Motor Neurone Disease - integrative treatment approach

What is motor neurone disease?

The muscles that allow us to speak, breath, swallow, and move around are all controlled by nerve cells called neurones. In motor neurone disease (MND) these neurones stop working normally. Muscles need to be used to stay strong and function properly, and without neurons to activate them, muscles gradually weaken and waste. The muscle weakness can start anywhere in the body, and progression of MND varies from person to person. Often, MND begins with weakness of the muscles in the hands or feet, and eventually leads to generalised paralysis. Loss of muscle function can be incredibly debilitating, and people with motor neurone disease often need support and help with daily activities. Depending on the severity of their condition, a person may need a part-time or full-time carer. While some people can live a long time with MND, the average life expectancy is 2 to 3 years from diagnosis.

What are the causes of motor neurone disease?

Around 5-7% of cases of MND are hereditary, caused by inheritance of genetic mutations. Of hereditary cases, about 40% are caused by C9ORF72 gene mutation, and about 20% are caused by mutations of the superoxide dismutase-1 gene.

In the other 93-95% of cases the cause of MND remain unknown. Factors that are suspected of playing a role in MND include abnormal growth, repair and ageing of motor neurons, imbalances of the brain chemical glutamate, viral infections, environmental toxins, inflammation, oxidative stress, and immune dysfunction.

Symptoms of motor neurone disease

Early symptoms of MND include weakness of the muscles of the hands and legs. A person may notice that they cannot grasp objects in a firm grip, or are more clumsy than usual. The tongue and throat muscles may weaken, and a person may notice that their speech is slurred and they have difficulty chewing and swallowing. Other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, muscle twitching, cramps, muscle pain, and emotional lability. The sense of smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch are not usually affected by MDN. Nor are bowel and bladder control.

Diagnostic considerations in motor neurone disease

At The Health Lodge, we may be interested in running tests to gather more information to help us manage all aspects of your health.

  • Nutritional deficiencies are common in MND, as so we may screen for a number of nutrient deficiencies and work with diet and supplements to correct these
  • Checking inflammatory markers is also important as inflammation is thought to play a role in MND
  • It may also be beneficial to test for heavy metal toxicities using hair mineral analysis, and blood and urine tests, as heavy metals can affect your mental wellbeing and the health of your neurological system, and are suspected of playing a role in some cases of MND
  • If depression or anxiety is a major factor in your health, it may be important to test for zinc deficiency and copper overload, metabolic abnormalities such as raised urinary pyrroles, and genetic factors including MTHFR gene polymorphisms. These factors can all play major roles in your psychological wellbeing.

 

 Treatment options for motor neurone disease

Early education is very important in managing MND. Knowing the progression of the disease allows people to plan ahead and find the care they need in managing current and future symptoms. We believe that a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals is essential in managing all the aspects of motor neurone disease. A coordinated, integrated team approach to your care helps you live better, and may help you to live longer with MND. Health professionals that you may have in you health care team include:

  • A GP and/or neurologist for regular check-ups and advice on medications.
  • A Psychologist for you emotional and mental wellbeing, as living with a disease can be incredibly emotionally distressing and mentally taxing
  • A Naturopath to prevent nutritional deficiencies
  • A Respiratory specialist if you experience breathing difficulties
  • An Occupational therapist if you require skills and equipment to help you carry out daily living activities
  • A Speech pathologist to help with issues of speech, swallowing, and eating
  • An Osteopath and/or physiotherapist to help with joint stiffness and structural problems
  • Carers to help with daily living needs

This comprehensive and holistic team approach is designed to support all aspects of your health, including your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

For enquiries call The Health Lodge on 02 6685 6445

Parkinson's Disease

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Parkinson’s disease results from the death of certain nerve cells in a part of the brain known as the substantia nigra. Normally, these cells produce an important chemical messenger called dopamine. Dopamine carries messages between nerves, and helps nerves communicate with muscles to coordinate body movement. Death of these dopamine-producing cells in the brain results in low dopamine levels, which causes problems with movement and coordination because nerve cells are unable to communicate effectively with each other and with muscle cells.

