Dr Gary Sharpe is currently recovering from Parkinson's. He is demonstrating to the world that it is possible to continually push back the symptoms of the Disease. Here are his top tips and unique insights, provided here for the benefit of other People with Parkinson's and their Caregivers.
dr Gary Sharpe's Recovery Recipe
These are all items which Gary himself uses regularly and has found beneficial for his recovery from Parkinson's Disease:
Food as Medicine
Diet can hugely impact on the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease. The right food choices are just as important as the right medication choices. Perhaps the most impactful discovery for me was coconut oil. indeed, I've found high quality coconut oil to be very beneficial as have many other People with Parkinson's. I put a spoonful in my hot beverages throughout the day. I fast overnight and take a generous helping in the morning to help get started. I also keep some in and serve from the fridge - which I break up in the jar once set and eat by the chunk, cold: it has the mouthfeel of chocolate. Sometimes I also stir in flavourings such as high quality cacao before chilling.
The Ghost in the Machine
Hugging and Human Touch
While true for anyone, it is particularly so for people with PD: being hugged imbues a feeling a safety, which is so extremely important for Parkinson's recovery; being hugged also stimulates the touch sense and memories, awakening the withdrawn minds and bodies of people with Parkinson's. Ask your carers to give you hugs regularly, and to touch you reassuringly, such as putting a hand on your shoulder when asking you a question, or stroking your hair. Always hug your visitors, both upon arrival and departure. This is important for many social reasons too, making you feel part of humanity not separated.
Pre-diagnosis, people with Parkinson's tend, as a sweeping generalization, to have had frenetic, high stress lives - they ran on adrenaline. But running on adrenaline is impossible once we have developed Parkinson's - this is because dopamine, the chemical we are short of - is consumed instantly to create the stress hormones and neurotransmitters. Once the adrenaline rush is over, we are then left immobile, depleted. In a sense, Parkinson's may for some be a result of brain fritz due to the self-imposed stressors over a lifetime.
This points us to some answers for Recovery: we need to slow our bodies, voices and minds down. People with Parkinson's who take the time to listen to dopamine producing binaural beats music may rapidly realize they are shuffling, thinking and speaking far too quickly.
So we learn to walk again by taking one step at a time, learn to talk again by taking care to pronounce every word, learn about good digestion and nutritional absorbtion again by savouring and chewing over every mouthful of food, learn to cope again by practicing meditative and cognitive or mindfulness techniques.
Stress Me Not
Beware the Reptile
People with Parkinson's are very prone and sensitized to stress responses - we tend to be on a hair trigger when it comes to our stressors. Unfortunately, once triggered, we enter that mode associated with flight, fight or freeze. Our brains evolved by overlaying new parts on top of older parts. At the bottom is the oldest, the Reptile Brain. Over that is the mammalian, which controls our value judgements and decision making. The human brain lies over these, giving us language, complex thought and cognition - but while the human part is by far largest, in people with PD the Reptile can so very easily take over.
In "Reptile" mode, we become cold, emotionless, poor judges of complex situations, unempathic and unsympathetic to others. We stop hearing the wisdom not only of our own human brain, but also that of other people - we can't listen to higher reason. The Reptile is possibly stronger for people with PD, because our breathing is already shallow, which means a lack of oxygen for the brain. When we are triggered, the higher parts of the brain may become shut off more for us, as then when our Reptile takes over, it hungrily grabs at and takes the Anaconda's share of the available limited oxygen supply. Unfortunately, when triggered, our breathing lessens even more, so it may be a vicious cycle - a Serpent eating its own tail comes to my human brain.
The Reptile is also where the neuro-damage and malfunctions of Parkinson's Disease seems to be most strongly located. Co-incidence?
Coping with Parkinson's, is in essence, learning how to relax by creating a lifestyle in which the brain is protected from the Reptile taking over. Reducing stressors, learning meditation/breathing techniques, not eating junk food and avoiding other unhelpful stimulants, taking up art, music and dance, practicing tai chi and yoga, are all part of the solution. Avoiding, where possible, people who trigger the Reptile - typically those who are also prone to Reptilian behaviour themselves - and surrounding ourselves with people who are Empathic, Sympathetic, Loving and Kind is very important too.
The Reptile brain is located at the lower part of the back of the skull. Putting pressure on this part of the skull can stimulate it. So here is a bonus tip: the right pillow or head rest can make a large difference to people with PD. The right angle of the head, the right pressure distribution can effect symptoms greatly. It may be better to lie with the head to one side or the other. While it is hard for people with PD to turn their heads, it is worth experimenting with this with your carergiver. Work with them to learn how they can safely and smoothly move your head to one side for you.
