Medication Side Effects and Parkinson’s Disease

Question:

I have been diagnosed with Parkinsons almost four years ago. My main symptom is tremor. Some days are better than others. I am not taking any medications.

Every year we go to Hippocrates Health institute for detox. At home I am on almost vegeterian diet. I drink green juices, algae as well as taking enzymes and whole food supplements. I walk every day 3 -4 miles, do yoga and gentle therapies as feldenkrais. Over the years my condition has not changed much.

As I understand medications don’t really treat the disease. Am i doing the right thing by not taking any medications?

Response:

One man who had been recently diagnosed with Parkinsons told me his neurologist recommended that he hold off taking medications until the time comes (if it does) that you have to have something. Why did his neurologist recommend this cautious approach?

The levodpa medication for Parkinson’s works miracles for some people for a short period of time. Some people tell me the honeymoon lasted 6 months (or less). Others say the honeymoon lasted longer – 2 years or even more.

It is inevitable however that the honeymoon will come to an end and the drug will start to become less and less effective. Usually this means that a neurologist or general practitioner will prescribe larger and larger doses for you to take over time. Most people eventually have to take doses more frequently.

The “on” times (when you feel good) become shorter and shorter. This confound of the medication is typically addressed by prescriptions from neurologists who usually prescribe larger and/or more frequent doses during the day.

As you state, the medications do not address the underlying causes of the condition. They only address the symptoms.  

The unfortunate consequence is that more and more of the drug circulates throughout the body. The result is dyskinesia (involuntary muscle gyrations and jerking). This symptom is not the direct consequence of Parkinson’s per se. It is a side effect of the medications.  

Let me stress that some people have told me that the medications have given them their life back. They have been able to begin functioning and, in some cases, reduce their medications. So, any outcome is possible.

Clearly, there is no standard operating procedure for anyone who is diagnosed with the symptoms of Parkinson’s. What works for you may flop for someone else. Some people start on  medications and it does absolutely nothing for them. Others get sick from the side effects. Still others are ready to walk on water. Everybody is different.   

Are up doing the right thing by not taking medications at this time? By your own report, the answer has to be yes! Let me first qualify my answer by reminding you that I am not a medical doctor and am not qualified to advise you specifically about medications or individual treatments. My approach is strictly from a research perspective. 

Why do I think you are doing the right thing by not taking medications at this time? You are not getting worse. Your symptoms have been stable for four years. The drug studies follow the “progression” of Parkinsons of people who are on medications. Findings across studies are consistent. Studies report an average gradual decline of functions of approximately 3-4% a year.

This means that relative to people who have elected to take medications, you are on average 12-16% better off today than had you begun taking medications 4 years. 

Let me stress this is an average. The variation in symptoms across studies is very large.  

I am continually generating alternatives for people to experiment with which involve various herbs, supplements or or natural remedies. Why?

Such alternatives tend to have fewer side effects than levodopa and some of the other prescription drugs. Some of these herbs and supplements enhance the effectiveness of the medication, making it possible to take less over time (rather than more).  Everybody is different. 

Your recovery program is solid. It is consistent with what other people tell me gives consistent relief from their symptoms.  The challenge now is to dig deeper to find the underlying cause of your symptoms so that you can shift from “no change” to “positive improvement.”  

Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.
Parkinsons Recovery

© 2009 Parkinsons Recovery

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