In late July we (Dr. Pam and Dr. Steph) went to Seattle and participated in a Parkinson’s Disease (PD) training course with Dr. Laurie Mischley ND.  Dr. Mischley is both a Naturopathic Doctor and researcher who has dedicated her career to PD patients. We plan to make this training course a yearly affair since both of our practices have an emphasis on patients with Neurological conditions.

A highlight for both of us at this two-day course was interacting with some of the first dogs being trained to sniff out PD.  Expect to see a lot more information coming out about this in the future.

It is well known that we need to come up with more reliable measures of assessing treatment interventions in PD patients.  Dr. Mischley has developed the Pro PD scale, which is a validated and effective monitoring tool for PD patients.  Since we both appreciate objective data to monitor changes in patients symptoms, we are going to be encouraging our new and existing PD patients to participate in the Pro PD scale.  This will track your symptoms based on the treatments you are doing and allow us to assess change. http://www.propd.org/

Exercise

We are going to continue to recommend 30 minutes, 7 days a week of physical activity.  The best forms of exercise seem to be those that are intense, novel (outside your comfort zone), cognitively engaging (requires focusing), a steep learning curve (the worse you are at the exercise, the better), and provide a sense of community.

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence for mind-body exercises such as Tai Chi and Qigong. A regular practice leads to clinically meaningful improvement in motor function, fall risk, mood, and quality of life (Song, 2017).  Consider incorporating one of this mind-body exercises into your weekly routine.

Digestion

The most common non-motor symptoms of PD are gastrointestinal dysfunction, and up to 88% of PD patients report GI complaints (Jost WH, 2010).  This can include constipation, lack of appetite, loss of smell, weight loss, drooling, swallowing challenges, bloating, and abdominal pain.

It is important that your digestive system is in perfect working order as this impacts PD progression.  GI symptoms like constipation can contribute to poor medication absorption. There are many Naturopathic treatments to resolve these symptoms including but not limited to dietary changes, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.  We learned a few more tricks from Dr. Mischley for this.

Diet

There has now been 6 studies published correlating dairy consumption to the development of PD.  We do not yet know what is leading to this – is it the processing that happens to the dairy? the antibiotics fed to the cows?  For now, we are recommending patients who have a PD diagnosis to steer clear of dairy products in light of these recent findings.

Replace the dairy with more fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds, fresh herbs, fruit, fish, coconut and olive oil.

Vitamin D

We are going to continue recommending vitamin D testing to evaluate how much vitamin D supplementation is appropriate for you.  Many studies have correlated low vitamin D levels with an increased risk for PD and faster progression.

 

References

Jost, W. H. (2010). Gastrointestinal dysfunction in Parkinson’s Disease. Journal of the neurological sciences, 289(1-2), 69-73.

Maswood, N., Young, J., Tilmont, E., Zhang, Z., Gash, D. M., Gerhardt, G. A., … & Carson, R. E. (2004). Caloric restriction increases neurotrophic factor levels and attenuates neurochemical and behavioral deficits in a primate model of Parkinson’s disease. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences101(52), 18171-18176.

Song, R., Grabowska, W., Park, M., Osypiuk, K., Vergara-Diaz, G. P., Bonato, P., … & Wayne, P. M. (2017). The impact of Tai Chi and Qigong mind-body exercises on motor and non-motor function and quality of life in Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Parkinsonism & related disorders, 41, 3-13.