For many years, Parkinson’s was a disease that everyone knew of… but few knew much about.
Why it would strike one person and not another was a mystery.
Why certain people suffered more extreme symptoms than others was an unknown.
We watched the progression of the disease play out in well-known figures.
Robin Williams’ suicide shocked the world. His wife said his Parkinson’s diagnosis was at least partly to blame.
Michael J. Fox publicly announced he was suffering from the disease and took a step back from his acting career. Then he returned to television a decade later, and is still managing his symptoms well.
So, where does the difference come in?
The inflammatory link
Multiple studies have linked the severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms to inflammation levels.
It’s believed that inflammation could drive the brain cell death you see in the disease.
In fact, as far back as 2007 scientists were doing studies to try to prove this connection.
Unfortunately, the number of test subjects in all of the studies was pretty small, so none of the studies made a big splash in the medical community.
Then in 2013, research on over 120 subjects (comparing Parkinson’s patients to healthy controls) was able to prove that increased levels of inflammatory markers were significantly associated with, “More severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, and cognition in the entire group of Parkinson’s patients.”
Now a new study has taken that a step further…
Brains on fire
Research out of the University of Queensland aimed to see if blocking inflammation and cooling the fire in the brains of animal models with Parkinson’s would translate to a decrease in their symptoms.
According to the scientists, in diseases of aging such as Parkinson’s, our immune system can become overactivated, with microglia (immune cells in the brain) causing inflammation and damage to the brain.
Normally these microglia function to clear out the toxic proteins that can build up in the brain leading to worsening Parkinson’s symptoms, but when they have high levels of inflammatory activity, they can’t do their job.
Knowing this, the researchers used a compound they called MCC950 to block inflammation activation in the brains of the animal models, resulting in “markedly improved motor function.”
This is significant since problems with movement are one of the hallmark symptoms of Parkinson’s patients.
When asked about the study, UQCCR Group Leader in Clinical Neuroscience Dr. Richard Gordon said, “The findings provide exciting new insight into how the spread of toxic proteins occurs in Parkinson’s disease and highlights the important role of the immune system in this process.”
Controlling inflammation for symptom relief
While the team intends to search out new ways to repurpose drugs to capitalize on the results of the research and block the effects inflammation has on the immune cells of the brains of Parkinson’s patients, if you or a loved one is living with the disease right now, waiting isn’t a viable option.
Since this study and all of the previous research makes it clear that inflammation is a key factor in how severe Parkinson’s symptoms become, working to decrease inflammation levels is key.
Here’s how to do it:
#1 — Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Foods like green leafy vegetables, olive oil, fatty fish and bone broth help to decrease the levels of inflammation in your body. On the other hand, if your diet consists of fast food, sugars and trans fats, your inflammation markers will continue to rise. To help control your inflammation and decrease your Parkinson’s symptoms, make at least 80 percent of your diet anti-inflammatory (but the more the better).
#2 — Take up yoga, meditation or tai chi
A comprehensive review of 34 scientific studies found that mind-body practices reduce the markers of inflammation in your body. Great options are meditation, yoga and tai chi. But you have to practice regularly to receive the benefits.
#3 — Add in a high-quality fish oil
Fish oil is an important anti-inflammatory you can’t afford to skip. In fact, it’s so powerful that it has been proven to be just as effective as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) for treating neck and back pain. And it’s even been shown to significantly reduce the joint pain and tenderness associated with the severe inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis.
#4 — Get more sleep
Even losing a few hours of sleep can cause inflammation in your body. Aim for a solid eight hours of sleep per night and ensure better quality rest by removing electronics and other sources of blue light from your bedroom.
When it comes to Parkinson’s disease, you can’t afford to ignore the connection between inflammation and severity of symptoms or afford to wait until new drugs that address the inflammation are developed and tested.