results from damage to the nerves in the area of the brain that is responsible for controlling muscle tension and movement – the basal ganglia. The damaged cells are the ones needed to produce the neurotransmitter called dopamine. The disease usually begins as a slight tremor of one hand, arm, or leg. In the early stages the tremors are more apparent while the person is at rest, such as while sitting or standing, and are less noticeable when the hand or limb is being used. A typical symptom of Parkinson’s disease is “pill rolling,” in which the person appears to be rolling a pill back and forth between the fingers. As the disease progresses, symptoms often get worse. The tremors and weakness affect the limbs on both sides of the body. The hands and the head may shake continuously. The person may walk with stiff, shuffling steps. In many cases, the disease causes a permanent rigid stooped posture and an unblinking, fixed expression.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but symptoms are often improved by drug therapy. The most popular drug used is Sinemet, which contains two key ingredients: levodopa and carbidopa. Levodopa, or L-dopa, is the middle step in the conversion of the amino acid tyrosine into dopamine. L-dopa, but not dopamine, crosses the blood-brain barrier. Carbidopa is a drug that works by ensuring that more L-dopa is converted to dopamine within the brain, where it is needed, and not within the other tissues of the body. Other drugs used include Eldepryl, bromocriptine, and amantadine. Certain medications can also help control tremors.
The value of a low-protein diet in enhancing the action of L-dopa has been demonstrated in several clinical studies, and such a diet is now a well-accepted supportive therapy. The usual recommendation is to eliminate major sources of dietary protein from protein from breakfast and lunch in order to keep protein intake below 7 g until the evening meal. This simple method can effectively reduce tremors and other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease during working hours.
Population-based studies have indicated that high dietary intakes of antioxidants nutrients, especially vitamin E, may help prevent Parkinson’s disease and may also offer some therapeutic effects as well. In one double-blind study, patients with early Parkinson’s disease given 3,000 mg of vitamin C and 3,200 IU of vitamin E each day for a period of seven years fared better than the placebo group. Although all patients eventually required drug treatment, the patients receiving the vitamins were able to delay the need for medication for up to three years. These results are quite promising, but a ten-year study with vitamin E at a lower daily intake, 2,000 IU, failed to show any real benefit in slowing the progress of the disease.
I also recommend that people with Parkinson’s disease take ENADA. This supplement contains stabilized niacinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH), the activated form of vitamin B3 (niacin). NADH is required by the brain to make various neurotransmitters and to produce chemical energy. Typically, the level of NADH declines as one ages. Correcting this state of low NADH leads to significant improvement in mental function. NADH is especially effective in raising the level of dopamine within the brain and so is extremely beneficial in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The typical dosage for ENADA is 5 to 20 mg daily, depending upon the severity of the symptoms. Ginkgo biloba extract may also be helpful.