47 posts tagged “parkinson’s”

From tomatoes to turmeric: Can foods fight inflammation?

Posted October 26th, 2017 by

Inflammation is a hot topic. What’s it all about? And what’s the scoop on certain diets, foods and supplements, such as turmeric, when it comes to fighting inflammation?

What is inflammation?

Not all inflammation is “bad.” Acute inflammation is part of the body’s natural way of defending itself from foreign substances like viruses, bacteria, cuts and splinters. It may cause redness, swelling, heat and/or pain. The upside is, these symptoms are a sign that the body is responding after an injury or infection by triggering white blood cells and disease-fighting chemicals.

But some “other” kinds of inflammation — like chronic inflammation (which may include constant low-grade or systemic inflammation) and inflammation from autoimmune disorders (where the body attacks its own healthy cells as if they’re foreign) — doesn’t always show visible or obvious symptoms and can play a more long-term and complex role, according to Mayo Clinic.

Which diseases or conditions does it affect?

Mounting research shows that inflammation is a common underlying factor (and possibly a cause) in many — perhaps even all — diseases.

You’ve probably heard about the role of inflammation in arthritis or heart health. But researchers and doctors have also studied inflammation’s link to a wide range of other diseases and conditions, including cancerdiabetesAlzheimer’s diseasemultiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease (PD), major depressive disorder (MDD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and ALS (note: in the case of ALS and some other conditions, researchers are still determining whether some inflammation may be protective rather than harmful, so more research is needed).

Over the past decade, scientists have also started to identify certain genes associated with inflammation, and research on that front continues.

What can food do?

Some people follow an “anti-inflammatory diet,” but the science behind these particular diets does not clearly support the theory that they thwart inflammation, and doctors advise being wary of the health claims they make.

That said, taking steps to maintain a healthy weight and eat a variety of foods with anti-inflammatory properties (rather than follow a certain “Diet” with a capital “D”) may benefit your health.

“Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The team at Harvard says these foods have anti-inflammatory properties:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale and collards
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines
  • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries and oranges

On the flip side, they say, some foods promote inflammation — so try to avoid or limit these (hint: they’re already foods with a pretty bad rap):

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
  • French fries and other fried foods
  • Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
  • Margarine, shortening and lard

Talk with your doctor or a registered dietician about a healthy eating plan with your health condition(s) in mind.

What’s the deal with turmeric?

There’s currently a lot of buzz around turmeric and some other supplements believed to help fight inflammation. Turmeric, a plant related to ginger, is a common spice known for its gold color and use in curry powder.

On top of being used as spice, it can be taken as a supplement. The main anti-inflammatory ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is available as a supplement on its own (the content of curcumin in turmeric spice is only around 3%, so curcumin supplements may pack more of an anti-inflammatory punch). One study found that curcumin may have the same anti-inflammatory effects as NSAID pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofin, (Advil/Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).

Preliminary studies have shown promise for curcumin’s use in people with ulcerative colitismultiple myelomalupus and depression. However, there’s still a lack of conclusive research on the effects of turmeric or curcumin in people with many other conditions, so these supplements typically aren’t recommended as part of a treatment plan at this point. Additional studies on curcumin are currently underway for people with some forms of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS, MS and PD.

Talk with your healthcare provider before starting any new vitamin, supplement or treatment.

What about other supplements?

Overall, the potential role of dietary supplements is “largely uncharted when it comes to carefully done clinical trials for safety and effectiveness,” according to Brent Bauer, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and effectiveness. Keeping that in mind, here are some other supplements with possible anti-inflammatory effects that researchers have studied to some extent, the Mayo Clinic says:

  • Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) — This could ease rheumatoid arthritis joint pain and osteoarthritis knee pain during activity, but more research is needed.
  • Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) — It’s commonly used in Europe and may be effective in the short-term treatment of osteoarthritic pain.
  • Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) — Made from the mangosteen fruit, this supplement may have anti-allergy, antibacterial, antifungal, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory qualities, but more research in humans is needed.
  • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) — This may help improve organ function in people with cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease. It may also be helpful in treating chronic hepatitis. But more research is needed before it can be recommended.

“My best advice concerning chronic inflammation is to stay tuned,” says Dr. Bauer. “This is a huge area of interest in the medical world and there are bound to be discoveries down the road that can improve well-being and the quality of health.”

On PatientsLikeMe

Hundreds of patients report using turmeric for a wide variety of health reasons — see what they have to say. Join the community for even more details on the treatments patients have tried and to learn and share about nutrition with your condition.

