Lucid dreaming – a road out of Parkinson’s dysfunction?

November 17th, 2017

If you are going to have a chronic disease at least find it amusing!

The last month I have been doing a lot of lucid dreaming when I am moving into wakefulness in the morning. If you don’t know about lucid dreaming it is a state where you are conscious but dreaming and can navigate through your dreams with full control and awareness that you are in the land of dreams.

The interesting thing is that I can move back and forth from lucid dreaming into full awake consciousness and back into lucid dreaming again. When I am lucid dreaming I have no Parkinson signs but as soon as I move into awakeness my tremor starts and as soon as I move back into lucid dreaming it stops again. I can consciously do this as long as I enter the plane of lucid dreams, although I don’t always lucid dream. My question is how do I bring this into my waking life??

Yesterday I had a preview of this. I woke up and was awake and fully conscious but still in bed and with my eyes closed. I had no tremor and I could move my left hand and arm completely normal (these side is normally slow, dysfunctional and shaky). This lasted for about 10 minutes – my body was normal! Then the shaking and dysfunction returned.

So is my lucid dreams trying to lead me out of my disease state? Is this because my amygdala is suppressed during dreaming so my body is not in a heightened state? If so compassion meditation practices helps regulate the amygdala. Lucid dreaming creates more dopamine production in the body than REM sleep because the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is active. I notice after a period of lucid dreaming my symptoms are better even after awakening.

The other night I slammed my left toes into the door jam enough to really hurt but for a few hours after that my toes moved normally and I could spread them apart which I have not been able to do in three years. In a few hours the new normal function had ceased. My body was shocked into normal function for a time.

My conclusion is that my body still knows normal. My inhibition and initiation systems are abnormal but all the nerves are still connected and functional!

I went back to see Dr. Farias today and had another wonderful session with him. I have a bunch of new exercises and systems to work with. The focus being on my tongue, eyes, and lumber spine to release my neck and regulate my vagus nerve and parasympathetic system, more on that soon!

Using Nicotine to treat Neonicotinoid pesticide induced Parkinson’s disease

September 16th, 2017

Nicotine, I’ve wanted to talk about nicotine for a long time but wanted to finish my experiment with it first. This post is mostly going to be about using nicotine to repair neonicotinoid pesticide damage in the brain but I want to get another post out there on the studies related to Parkinson’s disease in general, so stay tuned.

So I need to stop here and say I am not giving medical advice, I am not suggesting anyone addict themselves to nicotine without talking to their doctor first. I do want to share my experiences.

We tend to think of nicotine as bad, addictive, and deadly but it’s only one of the three. What if I told you nicotine was one of the most neuroprotective drugs out there especially to dopaminergic neurons and was being studied to treat both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. What if I told you it was the strongest cholinergic drug and was awesome at pulling your body back into a parasympathetic state from sympathetic overload. Tobacco has long been sacred to Native Americans, it is the opposite of the evil we associate with it. If used with respect and properly it can be amazingly helpful and healing.

Nicotine is one of the most studied drugs. Years ago doctors and scientists observed that people who smoked rarely got Parkinson’s disease, in fact when it was looked at closer they found that people who smoked had a 50% reduction in Parkinson’s and those who got it progressed slower than non-smokers. Yes smoking protects you from Parkinson’s disease but of course causes cancer. Nicotine also makes the body make more dopamine and has been shown to reduce PD symptoms. However nicotine itself does not cause cancer unless applied to the same area consistently, i.e. lungs, mouth. Nicotine can increase heart issues in people prone to heart disease as it can increase blood pressure but that is about the only negative health issue if not delivered to the body in a way to cause cancer.

When dopaminergic nerve cells (the cells which stop working in PD) are exposed to neurotoxins, if nicotine is added to the system, they don’t die. It protects them.

When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease I did a ton of research to figure out how to cure myself.