 

Parkinson’s disease causes

The cause of Parkinson’s disease remains unknown. It is thought that many factors may contribute to disease onset, including genetics, environmental toxins such as herbicides and pesticides, the natural ageing process, and oxidative stress.

 

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease involve changes in the way your limbs and muscles move and behave. Symptoms include rigidity, tremor, slowness of movement, loss of facial expressions, disturbances of gait and difficulty walking. Later symptoms include depression, sleep disturbance, and cognitive disturbances including dementia.

 

Parkinson’s disease treatment

There is a range of treatment options available to you, and we recommend an integrated “team approach” to your health management.

  • Medical care: Your GP will support you in your day-to-day medical needs and recommend referrals to suitable specialists. A neurologist will be able to guide you in which medications to take, and adjust dosages as required to achieve maximum benefit. It is best to find one that specialises in movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
  • Psychology: A psychologist will provide support in dealing with the adverse psychological aspects of Parkinson’s disease, including anxiety and depression.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture may be helpful for pain control in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Osteopathy: Osteopathy may help to improve gait stability in people with Parkinson’s.
  • Occupational therapy: An occupational therapist can show you techniques that make daily living activities such as dressing, eating and bathing easier.

 

Naturopathic approach to Parkinson’s disease

This section will discuss some of the naturopathic approaches to management of Parkinson’s disease. We advise you to consult your health carers before considering commencing any of these therapies, as some therapies below may interact with medications.

 

Diet

A nutritious diet will allow your body to work more efficiently and give you more energy. While there is no specific diet for people with Parkinson's disease, here are some simple principles of nutritious eating that are extremely beneficial:

  • Eat a variety of foods including fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and nuts and seeds.
  • Enjoy fish a few times a week. Omega-3’s found in fish are anti-inflammatory and may be beneficial in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Moderate protein intake. A low protein diet is not desirable, but a high protein diet may interfere with your medication. Check with your doctor whether you need to moderate your protein intake.
  • Include high-fibre foods. These include vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains. These will help prevent constipation, a common issue in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Try to limit refined sugar.
  • Avoid saturated, rancid, and trans fats.
  • Aim to drink two litres of water per day. This will also help prevent constipation.

 

Lifestyle

Exercise is extremely important in maintaining physical function including muscle strength, coordination, gait stability, balance, and speed, and reducing muscle freezing. Regular exercise will also help with weight management and quality of life. A tailored exercise program can be designed by your physiotherapist and will usually include active and passive exercises, gait training, and practice of every-day activities.

 

Maintain a healthy weight with a nutritious diet and regular exercise. Weight loss is common in Parkinson’s disease and should be monitored. Increasing intake of protein and healthy fats may be necessary to prevent weight loss.

 

Specific nutrients

  • Antioxidants: Oxidative stress is suspected to play a role in Parkinson’s disease. It is thought that oxidative stress may cause damage to the nerve cells that produce dopamine. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, selenium and lipoic acid may help protect against free radical damage.

 

  • CoQ10: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant vitamin that is involved in cellular energy production. Cellular energy production (carried out by ‘mitochondria’ which are your cellular engines) may be impaired in people with Parkinson’s disease, and may contribute to loss of the dopamine-producing nerve cells. Daily doses of CoQ10 may improve some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

 

Your integrative team of health care specialists

At The Health Lodge, medical doctors, and complementary therapists work together to help you achieve and maintain your best possible state of health and wellbeing. We believe that a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals is essential in managing all the aspects of Parkinson’s disease. Your multidisciplinary team may include general practitioners, neurologists, naturopaths, dieticians, physiotherapists, osteopaths, acupuncturists, counsellors, psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, specialist nurses and carers. This comprehensive and holistic approach will support your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.