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  Natural/Functional Considerations for the Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease

Dr. Brian J. Abelson D.C.

Numerous medical researchers are studying the relationship between disorders of the nervous system and the body’s ability to detoxify itself. Dr. G.B. Steventon Ph.D. at Ween Elizabeth Medical Center in Birmingham, England was one of the first to research the ability of patients with Parkinson’s disease in removing toxins from their system. During his research he found that these patients were half as efficient in their ability to detoxify medications and toxins as a healthy individuals of the same age group. The doctors concluded that Parkinson’s patients have a dysfunction in their detoxification system. This is a significant finding with regards to the Toxin Exposure theory (2,3,4).

The Toxin Exposure theory for Parkinson’s identifies a relationship between exposure to toxins and neurological damage. This theory began with a group of young men in their 20’s and 30’s, from San Jose, California. These men had consumed heroin that was tainted with the chemical MPTP, and began to show symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Since Parkinson’s disease is typically considered to be a neurological disease connected to aging, it was very unusual to see so many young men, in such a small area, manifesting the same symptoms that are associated with Parkinson’s disease(2,3,4).

Since then many researchers have postulated that there may be hundreds or thousands of chemicals that could cause damage to the nervous system, and lead to Parkinson’s Disease.

Biochemical individuality determines how our bodies can process these toxins, and is dependent on our genetic make-up and the effectiveness of our detoxification mechanisms. Biochemical individuality explains how the genetic makeup of certain people makes them more susceptible to many chronic and crippling diseases.

Even though genetics is an important factor it may not be as important as the substance and chemicals that we are exposed to in our daily environment. Patients with Parkinson’s disease may actually have a genetic dysfunction in their detoxification mechanisms that result in increased levels of neruotoxins (toxins which directly effect the nervous system) in there bodies.

Elimination of Toxins From Our Bodies

Our body’s ability to remove toxic material is dependent on how well our liver is functioning(4). This is where nutrition becomes an important factor in the over all picture of treating Parkinson’s Disease. The livers ability to remove toxic substances is directly dependent on the amount and availability of essential nutrients.

The detoxification process conducted by our liver is divided into two distinct phases(4). A exo-toxin (such as environmental pollutants, pharmaceutical drugs, toxic chemicals, and hormones), or an endo-toxin (waste by-products from our bodies metabolism, pathogenic bacteria, or oxygen reactive species) enters into the liver for detoxification. During the first phase of detoxification cytochrome P450 enzymes act on the toxins to turn them into what is know as bio-transformed intermediate species. Detoxification process can continue as long as there is an adequate supply of essential nutrients available for enzymatic processes.. The bio-transformed intermediate species are converted into water-soluble substances by conjugation enzymes. These water soluble substances are then excreted as non-toxic materials through urine and feces(2,3,4,5).

Problems occur when essential nutrients are not present. When this happens, the liver produces reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) refers to all highly reactive, oxygen-containing molecules including free radicals. These molecules are capable of causing cellular damage when they react with membrane lipids, nucleic acids, proteins, enzymes, and other small molecules(2,5,6).

ROS attacks the healthy cells of the body and causes these cells to loose their structure and function. Cell damage caused by ROS appears to be a major contributor to immune system decay and brain dysfunction

ROS also causes breakdown of the intestinal walls and increases the permeability of the intestinal lining. This increase in permeability is called leaky-gut syndrome and is commonly seen in long term users of non-prescription and prescription medications. It also caused by sub-optimal nutrition, accompanied by reduced intake of zinc, vitamin B5, vitamin A, vitamin C, and the amino acid L-glutamine(3).

Because of the increased permeability, toxic substances pass from the intestines into the blood stream and increase the toxic load on the liver. Numerous studies have linked leaky gut syndrome to arthritis like pain, headaches, fatigue, alterations in immune function, allergies, and neurological dysfunction(2,3,4).

What Can I Do

I highly recommend that Parkinson’s patients and individuals who have a family history of Parkinson’s disease do everything they can to support their detoxification system, their antioxidant system, and their immune system.

It is very important to break the neurotoxcity chain. I recommend that you contact a practitioner trained in functional/natural medicine. This practitioner should help you with the three major areas that I feel must be addressed by patients with Parkinson’s disease.

You should....


Clean up your environment What you don’t put into your system you don’t have to take out. We are constantly inundating ourselves with toxic substances. Switch to natural house hold cleaners, soaps, detergents, and cosmetics. Throw out your toxic products, don’t wait until they are finished. The effects of these products can stay in your house for years. Natural alternatives to these products are available at local health food stores.
Change your diet A personally tailored diet can help you overcome many health problems. The diet must be directed at eliminating possible allergens, supporting your body’s detoxification capabilities and providing large amounts of phytonutrients and antioxidants. Phytonutients are foods that have the unique ability to improve organ system function. Antioxidants stop free radical reactions.
Start immediately on a neuroprotective program Specific supplementation can help to increase the functional integrity of the brain and nervous system. This program would be high in certain vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants that are capable of passing the blood brain barrier. I would highly recommend that you follow the recommendations provided by Dr. Jeffrey Bland Ph.D. He has put together a remarkable neuroprotective program in the his latest book "The 20-day Rejuvenation Diet Program"


Parkinson’s disease is multifactorial condition that must be treated as such. An overwhelming quantity of information that suggests a connection between toxicity and Parkinson’s disease cannot be ignored. There are viable solutions to dealing with the toxicity from both external and internal environments. I am convinced that a neuroprotective program can greatly benefit any patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and can aid in the prevention of Parkinson’s for individuals who have a family history of the disease.


  1. Bendich, A., Role of Antioxidants in the Maintenance of Immune Functions, ch. 15, p 447-467, In Natural Antioxidants in Human Health and Disease, ed. Frei, B. Academic Press: San Diego, 1994
  2. Bland Jeffrey S. Ph.D. The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program, Keats Publishing 1997.
  3. Bland Jeffrey S., Ph.D., "Applying New Essential in Nutritional Medicine" Health Comm Seminars 1995
  4. Bland, J.S., Oxidants and Antioxidants in Clinical Medicine: Past, Present, and Future Potential, J Nutr Environ Med 1995;5;255-280
  5. Halliwell, B. Free Radicals, Antioxidants, and Human Disease: Curiosity, Cause, or Consequence? Lancet 1994:344-721-724
  6. Hamilton, Whitney, "Nutrition Concepts and Controversies, Rev. ed. of :Nutrition/Eva May Nunnelly Hamilton 5th ed. 1991
  7. Jacques, P.F., et al, Cataracts, Neurological Disorders, and Exercise, ch 18, 515-533, in Natural Antioxidants in Human Health and Disease. ed Frei, B, Academic Press: San Diego, 1994

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Author: Dr. Brian Abelson
Co-author and Editor: Kamali Abelson: Rowan Tree Consulting Ltd.
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