One of things I think contributed to me getting this disease so young, beyond my two genetic mutations, was that I had massive neonicotinoid pesticide exposure in my 20s. These pesticides, which are commonly used in flea medication, permanently bind to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on nerve cells and are linked to causing Parkinson’s disease.

I spent about six months trying to find some way to kick these chemicals off my receptors but as I said they permanently bind and that is final. Nerve cells in your brain also do not regenerate so I could not grow new properly working nerve cells. Yet I was convinced these cells were not dead, just not able to function properly because some of the receptors were damaged. So was there a way to make new receptors? In fact there is a heavily studied way to make new receptors called addiction. When we use an addictive substance we create something called tolerance. This means our body wants more and more of that substance to feed the addiction and our body does that by making more receptors for the addictive substance to bind to.

Nicotine addiction works because nicotine binds to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, the receptors that were permanently damaged in my brain. As more nicotine is given to the body, more receptors are made. These receptors are permanent; they do not go away even if the nicotine is withdrawn. That is why people who have had addiction can very easily become re-addicted to a substance if they use it only once or twice after stopping for a long period of time. I suspected I had a way to replace my damaged receptors; I had a biological hack around my pesticide damage!

So yes I was going to addict myself to a highly addictive substance but an addictive substance that actually had been proven to protect my brain and slow the disease I had been diagnosed with.

I started with 7mg patches of nicotine, working backwards through the stopping smoking system, and moved up to 14mg patches after two months with occasionally using 21mg patches to sleep at night when the stress from my divorce got bad. I found 21mg sedated me too much for daytime use but gave me excellent sleep. For you who have never smoked, nicotine, at least for me, was a lovely drug. It made me calm, happy, and increased both my energy and brain processing speed. Nicotine combined with the other 10 brain enhancing supplements/herbs I take made my brain work at a crazy speed but with a calmness that helped me process even better. I felt like a happy supercomputer!

After about 3 months of using nicotine, I started having horrible patch reactions where my skin would get bright red and swollen under the patches and itch like crazy. It would take about 3-4 weeks for the redness and itching to completely go away and I had to use massive control to not rip the skin over my thighs apart. Imagine having 21 giant mosquito bites on your thighs. It became clear to me that my body was done with nicotine and that I was going to end up with scarring if I continued to use it. So I stopped it two weeks ago after five months of use. The interesting thing is I had no withdrawal. I suspect that is because my experiment worked. I now have the normal number of receptors again but not the more than normal number you would get with addiction. Because of this the normal acetylcholine I make can bind to these receptors again and start to get my brain cells back to working properly. In fact in the two weeks since I stopped the nicotine I have seen improvement in the PD like symptoms I experience. I’ve had enough ups and downs in the journey to cure myself to not make assumptions too early and so need more time to see if the nicotine has caused permanent improvement but I am very hopeful! As an added note it also helped my dystonia symptoms, especially storm activity.

I’m hijacking this blog to share my work on movement disorders

June 6th, 2017

So I am officially hijacking my own blog for a while to talk about Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, and my journey in healing from these disorders as there is no longer any doubt that I am getting better. My left thumb started working last night after two years of being pretty dysfunctional and I am officially off all Parkinson drugs. The two last times I took them they didn’t do anything because, guess what, I’m making enough dopamine again!

Over the past two years I have spent countless hours digging through pubmed studies, tracing chemical pathways in the brain, reading everything out their about neonicotinic pesticide toxicity, LRRK2 mutation and neuroplasicity. I’m on to something for me and like in the animals I treat, if something I figure out is working, I want to share it. If I can cure myself from this I want to take as many people I can along with me to their own cure. I realize that Parkinson’s is a snowflake disease, like cancer, and everyone’s disease is different but even if what I’m doing doesn’t help someone else maybe it can fuel their curiosity to seek what they need to get better and fuel the hope that progressive diseases can be curable!

