While it is difficult to handle that initial diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, especially when it affects someone you love, a positive outlook combined with knowledge, will help everyone involved. One of the wisest strategies when facing a challenge like Parkinson’s disease, is to learn all you can about the effects it has on the body and mind. Understanding Parkinson’s disease is the first step in ensuring the best possible treatments for your loved one. Keeping an open mind about both conventional and non-conventional treatments, means that your loved one will have many options to choose from when looking for what works best for him or her.
Exercise isn’t a “treatment” for Parkinson’s disease, but it can help with the battle against muscle stiffness and other symptoms, such as weakness and tremors, that are the hallmark indicators of this neurodegenerative disorder. Because Parkinson’s disease has such a negative impact on movement and balance, starting and maintaining an exercise routine that includes strength and aerobic training is critical. Just as important, are exercises that increase flexibility, such as yoga and Tai Chi. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, starting on an exercise routine shortly after diagnosis, “can improve many PD symptoms. These benefits are supported by research.”
Exercise also increases dopamine levels in the brain. This is important because Parkinson’s disease damages the nerve cells, or neurons, that produce dopamine—the brain’s “feel good” hormone. The decrease in dopamine levels can lead to significant depression. Exercising helps patients feel better because it releases stress and anxiety, provides a sense of accomplishment, builds endurance, strengthens muscles, and improves balance.
If you’re loved one was physically active before the diagnosis, exercising will delay and maybe even prevent some of the more debilitating symptoms. Susan Sills’ story about how exercise has slowed her disease progression is remarkable. If your loved one isn’t into exercise, encourage him or her to attend a class that is specifically tailored for people who have Parkinson’s disease. Being around others who are facing the same challenge is, in and of itself, a benefit. The Parkinson’s Foundation can help you find classes that are specifically tailored to those with Parkinson’s disease.
Because movement can be difficult for people with Parkinson’s disease, an occupational therapist can teach your loved one how to maintain independence by modifying the way daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, dressing, and undressing, are accomplished. Sometimes, the therapist will suggest assistive devices, such as easy-grip utensils, extra-long shoe horns, and grooming aids. In other instances, the therapist may suggest modifications both at home and at work that allows your loved one to move more easily in the environment where he or she lives and works.
The point of occupational therapy is to allow patients to do as much for themselves as possible. This gives patients a sense of control over their own lives, it helps with self-esteem, prevents accidents, and allows patients to live a life that remains rewarding even with the challenges they must face.
Cannabidiol (CBD), is quickly gaining momentum in the fight to slow the damaging effects of Parkinson’s disease. CBD is not a cure, but early studies seem to indicate that it has neuroprotective properties. Those neuroprotective properties help to increase dopamine levels in the brain, which in turn, slows cognitive decline and alleviates depression. CBD may also help to treat tremors and muscle stiffening.
It has been challenging to study the effects of CBD on Parkinson’s disease because of CBD’s association with THC, the ingredient in cannabis that causes the “high.” CBD does not have any psychoactive effects; however, it does seem to calm anxiety, and this is particularly important because Parkinson’s disease has negative effects on sleep. A study of the effect of CBD on patients with Parkinson’s disease who suffered from sleep disturbances, seems to indicate that CBD provides more restful sleep. CBD also shows promise in reducing Parkinson’s-related psychosis.
To delve a little deeper into how CBD can help a loved one who is suffering from the effects of Parkinson’s disease, is understanding that the human body makes its own natural cannabinoids. The body has an “endocannabinoid system.” These natural cannabinoids bind to receptors both in the brain and in the body and are the reason why the body reacts so quickly to both CBD and THC. The basal ganglia are composed of a group of neurons in the forebrain that control movement. The theory is that because Parkinson’s disease destroys dopamine, CBD treatment may help replace the cannabinoids that the brain needs to produce dopamine.
More studies are needed for a definitive answer regarding CBD’s efficacy in helping to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease; however as stated before, CBD oil does not have any psychoactive properties and unlike conventional medical treatments does not have negative side effects. CBD oil is available for purchase in most states. CBD builds up in the body over time, and has positive effects on other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s multiple sclerosis.
Ultimately, you and your loved one must decide what works best. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be so debilitating, that your loved one may be willing to try many different treatments, including unconventional treatments, if they do not have adverse side effects and do not interfere with pharmaceutical medications. Researchers are just now scratching the surface of what may be major developments in CBD treatments for Parkinson’s disease. The research is exciting and there is lot more to learn.