I thought that it was important to cover this topic since I read and hear many of you discussing the viability of these alternative treatments. Especially since there is a growing interest in our community to resort to use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This means using health and treatments for maintaining wellness previously not employed by western medicine. therefore some people use these treatments in place of (alternative) or in conjunction (complimentary). the goal of these therapies is to focus on the person as a whole- which I and most doctors are in favor of since there can be no healing of the body if the emotional and psychological aspects are not first addressed. However, there is a trend in this country and around the world to forgo conventional western medicine so many are now using the term “integrative medicine.”
This has increased in the last few years, up to a 40 percent and I suspect that as the cost of medicines, healthcare, and number of people with chronic progressive diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and so on increase so will the use of these treatment modalities. Thus, I felt it to be my duty to discuss exactly what we are dealing with in order for us to become informed consumers and make the best treatment choices.
It is also extremely important to note that in the same time period the rise of liver disease and death due to liver failure has increased from intake of supplements. One of these popular deadly supplements is Kava Kava used for stress and anxiety relief. This is because unfortunately “natural” DOES NOT necessarily mean SAFE! Not only are these products not safe but for those of us who have chronic illnesses and take many other medications or have other concomitant illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes etc. these products can interfere with the effect of those medications or worsen those other symptoms. For instance, I was extremely interested in finding some weight lose substance especially if it was “natural” since all the prescription medicine interfere with Parkinson’s directly or with the medications. I though that perhaps the popular Garcinia Cambogia would work so I bought a bottle like the rest of millions of people. First, remember that these products are not FDA approved so have variation of amount of needed extract ranging from 50 %to 80% of 72 pills tested. However, if you read the extremely fine print it contains the same chemicals used in many of the other weight loss meds which are contraindicated in people with Parkinson’s and if you should take it could cause severe serotonin syndrome and death. Needless to say that bottle went straight into the trash.
But, you must always be savvy when using any “alternative” herbal or other treatments. remember, there is NO cure for PD. If there were I would have told you and the whole scientific community would be shouting it from roof tops! Trust me, it would not be a secret. Do not fall for sensationalized news and cure all’s!. Beware of the power of the placebo effect and also of charlatans who take advantage of people in need and in pain. The mind is extremely powerful. Mind over matter we always say. Is true if we believe something so strong we can make it happen for a short period of time. This is why patients that participate in research studies do better over all. However, these studies are not controlled or double blinded and usually last 6-8 weeks the exact time before the placebo effect wears off. Do Not purchase anything that promises a quick fix or a cure! No such thing exists. if it sounds too good to be true than it probably is. however, there may be some supplements that may be beneficial for certain individuals although in larger studies have not proven to be significantly better to treat disease than placebo. These supplements include Coenzyme Q 10 – is expensive and should buy from Natures brand only and must take at least 600 to 900mg – some people cant tolerate due to nausea. I was one of those people. but, this supplement has been used effectively and safely in many other neurological illnesses by me and my colleagues. other than this I really don’t have any other supplements that I would recommend consistently due to lack of evidence or lack of safety like many of the mucuna puriens out here which are not regulated. Plus, we do not know the long term effects of these substances. The marijuana as a potential treatment, as I spoke and blogged previously, is still extremely controversial because there are so many different types if you will and most are synthetic not natural- so we don’t have the whole story. However, studies have indicated that marijuana can worsen sleep cycle and depression 2 of the biggest problems in PD. At present, a study of marijuana oil is being conducted at university of Colorado for those interested in this topic further.
Now, within this realm of CAM we have treatments like
- Mind-Body Medicine (e.g. prayers, mindfulness, meditation, art therapy)
- Whole medical systems (e.g. homeopathy, ancient healing systems -acupuncture)
- Biologically based practices (e.g. coenzyme Q)
- Manipulative and body based (e.g. massages, yoga, dance etc.)
In the end, it is essential that you have a team of professional who you trust and will listen and treat body, mind. and soul. We do know and have evidence that holistic treatment works best for over all well being. I am proof of this. However, what ever complementary, alternative, or integrative treatments you opt to do you must maintain your doctor informed at all times and make sure he or she is on board with the plan so they can guide you through and avoid the perils of possible liver toxicity, overdose, or serotonin syndrome. But, also to ensure that you are being safe and not hurting yourself or making your illness worse. Remember, we do have many new drugs and initiating early treatment has proven to be most effective increasing quality of life and decreasing disability. So why waste time with unknowns (medications, herbs, remedies, treatments) that can be costly and potentially harmful in both the long and short term?
My philosophy all good things in moderation. This includes laughing, dreaming, spending time with friends and family and being useful to others as well as eating and sleeping well with an active life style of both mind and body.
love to hear your opinion on the subject…