If the discomfort, anguish and fear I experienced over the past couple years can lead others to heal it will all be worth it for me. My own healing is in full swing and I feel like one of the most blessed people in the world right now. None of us can walk this path alone! I have had amazing helpers alone the way, my wonderful naturopaths, Laurie and Sam, my body workers Camille and Kim, Katie my counselor, Angela Ross who came up with the dystonia diagnosis, Jo from SANCA who decided teaching PD people tight rope was a good idea! , and of course Joaquin! If you have a movement disorder I highly recommend everyone of these people, they have been my backbone! And the endless support of my amazing clients and their animals who have not just stuck with me but supported me in this journey! And of course my friends and family both people and animal. See it’s still a path with paws!

So begins a new journey for me to inspire people with movement disorders to heal and share all I’ve learned from my amazing community, my own research and journey. Maybe this will become book number two! So stay tuned!

And yes I promise to throw in some animal stories along the way!

2 -Rehabilitation from Parkinson’s disease – music is magical!

June 4th, 2017

Music is magical! A large part of my rehabilitation work involving dance, walking and other movement to music with 120 beats per minute. Music allows us to bypass the frontal cortex and reconnect lost neurocircuitry. With my functional paralysis this is extremely important. Because of my Parkinson’s my body also tries to inhibit movement, music helps me bypass this inhibition. We don’t know actually what is so special about 120 bpm but those that work with music in rehabilitation have found it seems to be the best for inducing neuroplasticity. It’s funny but a lot of the pop music I love but am kind of embarrassed to love is 120 bpm. It’s like our brains are evolutionarily tuned into that beat. There is an added benefit to listening to music from a time in your life when your body was normal as music is excellent at taking us back in time both emotionally and physically.

The rehabilitation program Joaquin Farias set up for me has five basic goals

  • Wake up my muscles that are hypotonic and reestablishing brain connections to them
  • Get rid of the rigidity in my body
  • Reconnect my left and right brain
  • Help my body stay in parasympathic most of the time
  • Help my body to make it’s our dopamine again at normal levels

This is done through

  • Mirroring – using my functional right side to re teach my left – if both sides are abnormal you can mirror another person
  • Passive movement – in my case this can be someone else moving my body or my right hand moving my left side
  • Active movement – dance, walking, and reputations of exercises that help to remap my nervous system. Many of these are done in repetitions of twenty, six to twenty times a day
  • Exercises that increase my heart rate
  • Stretching

My program is individual to my body and symptoms but I do want to share as much as I can, as I believe it is helpful for others with movement disorders to know there are options out there.

So one of the most transformative parts of my rehabilitation plan is something Joaquin calls forced walking. With my disease my brain tries to inhibit my movements, one part says go forward and one part says stop at the same time. This makes walking feel like sludging through molasses. By using music and walking to the beat the body is able to bypass my brains inhibition. So every day I walk for forty minutes straight to the rhythm of 120bpm music. This was extremely difficult at first and required intense mental and physical energy. One of my arms has no swing anymore and walking fast caused extreme pressure to build in my shoulder so that it burned and felt like it would break. Joaquin says this is a good thing and the burning is my nervous system rewiring and mapping my arm. I also get extreme tremor as that arm is pushed to reprogram. Joaquin says as we move into normality again the tremor will increase and to always allow the tremor.

At first my walks were hard the whole time but over a week they have gotten easier. Now it only takes a block or less before my body kicks into fairly normal walking. The burning is now in my shoulder, elbow, wrist and sometimes fingers. This is a good sign that the mapping is moving down my arm. I now ever get a small arm swing for most of my walk, only an inch or two but I’m confident that will increase. The wonderful part is that after the walks I feel almost normal. At first this was just for 10-15 minutes but now it is for 5-7 hours.

My walks work better than drugs! They naturally help me make dopamine in addition as remapping my functional paralysis side. I can feel it happening and often times break into a smile – something that is hard when you have Parkinson’s. I now have a choice – walk, dance, or Sinemet. I usually only need to use Sinemet about every 40 hours and just half a pill.