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“Dealing and healing” together: Karl and Angela Robb team up with PatientsLikeMe and share about living with young-onset Parkinson’s disease

Posted August 30th, 2017 by

PatientsLikeMe is pleased to announce a new collaboration with Karl and Angela Robb, the husband-and-wife team behind Karl’s blog, “A Soft Voice in a Noisy World: Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s Disease,” and the authors of two books. You might’ve already seen Karl’s #MoreThan story. Karl and Angela recently shared even more with us in a Q&A about Karl’s diagnosis with young-onset PD, living 30+ years with the condition, and maintaining a strong relationship and an award-winning blog, to boot. Stay tuned for guest blog posts by Karl and Angela as part of this collaboration!

Young-onset Parkinson's

Your blog’s name – and much of its content – reflect your appreciation for calm, peace and quiet, especially in the pursuit of “dealing and healing” with PD. How did you arrive at a peaceful outlook after being diagnosed at a young age with a serious condition? 

Symptoms began in my teens. My diagnosis for Parkinson’s disease came about six years and eight or nine doctors later. Knowing hardly anything about Parkinson’s disease at age 17, I was sure that I had a brain tumor. I prepared myself for the worst possible outcome and made the decision that whatever the result may be, I was going to make the best of it. I was going to live and be thankful for it.

I have not always been at peace with this illness but it has definitely improved and mellowed with age. I believe that learning Reiki almost 20 years ago and lowering my stress has played a big part in accepting this illness.

How do you manage on days when you’re feeling more frustrated and stressed?

We all experience days that we would prefer never getting out of bed. With Parkinson’s, you have your better days and your less good days. You can never be certain that your medication is going to function—you just hope. I try to not allow stress or anxiety to dominate my body. It doesn’t always work. The best results that I’ve come across are complementary therapies like yoga, meditation, massage, and Reiki, as well as reflexology and staying open to new options. I’m a pretty positive person.

What aspects of PD do you find most frustrating and how do you get back to a peaceful mindset? 

The most frustrating aspects of PD are the loss of control and the unpredictable twists and turns that may come at any time. I often feel that I need a backup plan to my backup plan. All I can do is to move forward and be as strong as I can be. Keeping balanced, vigilant and calm is best, if I can do it.

It’s clear that you two work as a team. How did you form such a strong partnership, in your work in the world of PD and in your marriage? How has PD challenged or strengthened your bond?

Karl: We started as good friends and our relationship just grew from there. I would say that we are soul mates rather than just a couple. Sure, we work and live together, but we argue on occasion just like everyone else. I love her completely through and through and love her company. I am so lucky to have found her. She inspired the creation of the blog and books.

Angela is an amazing person — she has a very big and loving heart. She married me post-diagnosis and I am ever so grateful for her love! I love collaborating with her!

I would have to say that the greatest challenges might be a reduction in clear communication. I need to focus more on being clearer with my speech and finishing my thoughts. I have to keep reminding myself that nothing is easy or automatic anymore. Everything I do requires more effort more. Thirty years with PD is a long time.

I think that we stay open and honest with one another and we talk to each other about almost everything. More than anything, we laugh a lot! We continue to learn from each other and enjoy being together.

Angela: I’ve only known Karl with Parkinson’s disease since I met him 4 years after his diagnosis. I love Karl but I do not love Parkinson’s. We are never guaranteed a life without challenges. The most important thing we can do when facing any challenge is to do our best to live as best we can.

From the beginning, open and honest communication has been the key to our relationship. When we fail to communicate well with one another, that’s when we notice tension in our work and home life. Learning to spot the “warning signs” of bad communication helps us to put things back on track.

We work hard to make sure we agree on our goals and consciously check in with each other to assure we are working toward those goals. Not just for our work but also in our marriage. Our commitment to each other has also meant a commitment to a shared purpose: We both agree that our greatest work is to help those living with Parkinson’s disease and other health conditions.

Lily Robb 

What gives each of you a sense of peace or joy? 

Karl: I love going to new places with Angela and teaching people with Parkinson’s about reiki and techniques that can make life better. I love to write and take photos of nature and animals in the wild. I love traveling with Angela and our chocolate lab, Lily.

Angela: I love: 1) The touch of Karl’s hand or his hug. 2) When our dog, Lily does something goofy and makes us laugh. (She’s such a clown!  She steals a sock then turns around and shows us the sock.) 3) The beauty of nature. From the smallest flower to the vast sky – there is so much peace to be gained by just stopping for a moment and being in awe of the nature around us.

 

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