Parkinson's Straight from the Horse's Mouth

Welcome to the blog of Barbara Waters. Experience my personal up's and down's in this new cycle of becoming a Parkinsonian. All is not doom and gloom! Join me on this adventure within and without.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Just the Facts, M'am

Parkinson's is a chronic, progressive disease originating in the basal ganglia and substantia nigra areas of the brain. Here nerve cells die instead of producing and storing the chemical neurotransmitter dopamine, which controls muscle movement. This loss of control manifests as tremor, slowness of movement, rigidity, loss of balance, and stooped posture. In addition, dementia affects about twenty-five percent of Parkinsonians. Dopamine deficiency has been treated since 1961 with the drug levodopa, also known as L-dopa. This synthetic dopamine substitute attaches to certain receptors; but it no longer can be stored, so it has to be taken on a regular basis. As in my case, levadopa is often combined with carbidope to get L-dopa up to the brain most effectively and to cut down on bad side-effects. With my co-pay, this combination pill presentlly costs $126 a month. Without my co-pay, it would cost over $300 monthly.

Since August 5, I have struggled to adjust my medication properly. It seems fairly stable now by taking two Stalevo-50 pills each at breakfast and lunch. Side-effects for me have been sleeplessness and nausea. Gastro-intestinal upsets like nausea and vomiting frequently occur with PD. Out of the first eleven days, my pills worked only five days because I wasn't taking enough of them. With four pills daily my movements have speeded up; I no longer "freeze" like a statue; and I have much more energy. If this renewed energy isn't used with restraint, however, extreme fatigue quickly results.

A high caloric, low protein diet is recommended, with protein being eaten at dinner time when no pills are taken. Protein and Vitamin B6 inhibit the binding of dopamine to receptors. One nutrition book recommends that seventy-five percent of the diet be raw, including raw milk, seeds, nuts,and non-whole grains. Taken in moderation only should be foods rich in B6, such as bananas, fish, beef, liver, potatoes, whole grains, oatmeal, and peanuts.

Fava beans are rich in levodopa, the limited chemical replacement for missing dopamine. When I asked my friend Kit Lynch where to buy them, she screamed with laughter. "Fava beans! How could you eat FAVA BEANS? Remember Anthony Hopkins' cannibalistic role in 'The Silence of the Lambs'? He made fava beans famous when he described his gourmet meal of a census taker's liver eaten 'with some fava beans and a nice chianti.'"



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