Odd things are starting to happen as my hand remaps. It will put itself into odd positions. Yesterday and today it would start playing the violin which I have not played since I was twelve! Today I went with it and started bowing with my right hand to match until I got a very weird look from a guy watering his yard. My hand is starting to remember again!

Last night I was with some friends and brought out my 120 playlist to show them. As soon as I started playing one of the songs I could feel my dopamine increase. I’ve become like Pavlov’s dog in less than two weeks – the music alone can now trigger my cells to make dopamine!

The magic of neuroplasicity is amazing to me. This is just the beginning for me and I’m excited to see where it will take me! We CAN reprogram our brains to heal and music seems to be the key that unlocks the magic!

Thank you Joaquin Farias!

How to find music with 120bpm

Joaquin Farias’ book Limitless

Rehabilitation from Parkinson’s disease – yes permanent healing is possible

May 28th, 2017

Did you know that if you have dystonia, typing is easier if you are listening to music with a 120 beat? Many of my exercises involving moving to music with a 120 beat as music causes us to bypass our frontal context to do movement.

This last week I traveled to Toronto to work with Dr. Joaquin Farias who specializes and in fact has dedicated this life to work in helping people with dystonias and similar movement disorders heal through neuroplasticity movement exercises. It was a life changing experience and today I am typing this completely off Parkinson’s medication.

For the first time since coming down with Parkinson’s two and a half years ago my body is still and comfortable without medication. I have tremor in my left hand still but some of that is my body trying to rewire my hand to my brain where the connection has been lost. In fact he says my tremor will get worse as I start to rewire and heal and loss my rigidity. I have gotten back a very small amount of my arm swing in my left arm since the beginning of the week and I am confident with work I can have normal arm swing again. Today I was able to throw a beanbag cow with a wrist movement where before this week I could only throw with a shoulder movement and had a hard time releasing to throw. These may not sound like much but Parkinson’s is supposed to be regenerative, getting worse, not better. And my body is not supposed to be able to heal and make dopamine again. But I never believed that and neither does Dr. Farias.

He believes I have a secondary dystonia to my Parkinson’s and a partial functional paralysis on my left side where my brain’s frontal cortex has disconnected from my body. This can be rewired with exercises similar to someone who has suffered a stroke. The dystonia can also be worked with through exercises that help stimulate the parasympathic nervous system. Luckily our brain holds an incredible neuroplasticity potential to be rewired and relearn function that has been lost. I also have a number for exercises to get my brain to make dopamine again, the neurotransmitter lost in Parkinson’s disease. If I can help my functional paralysis and dystonia, my Parkinson’s may actually be asymptomatic or very close to it!

I know this will be a long journey for me to get better including about two hours of exercises throughout the day, everyday, and small steps. I will probably still need medication some of the time.

I have so much more I want to share about my experience and will over the coming weeks. In the meantime, I highly recommend Joquin’s book Limitless.

Luna’s story

May 15th, 2017

The beautiful story honoring the short but wonderful life of Luna and her conscious natural death as written by her human dad Joel who has given me permission to share it. She was a truly enlightened being. While death is one of the hardest parts of my work, what is important is honoring every moment we are here and have with our loved ones.

luna-sunAs many of our friends and family know, our one year old girl kitty, Luna, was diagnosed with a fatal virus a month ago. Luna and her shelter brother, Astro, came to us from a local cat rescue last June. Luna was curled up in a cage all by herself. We were told she had been brought to the shelter by someone who found her (at two months old) living in the parking lot of a local super market. As soon as we picked her up she started purring and she made it very clear that she was coming home with us.

At first Luna wanted nothing to do with Astro. All he wanted was a playmate. But every time he approached her she would growl at him. The sound she made was very much like the sound Marge Simpson makes when she disapproves of something. We almost named her Marge because of this. But Astro persisted, and after about a week she accepted him as something to chase and wrestle to the ground, and then she allowed him to groom her, and then they began to snuggle and sleep together. And her disapproving growl evolved into the sweetest little peep. Thereafter, her nickname around our house became Miss Peep.