Prepare the Way
Many people with Parkinson's experience - or will eventually experience - a cycle of "on" and "off" periods with the dosing of their medication. In the "offs" the symptoms become pronounced and sometimes the next dosage of drug can fail leading to a more prolonged off state. To minimize the impact of "offs" on physical pain and mental anguish - and the very strong feedback between the two - I recommend getting into a habit of "preparing the way" as one starts to feel the next decline. Here's my own series of steps which I am now doing as each "off" approaches:
1. DRINK A LARGE GLASS OF WATER. Then fill it up a sports bottle with water. Keep it somewhere you can lean down to drink without requiring hands.
2. Spray Magnesium Oil on liberally.
3. Drink a hot drink with a dollop of coconut oil in it or eat a highly calorific snack [organic, gluten free, honey not sugar - good quality high fat is good].
4. Spray saline solution nasal spray up nose. Inset nasal passageway openers to widen the nostrils. Try to nose breathe throughout the "off" state.
5. Do a little bit of gentle exercise before taking the next does of medication.
6. Put the music on.
7. Go to the bathroom.
8. When the "off" is in full force, sit, or if the only option, lie, down but try to use visualization techniques. Imagine yourself dancing to the music. Or imagine pushing the beat and energies of the music into your limbs.
9. Encourage the movement to come back by getting up and moving around occasionally, assisted if required.
10. Ask someone for a big hug and shoulder rub.
Then, when you eventually start coming back "on":
DRINK A LARGE GLASS OF WATER. Fill it up again!
Resonation and amplification
There are many vicious cycles of fear for people with Parkinson's. Fear causes stress and hence, unfortunately, this is a disaster for the symptoms of PD. By identifying the sources of our fears and then being a bit cunning in coming up with solutions to eliminate them, we can improve our quality of life greatly.
Here is an illustrative example. Needing to urinate several times a day, and especially in the night, when it is very difficult or time consuming to get to the bathroom, often becomes a source of real fear for people with PD. This has another very significant knock-on detrimental effect, because typically then we only drink sparingly to minimize bathroom visits - this when we actually need to be consuming much more water than healthy people. Dehydration has awful outcomes on Parkinson's symptoms.
A simple answer exists in the form of urination bottles, which are on the market mainly for travel purposes. These simply eliminate the need for bathroom visits and at night can be kept at the side of the bed. For me, this solution has removed all fears about needing to urinate and now I am drinking healthy amounts of water throughout the day.
Books by the out-thinking team and friends
Recovery is in Your Own Hands
We know that the eyes have a massive role in Parkinson's Symptoms - here the evidence comes from the success of Light Therapy to the impact of Blue Tinted Spectacles. I, myself, have proven many times that hand-eye co-ordination exercises can over-ride the broken brain pathways to allow people with PD to access extra-ordinary levels of movement.
But I believe I have discovered the Secret to All This. The Hands are just as vital as the Eyes. Perhaps more so. Indeed, the answers to unlocking the conundrum of Parkinson's lies in our own hands - quite literally. The reason is probably simple. If you've ever seen one of those grotesque renderings of how the human body is represented in our own brains, the hands are absolutely massive. There is so much of our brain and sensory pathways devoted to the hands.
Let us consider the evidence of the importance of hands in Parkinson's Disease.
1. The first thing which usually goes in people developing Parkinson's is hand writing. HAND writing gets smaller and smaller. In other words, the range of hand movement diminishing is one of the very first signs of PD.
2. The Things Which Work, those practices which can greatly aid recovery, all involve the hands intimately. Riding bicycles, unlike walking, involves the handle bars and the breaks. Walking with poles and sticks brings the hands into play. Tai-Chi, Yoga, Qi Gong, Gyrokinetics all also focus heavily on had shaping and mudras. Ballet involves the expression of the hands. Then there is boxing exercise, which could not be more hands focussed.
3. All the Things I Discovered and Demonstrated. The twirling of batons. The keep-it-up bouncing a piece of cotton wool from hand to hand. The Yo-Yo Balls on elastic string. The bat and ball. The tennis balls. The basket balls. The balloons. The self-hugging. All involve, at a high level, the hands. Opening the hands. Touching something. Holding something. Closing the fingers around something. Letting go of something. Reaching out.
4. My Anecdotal Evidence. As my dancing and other antics in my video diary entries evolved to become more fluid and lithe, the expressiveness of my hands, in turn, becomes noticeably more pronounced too - as does my ability to switch my movement back on. I have remarked before how I have changed so very much over the past year of "Out-Thinking Parkinson's" and how anyone watching the videos in order can see this physically manifest evolution written in the Lifeforce and Emotionally which returns my eyes.
Well, friends, look again. This time, look to my hands.
Then look to your own. Open those stiff little fingers wide. One by one.
The Return truly is in Your Own Hands.