Putting the Brakes on Parkinson's Disease

  • 8 Apr 2010
  • Reading time 15 mins
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Parkinson’s affects 120,000 people in the UK, both young and old. Experts Dr Geoffrey and Lucille Leader show you how to prevent and stop it.

Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr Geoffrey Leader and Lucille Leader, a doctor and nutritionist living in London, we now know that the right nutritional intervention can effectively improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Harry’s story is a case in point. Harry was referred by his GP to Dr Geoffrey Leader and Lucille Leader at their clinic in London. He made repetitive movements, had tremors (made worse by stress), intractable constipation and very low energy, and was very underweight. The Leaders arranged biochemical tests, which demonstrated that Harry was deficient in nutrients. They also found that he was eating foods that compromised the absorption of his L-dopa medication. They recommended nutrients to address the deficiencies that were found, dealt successfully with the constipation, worked out a suitable diet and a schedule for taking the L-dopa in relation to different foods, which would maximise the efficacy of Harry’s drugs. This enabled him to take smaller doses of L-dopa, which in turn reduced its side-effects, which included the distressing dyskinesia.

The weight problem was addressed using a specific dietary strategy that was compatible with his drug regimen. They also helped Harry to keep his stress levels low by a special relaxation technique called Autogenic Training and use of a dedicated CD, Parkinson's Disease Relaxation by David Uri. also helps control the symptoms. Within a few weeks, Harry was experiencing a feeling of wellbeing. His bowel function had normalised, his energy had improved, the dyskinesia was a thing of the past, and he was putting on weight. His body movements were more controlled. Note: The full details of this integrated nutritional strategy are given in the Leaders' books, Parkinson’s Disease: The Way Forward and Parkinson’s Disease Reducing Symptoms with Nutrition and Drugs. To purchase, click here. How we make dopamine (Fig 31) [1] Adapted with permission from Dr Geoffrey Leader and Lucille Leader, Parkinson’s Disease — The Way Forward and Parkinson’s Disease Reducing Symptoms with Nutrition and Drugs Many Roads to Dopamine Deficiency There is little doubt that dopamine deficiency is the major cause of the symptoms of Parkinson’s, and most drug therapy aims to improve the body’s ability to make dopamine from L-dopa. But, why do some people develop this impaired ability to make this key neurotransmitter? There are many answers to this question.

In some cases the neurons that produce dopamine don’t work properly, sometimes because they lack the raw materials, or the enzymes that turn the building blocks, amino acids, into neurotransmitters. The neurons can die off or be damaged, for example by oxidants, or by environmental toxins such as pesticides and herbicides. Interestingly, researchers at the University of Miami have found levels of these chemicals to be higher in the brains of Parkinson’s sufferers.[2] The incidence of Parkinson’s is notably higher in rural areas where a lot of crop spraying takes place, and some pesticide combinations have shown a clear geographical correlation with incidences of the disease.[3,4] Deficiency of nutrients such as folic acid can also make these dopamine-producing brain cells more susceptible to damage.[5]

The balance of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, is controlled to a large extent by the process of methylation. Most people with Parkinson’s have raised homocysteine levels[6], which indicates disrupted methylation patterns. However, whether raised homocysteine is a cause or consequence of the disease is not yet clear, since L-dopa medication tends to raise homocysteine levels.[7] Deficiency in vitamin B6 has also been linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s, more so than folic acid or B12, the other key homocysteine-lowering vitamins; this suggests that B6 may play a specific part in preventing Parkinson’s in addition to its homocysteine-lowering role.[8] Either way, I recommend testing for homocysteine and supplementing homocysteine-lowering nutrients accordingly.

In addition to faulty methylation, sometimes there is a problem in how the body detoxifies, a job primarily done by the liver, leaving neurons unprotected.[9] Then there are other factors such as prolonged stress and the likelihood of genetic predispositions. Geoffrey and Lucille Leader figured that each of these pieces of the jigsaw puzzle could be made a lot better if sufferers followed a targeted optimum nutrition programme. They started to test patients with Parkinson’s disease and found that literally 100 per cent of them had nutritional deficiencies based on tests that measure what is going on 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 easily tested by drinking solution that shouldn’t pass through the gut wall, and then measuring urinary levels.

Using such a test, people with Parkinson’s disease may often show an increase in gut permeability or evidence of malabsorption. While there is no conclusive evidence yet that Parkinson’s disease is caused by nutrient deficiencies, the Leaders have found that correcting these deficiencies often helps. Brain Toxins, Oxidants and the Liver All this faulty digestion and absorption places extra stress on the liver, the detoxification capital of the body. Since 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, ......

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