Having been abandoned in a parking lot, Luna had a little more life experience in the real world than Astro did (he spent his formative weeks with his mom and siblings in a foster care home), so she taught him some very important lessons. Between the two of them, she was always the trailblazer. She was fearless and was always the first to jump up on high places to get a better view. She was the one to greet new people who came to visit, and always the first to explore new things; like the joys of empty shopping bags, and the challenge of catching flies. Astro learned from her and loved her. Wherever she was in the house, all she had to do was peep and he would come running to be by her side. He would constantly shower her with kisses, which she usually tolerated for a little while and then when she had had enough would gently push him away with her paw. She was his queen, and he loved being her devoted subject.

luna-dadsBrad and I watched Luna learn how to love and how to be loved. And in addition to being a companion to Astro, she was my meditation partner every morning. Wherever she was in the house as soon as she heard the chime on my meditation timer she would come and lay by my side. Sometimes I could feel her soft fur against the back of my hand she would lay so close. And when the final chime would ring signaling the end of a session I would open my eyes and there she would be looking up at me. These times are what I am going to miss most about her.

When Luna was first diagnosed, I contacted Dr. Lena McCullough, the acupuncturist who had treated our previous cat, George, when he began to decline from the kidney failure of old age. Dr. Lena immediately instilled in us a sense of hope and we began treatments for Luna. This hope created a happy, healthy home environment for Luna (and us). I think when we feel we are going to lose someone we love we naturally tend to want to avoid them because it is simply too painful to interact with them knowing they will soon be gone. But when there is hope, when you hold in your heart the possibility of a miracle, you actually seek out interaction because you want to encourage and support what is so precious to you. This hope was good for Luna to feel and it was good for me and Brad because it allowed us to sleep at night and get through our days.

Because of the virus, many things changed in our house very quickly. Luna’s appetite completely disappeared. The only way she would eat would be if we hand fed her, literally one kibble at a time. Over the course of a day it would take about two hours to get enough food into her for her to maintain her weight. At first we didn’t know how we were going to be able to devote this amount of time to sitting with her to hand feed her. But we quickly adapted and came to realize how much time we actually spend each day in wasteful pursuits. Over the course of the month of her illness, Brad and I both dropped many of the social media and television distractions we had grown so accustomed to and suddenly found we actually had so much more time in the day to focus on what was truly important.

The news of Luna’s illness shocked us and I think a great deal of our suffering came from the expectation we all have that things in the material world are going to last- be it a relationship with a friend, a family member, a partner, or a pet. If we enjoy the relationship we create this expectation that it will simply go on indefinitely. Or in the case of a kitten, at least 12-15 years, which is the normal life span of most cats. We quickly realized that by holding onto this expectation, we were contributing to our own suffering. And by letting it go, we were much more able to appreciate the time we had already had and whatever time we had left with Luna in a much deeper, more meaningful way.

Over the past month we treated Luna with all different modalities of healing, including Western Medicine, Acupuncture, Reiki, herbs, and toward the very end we brought in an animal shaman named Rose De Dan. We brought in Rose to get an idea of what Luna was going through and where she was at emotionally and spiritually in the process. At the point we brought in Rose, Luna had not eaten for almost three days and was very weak and could no longer go up or down the stairs in our house, which only weeks before she would zoom up and down in a flash.

There was agreement among all of her doctors and caregivers that Luna was not suffering. So before she did, we made an appointment for a home euthanasia. We had scheduled for this to happen last Monday at 2:30pm. The previous day, Luna had enjoyed a beautiful sunny afternoon where she spent the whole day on her favorite perch bathing in the sun and feeling the cool breeze from the open window in her fur. Three hours before helping Luna transition, she had her meeting with Rose.

