December 31, 2016

Exercise: The Best Medicine for Parkinson's Disease?

Almost any exercise is good medicine for someone with Parkinson's disease, a new study confirms.

Although physical activity may seem impossible for some people with Parkinson's, the new research reaffirms what many specialists already believe -- that exercise can have a long-term impact, improving gait and reducing risk of falls, in particular.

The review measured the combined outcomes of more than 100 studies conducted over the past 30 years on the effects of exercise on Parkinson's patients. It showed that physical activity has clear benefits, specifically for strength, mobility, flexibility and balance.

The new review's author, Martine Lauze is a kinesiologist (body movement expert) who works with Parkinson's patients privately and is a researcher at the University of Québec at Montréal.

Lauze thinks the key to working with Parkinson's patients is taking a progressive approach. Perhaps people can simply start walking around the house until they're ready to walk outside. She says it's important to find the right activity for each individual, though that activity may not be perfect forever.

December 29, 2016

With Mixed Feelings, I've Stopped Taking the New Fountain-of-Youth Pill called “Basis”

That pill -- Basis -- is the first and only product so far from the new company Elysium.

In New York magazine,” journalist Benjamin Wallace calls Basis "either the most sophisticated fountain-of-youth scam ever to come to market or the first fountain-of-youth pill ever to work."

Elysium has not sought FDA approval for its product; instead, the company is promoting the pill extensively on Facebook and elsewhere as a "nutraceutical​".

I started using B​asis​​ three months ago, an unusual decision for me. I have regularly warned against taking FDA-unapproved magic pills promoted on TV by the likes of Drs. Oz and Mercola. But I was impressed by the advisory board of scientists working with Elysium, five of whom are Nobel laureates. The board also includes big names like the Mayo Clinic's geroscientist Jim Kirkland and biotech pioneer Jim Hood.

Click here for more on Basis, my decision to try it, and my initial reactions.

My Problems with Basis as a Mystery Drug
Typically, I’ll begin with half the recommended dose for any new pill, prescribed or over-the-counter. Scientists and researchers report that the elderly often are overdosed  and my experience confirms that.

 Basis comes with these instructions: "Take two (2) capsules every morning with or without food." I started with the full dosage but began to wonder if  I should take just one pill a day. Usually with questions like this I would go on the web   to see what the experience of others has been.

No point in doing that with Basis. The product has undergone only one limited clinical trial, and has thus far been used by a relatively small number of people.

December 24, 2016

Hydration and Electrolytes: Important for Everyone, Especially Old People with Parkinson’s Like Me

In this week's blog posts, we’re spending a lot of time in my bathroom.

On Monday morning, I woke up at 6:30 and -- as usual -- immediately headed for the bathroom, albeit more slowly than usual. 

My mouth felt very dry and my urine was darker than usual. These symptoms weren’t new to me; I knew they signaled dehydration. But this time, there was something else. My muscles were extremely stiff.

I stood at the bathroom sink for nearly half an hour, slowly sipping water and even more slowly attempting mini-stretches to loosen up the muscles. When I felt able, I spent the next half-hour doing my usual stretching routines.

At first, I thought my Parkinson’s was causing this uncommon stiffness. Later, I wondered if dehydration was the culprit. So I decided to do some research, and here's what I found.

Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance
Though anyone can become dehydrated, the condition is especially dangerous for young children and older adults. Many people, particularly seniors, don't feel thirsty until they're already dehydrated.

Dehydration is a particular concern for elderly people with Parkinson’s like me. The meds we take to help slow the progression of the disease can also raise the risk of dehydration.

Dehydration concerns more than just water. The condition can deplete the body's electrolytes. We obtain important electrolytes by eating different foods and drinking certain fluids. Electrolyte imbalance can result from a poor diet, from too much or too little exercise, and from dehydration.

What are the Major Electrolytes?
  • Calcium supports muscle contractions, nerve signaling, blood clotting, cell division, and the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth.
  • Potassium helps stabilize blood pressure, regulate heart contractions, and maintain muscle function.
  • Magnesium supports muscle contractions, proper heart rhythm, nerve function, bone building and strength, anxiety reduction, digestion, and fluid balance.
  • Sodium helps maintain fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signaling.
  • Chloride supports fluid balance.

Dehydration, Electrolyte Imbalance, and Parkinson's Disease
If your electrolyte levels get too low, you could wake up one morning unable to walk. Of course, if you're a person with Parkinson’s, you automatically assume that PD is the cause.

December 21, 2016

I Must Keep Moving to Remain in Stage 3 of My Parkinson's Disease

Last month, I wrote about the five stages of Parkinson's disease (PD) and placed myself in stage three. On my good days, I might even say stage two.

