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Medicine 101

Dr. Tara Macart

New Hope for Patients with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects about 1% of the population. Eighty percent of the cases occur between ages 40 – 70, with a peak incidence at 60 years of age. It has a gradual onset and usually affects upper extremities in an asymmetrical fashion. Both sides may be affected in a matter of 3 to 4 years. Non-specific issues of fatigue, muscle aches, loss of smell, depression and constipation often precede the characteristic motor symptoms. These classic motor symptoms include: a resting tremor, loss of hand dexterity (which leads to changes in handwriting), muscle rigidity, slow gait, decreased movements in general, trouble swallowing, postural instability and cognitive impairment which may develop later.

Science has supported the theory that degeneration of the substantia nigra, a part of the brain that produces the neurotransmitter dopamine, is at the root of Parkinson’s disease. Further evidence for this theory comes from the remarkable improvements observed when Parkinson’s patients take dopaminergic medications. The most well known treatment for Parksinson’s disease is the use of dopamine precursors like levodopa or carbidopa. These drugs can cross the blood brain barrier and elevate levels of dopamine inside the brain. This was brilliantly illustrated in the movie starring Robin Williams called “Awakenings”.  The pharmaceutical family of dopaminergic drugs is a fabulous tool for people struggling with Parkinson’s disease. They have improved the quality of life for many patients.

Another astounding breakthrough in the field of Parkinson’s disease is the use of intravenous glutathione. Even though dopamine gets most of the attention, levels of glutathione are also deficient in Parkinson’s patients. Glutathione is a very important brain antioxidant, meaning it prevents brain damage from free radicals. Free radicals in the brain can be from accumulation of metabolites, environmental toxins and or the result of infectious agents. Glutathione also recycles two other major antioxidants, vitamin C and E. Since glutathione can cross the blood brain barrier, it works at the brain.

A landmark study, done by the department of neurology at the University of Sassari, Italy, had a group of Parkinson’s patients undergo intravenous glutathione twice a day for 30 days. The researchers concluded that “all patients improved significantly after glutathione therapy, with a 42% decline in disability.” Almost immediately following the administration of glutathione, reduction in symptoms was noticeable. It was suggested that glutathione might not only be useful to improve symptoms, but also to slow the progression of the disease.

We know glutathione to be large molecule that is difficult to transport across intestinal membranes.  That is why intravenous administration is preferable to oral.   By mouth, it is smarter to take N-acetyl-cystine. It absorbs easily and feeds into the body’s glutathione production.

Thanks to the work of Dr. David Perlmutter, people can learn about how to optimize their brain even in the face of Parkinson’s disease. His easy to read book is called “Brain Recover.com” and it is a worthwhile read for anyone who values their brain.