When Rose began to communicate with Luna in order to prepare her for what was to happen in a few hours, Rose said that Luna immediately shut the conversation down. Rose said the image she got was a door slamming in her face. Luna told Rose that she was still fighting. The next image Rose saw was Luna at the edge of a cliff. Rose explained that when an animal is close to death she almost always sees this image, and depending on how close the animal is to the edge of the cliff signifies how close the animal is to death. Rose told us that Luna was still about four feet from the edge. And then she described something that surprised both her and us. Rose said that Luna was not facing the edge and the dark valley below, but had her back to it. She said Luna’s face was turned toward the sun and her back was in shadow. Brad and I interpreted this to mean that Luna was still fighting for her life and we decided to cancel the home euthanasia, and at least as long as she was not suffering, to allow things to progress on their own.

Rose told Luna that if she was still going to fight she had to start eating again. So we were hoping that she would. But after another full day, it became apparent that she was not interested in eating. And it also became apparent to us that when she told Rose she was still fighting it wasn’t for her life, but for a conscious death. She didn’t want to be euthanized. And the image of her facing the sun instead of the dark valley beyond the edge of the cliff was her turning away from the darkness of ignorance from fear of death toward the light that can come from a conscious, natural death.

lunaAt this point we were under no illusion that she would be cured. But we needed to support her in this process and not cut it off prematurely. As long as she was not suffering we wanted to give her what she wanted. It is said that some of our most important lessons are learned in the days/moments as death approaches. And for a being that only had a year of living this time around, every moment was a valuable and important part of the evolution of her consciousness. Brad and I didn’t want to deny her these precious moments because of our own natural discomfort and fear of the dying process.

For Luna, this process began in earnest a day and half later, on Wednesday night at about 9pm. At this point she could no longer walk, so when her breathing became very rapid, we carried her upstairs to a spot she had chosen several days before. Brad and I and Astro were with her through the night. At about 2:30am I began to whisper the Gayatri mantra to her. This is the mantra I end all of my meditation sessions with, so she was familiar with it from our many sessions together. It is also the mantra I would chant to her in the car on our way back from each vet appointment to let her know we were going home. The Gayatri is the mantra of light and it seemed to calm her down and slow her breathing. At 5am, Luna stopped breathing and was still. She never suffered. She passed with a whispered sigh.

Brad and I sat with her body for an hour. Astro came to see what was happening and literally stepped right over her body, like she wasn’t there, like he didn’t see her. We wrapped her in a cloth and then in the same tapestry we had wrapped George in three years ago. Then we placed her on top of her favorite perch where she would remain for the rest of the day. It is very important when a being dies that the body remain in place for a period of time so as not to confuse the now disembodied soul. Astro immediately jumped up onto his perch right next to hers, where they had spent many hours lying together in the sun. To our amazement we watched as he began to focus on the air about three feet above Luna’s body. Then he began to paw at the air above her, like he was reaching for something only he was seeing. This went on for over a minute. Had Brad and I not seen it for ourselves I’m not sure we would have believed it in a story.

Later that day, we brought Luna’s body in to the vet to be cremated. Since then we have cried through many half eaten dinners. But as time has gone by it has gotten easier to think about her and not be filled with a sense of loss and grief. Astro seems to be doing ok. He is a little more needy for play time these days and wakes us up in the middle of the night for company. We’ve told him he is just going to have to get used to being held and hugged even more than usual, both for his sake and for our own.

All through Luna’s decline I would kiss her three times on the top of her head and repeat the mantra “You are strong, brave, and wise.” I would do this countless times each day. It seemed to comfort her and she would lean into my kisses and the gentle mantra I offered with them. Thursday was the first morning since we adopted Luna and Astro that she was not next to me when I sat down to meditate. Her favorite toy was a small stuffed raccoon that she would carry around the house in her mouth and drop at our feet as a gift, or leave on the bedroom floor for us to find in the morning as a sign she had visited us during the night. I placed her raccoon on my altar along side the other objects that represented others in my life that I love that have passed; my father’s glasses, my grandmother’s rhinestone pin, my grandfather’s bowtie, a small trio of bells owned by my aunt and uncle, and George’s wicker ball.

