It is now widely accepted that inflammatory responses are causal and complicating factors in Parkinson's Disease. Indeed, many of the symptoms previously considered to be due to the problem of the lack of dopamine production in the brain - Parkinson's Disease itself - are more likely due to associated inflammatory triggers, such as allergic, auto-immune and pathogenic responses. For example, a recent study suggests that the immune system in people with Parkinson's (PwP) may actually be responding to alpha synuclein - a type of problem protein known to build up in the brains and guts of PwP - as if it was a toxin or invader, thus provoking an immune response via a very vicious circle.
To understand the type of symptoms caused by inflammatory triggers, even without consideration to PD, I find this excerpt from
"...these alarm signals tell the brain an infection is present, which then shuts the body down by sending out signals (fatigue, flu-like symptoms, pain, etc.) that slow the body down, tell it to stop moving, stop eating, stop thinking."
Anyone diagnosed with PD will recognize these symptoms, but may not recognize the causes may actually be due to complicating inflammatory factors, not just to PD itself. Indeed, it is important for all of us to understand that, even in people who are otherwise healthy, inflammation in the brain or body, quite naturally, means that the production of the "feel good" chemical dopamine is switched off. The upshot of this for PwP, who are already chronically short of supplies of this chemical, is that any inflammation will have very serious impact on their condition and also prevent the PD drugs from working effectively. Here is another excerpt, this time from
which I find is helpful in stressing this point:
"Motivational and motor deficits are common in patients with depression and other psychiatric disorders, and are related to symptoms of [inability to feel pleasure in normally pleasurable activities] and motor retardation. These deficits in motivation and motor function are associated with alterations in [the brain], which may reflect abnormalities in ... dopamine (DA). One ... pathway [which changes brain] circuitry is inflammation. Biomarkers of inflammation ... are reliably elevated in a significant proportion of psychiatric patients. Importantly, inflammation-associated symptoms are often difficult to treat, and evidence suggests that inflammation may decrease DA synthesis and availability, thus circumventing the efficacy of [drugs]... Recent data demonstrating similar relationships between increased inflammation and altered DA... behavior in patients with major depressive disorder... inflammation affects DA neurotransmission and [is relevant] to novel therapeutic strategies to treat reduced motivation and motor symptoms."
So I hope it is clear to everyone affected by PD that addressing and minimizing inflammatory factors is going to be absolutely vital. Steps to take include getting tested for as wide a range of allergies and infections as possible, and then addressing these, including the removal of potential allergens from the environment (latex and black mold allergies come up a lot for PwP). I also recommend, in order to keep the damage accumulation due to chronic inflammation as low as possible, a daily consumption of as wide variety of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and/or immune system bolstering supplements as possible.
However, here I would like to cover one strategy I have been using for some time and have found significant and cumulative benefits from, especially in the reduction of my pain and rigidity. I drink lots of herbal infusions (teas) through each day. I choose the flavors based on the known anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral or adaptogenic properties of the ingredients and ensure I buy quality products. I then rotate the flavors through the day.
Choices I have found particular benefit from include: nettle; fennel; cinnamon; green tea; black tea with full fat goats milk and a spoonful of coconut oil; ginger; lemon; tumeric; liquorice root; gynostemma (or jiaogulan, related to ginseng) - a powerful adaptogen, as well as mixtures of these.
This infused water method of ingesting lots of beneficial naturopathic substances, rather than just taking them in dried supplement form, has a number of advantages. First and foremost, PwP are typically chronically dehydrated (usually for years even before diagnosis) and often have actually lost their sense of thirst completely. Since dehydration itself is a massive inflammatory factor, by drinking lots of herbal infusions, this therefore has double impact on the inflammation, as it also ensures that the body and brain remain well hydrated throughout the day.
Secondly, many PwP also suffer from issues arising from low blood pressure, which PD medications can often make worse (they act as vasodilators), such as postural and postprandial hypotension. These problems are also critically important to address in PD also, because they can be detrimental to oxygen and nutrient supplies to the brain, as well as preventing the medications getting from the gut to where they are needed. One way to ensure that blood pressure doesn't become critically low is again to consume plenty of fluids throughout the day.