Can Flavonoids Help Parkinson's Patients?

A person with Parkinson's has muscle tremors, rigidity, slowness of movement, impaired balance and a shuffling gait. Dementia (the topic of this blog series) does not affect everyone with Parkinson's, but often will. Memory impairment and trouble concentrating can show up with the increasing neurological problems.

If someone you love is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, you may begin to research for ideas to help them. One concept you will come across is the usefulness of "flavonoids."

Flavonoids are phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in almost all fruits and vegetables. They are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.

Inflammation plays a major role in a number of diseases including cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart failure, autoimmune diseases, and Parkinson's. Reducing inflammation is a goal of treatments to reverse or lessen the symptoms of these diseases. Diet and nutrition can help with this.

Each family will hear treatment options from doctors and others with valuable insights, and today, many people are open to alternative therapies that may not be mentioned in the doctor's office.

A story about a natural therapy that has been on TV and the internet reports the usefulness of coconut oil which is rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids. In the video, a doctor describes its usefulness for her husband's medical condition.

Another story tells about a Parkinson's patient who was helped through taking a number of tablespoons of coconut oil with each meal. He says, "I still have Parkinson['s] symptoms, but my quality of life has vastly improved."

Trying new things when life becomes difficult because of dementia and related troubles is a way of coping that may bring good results.

Actively seeking information and answers puts us in the driver's seat for our own health or for those we watch over. Let's pool our insights and keep a positive outlook.

Avoiding Alzheimer's

The bad news is that one in nine people age 65 and older in America has Alzheimer's, and about one-third of people 85 and older have it. (ref)

The good news is that studies are showing ways to decrease your risk of becoming one of those people.

One of these, the Zutphen Elderly Study, found that those with the highest total fat intake had a 240 percent higher risk of developing dementia. High saturated fat intake increased risk 90 percent and high cholesterol intake increased risk 70 percent.

Examples of foods with saturated fat are: fatty beef, pork, chicken with its skin, cheese, butter, and of course, various processed foods.

A later study showed that carbohydrates, not fat, are the bigger culprit of obesity leading to heart disease that leads to Alzheimer's. In the American diet, the biggest sources of carbs are: grain-based desserts (cakes, cookies etc) and yeast breads. Another very large source is soda pop. Sugar is a known cause of memory loss. (ref)

The easiest way to avoid the "bad stuff" is to follow the WYBIWYG rule. It's very similar to "What You See Is What You Get" or WYSIWYG. The only difference is that it warns: "What You Buy Is What You Get." What we don't have in our refrigerator or cabinet, won't show up on our table.

For most of us, what we see IS what we get! At the grocery, just remember the cow who says, "Eat more vegetables!"

Simple things

Life is NEVER simple! Sometimes a person becomes so discouraged they feel the need for an antidepressant to function at a higher level. They ask the doctor for help.

Sometimes the doctor prescribes an antidepressant that contains SSRI (Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors). At a recent medical conference*, it was reported that SSRIs have been found to "decrease Rapid Eye Movement (REMs) in elderly patients" and cause other sleep disorders. 

In the past doctors looked at other side effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain, but now they believe that for elderly patients it is important to consider the sleep disruptions caused. When the body is agitated during sleep, it can be a sign of neurodegeneration, which is associated with dementia.

The study led to the suggestion that doctors take a holistic care approach to helping the elderly when they are discouraged or depressed. 

Holistic approaches to encourage a patient include activities in these areas:

  • Physical self-care
  • Spiritual self-care
  • Mental/Emotional self-care
  • Lifestyle
  • People support

For your loved one in a retirement or nursing home, talk with the nurses and aides to find out if they are getting exercise that helps them to breathe and if they are getting the water they need. This varies from patient to patient.

Many suggestions for holistic solutions are made on this webpage, some which are not helpful to older people.

Keeping a room fresh with new pictures of family and flowers can help. Let's brainstorm together for ideas!

* The study was presented at the Institute of Psychiatric Services (IPS): The Mental Health Services 2016 Conference.