But lately, I've seen some warning signs that I could be close to entering stage four. For me, the passage from stage three to stage four means saying goodbye to independent living and hello to assisted living.

In the first three stages, people with Parkinson’s (PWPs) can handle key life tasks on their own, although help from others is increasingly welcome. In stage four, PWPs become increasingly reliant on others.

I don’t have the typical PD tremor; I’m dealing primarily with the increasing stiffness and muscle rigidity, conditions that affect most everyone with Parkinson's. Should my time come to enter stage five, I’ll likely have very little use of my arms and legs. 

Last summer, I reported on the shock our Parkinson's support group members experienced when we saw a former member who had hit bottom. He sat in a wheelchair, unable to use his legs or arms. His wife/caregiver had hoped that visiting his old support group would stimulate his cognition. It didn't.

I plan to arrange my own “exit” before I reach that point.

Over the past ten years, my PD has progressed slowly. Most PWPs move gradually into stage three. But in the last two stages, decline usually accelerates dramatically. Movement becomes more and more difficult. This inactivity, in turn, creates increased rigidity and stiffness.

My ​Recent Warning Signs
I get up once or twice during the night to pee and take my PD medication (carbidopa-levodopa, the gold-standard PD med). Currently, I take one or two pills -- the extended-release variety of the med -- every three hours, up to seven times a day. My neurologists tell me I’ve reached the maximum dosage for this med.

I don't set an alarm to get me up in the middle of the night to take my pills. I just wake up about three or four hours after taking my bedtime pills. 

December 10, 2016

Can Curcumin Retard My Parkinsion’s Progress AND Generate New Brain Cells?

In my last post, I reported on a fascinating talk by a neuroscientist who explained how we can help our brains perform neurogenesis, the creation of new cells. ​She identified ten key nutrients that supported neurogenesis, and I was pleased to see curcumin on that list.

In an April 2012 post, I described my decision to start taking curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric. Since then, I've written more about this subject than any other… with the possible exception of 5-HTP.

Curcumin vs. Coconut Oil
​M​any of those earlier posts grew out of my frustration at seeing all the hoopla about coconut oil as a "cure" for Alzheimer's -- and then, as the hype grew,​ as a cure for​ Parkinson's, too. The kicker? No scientific studies supported those claims.

On the other hand, curcumin has been the subject of more scientific studies than any other botanical​, but it hasn’t generated any publicity approaching the “coconut oil phenomenon.”

​The coconut-oil-for-Alzheimer's bandwagon finally ran out of steam in 2014. Dr. Mary Newport, that bandwagon’s drum majorette, abandoned her "miracle cure" theme in a post on her blog that was little noticed. This contrasted with the five million viewers who watched her interview on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcast Network in the promotion of her best-selling book, Alzheimer's Disease:What If There Was a Cure?

Increasing Support for Curcumin
Interest​ in turmeric -- and its active ingredient, curcumin -- began decades ago when researchers started asking why India’s rates of colorectal , prostate, and lung cancers were so low. (Rates for these cancers in America are up to 13 times higher.) The scientists also noted that Indian peasants have one of the world's lowest rates​ of Alzheimer's. Why?

Over the years, many studies have shown that turmeric / curcumin can help prevent or treat many ailments, including:
  • a variety of cancers
  • ​inflammatory conditions
  • autoimmune problems
  • neurological ailments, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes and diabetes-related neuropathy​
  • ​arthritis
  • ​depression
The main “problem” with curcumin has been its bioavailability, its ability to penetrate the blood/brain barrier. The turmeric / curcumin spice by itself has little bioavailability. But those low-Alzheimer’s Indian peasants also consume lots of black pepper, whose active ingredient piperine has been shown to significantly increase curcumin’s bioavailability.

December 6, 2016

You Can Grow New Brain Cells by Eating Chocolate and Drinking Coffee!

I've watched dozens of Ted Talks and found the one below especially interesting. 

Neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret offers research and practical advice on how we can help our brains better perform neurogenesis -- the creation of new cells -- to improve mood, increase memory formation, and prevent some declines associated with aging.

It's worth watching:

Midway in her talk, Dr Thuret briefly refers to a chart in the background that lists key nutrients  in terms of their positive and negative impacts on neurogenesis. I was intrigued by the chart and wrote down the names and rankings of the nutrients listed.Here they are:
The Good Guys
These nutrients support neurogenesis. I assume the capitalized items are the especially  good guys:

  • omega-3 - fatty acids
  • folic acid
  • zinc
  • curcumin
  • caffeine 
The Bad Guys
These nutrients appear to have a damaging effect on neurogenesis. Again, I'm assuming the ones  displayed in capital letters are particularly bad actors.