I set the meditation timer for 45 minutes and began my session. I went through my regular sequence of practices; following the breath, repeating an affirmation, humming, chanting the Gayatri, then sitting in silence to finish. At some point near the end while my mind was wandering, I was suddenly brought back into the present moment by a flurry of what felt like three kisses on the top of my head. It was so surprising that I opened my eyes and looked around before I realized what had just happened. Immediately after these three quick kisses the timer chimed signifying the end of the session. As I sat there in a state of awe I got the very real sense of Luna zooming away. The same way she used to zoom up the stairs in our house. And then it felt like she was gone.

Luna was only here in this beautiful little body for a year, so we feel very fortunate that she chose to share this brief time with us. She was a fierce, sweet, wise old spirit, and we will always cherish having been blessed with the opportunity to love her. Luna passed on May 10th, me and Brad’s 28 anniversary. For a being whose “soul” purpose this time around seemed to be to learn how to love and how to be be loved, we will be forever grateful for this important reminder as each future anniversary rolls around.

The day Luna passed was also the day when her namesake, the moon, was full. And not just full, but what was called by Native Americans, a Full Flower Moon. This moon signified the time to plant the spring seeds for new growth and new life.

Healing

April 29th, 2017

I can heal, I do believe this. Yes I know Parkinson’s is progressive, yes I know I have a mutation that causes it. I’m a doctor, I’m aware of what my brain scan shows, I’m aware that I am l-dopa responsive. But I am getting better and it’s not just because of my drugs because I haven’t changed them yet I get better ever month. Anyone who has seen me recently can see this. I can type again, slowly but I am typing. I barely shake anymore. I forgot sometimes that I have this. I’m comfortable, I no longer feel like my skin doesn’t fit me. I can smile easily again – believe me this was hard a few months back. I have a bit of an abnormal gait and my left arm doesn’t swing but I can twist, turn and balance better than most 20 year olds.

Yes, I take over 30 pills a day; yes I make exercising every day a priority. But in many ways my health is incredibly good. My naturopath has a scale to measure quality of life. When I was diagnosed in October I was an 800. Normal people are below 300, excellent quality of life is below 500, good below 1000, fair below 1500, and above that is poor. Wednesday I was a 57. Yes 57! That’s better than most normies. My left side is still slow, I tremor a bit but that is it.

I don’t know what beating this looks like but to me it means staying under 500 for the rest of my life; learning how to do that and sharing any knowledge I gain with others with this disease. I think I will always be prone to get bad again if I don’t take care of myself, if I live in fear, if I stop living and enjoying ever moment. My Parkinson’s will always be there to remind me how to live and how not to live.

I’m going to Toronto in a few weeks, with my best friend, to work with Dr. Joquin Farias who specializes in working with movement disorders and neuroplasticity. I believe that I can make my dysfunctional cells work again.

Meanwhile I’m so happy to be walking, dancing, loving my animals and work and smiling! An incredible thank you to naturopaths Sam Evans and Laurie Mischley for sharing your knowledge. And every animal in the past 12 years who has showed me that nothing is impossible. Little did I know that in helping you I was helping myself.

For those of you with Parkinson’s see Using Supplements to Treat Young Onset Parkinson’s. I’ve recently updated this.

Seizures in dogs 101 – a holistic approach

March 17th, 2017

I just saw a very cute little Cocker Spaniel today with a history of seizures and it made me realize I needed an article on the starting points in working with seizures. Once we get to directing herbs at seizure disorders it is a little more complex, maybe I’ll attempt an article about that someday.

So here’s a few simple things to consider if you have a dog with seizures

  • Remove any toxins from the environment. Get rid of any herbicides or pesticides in the home and on the lawn. That means no chemical bug baits, no herbicides or grass enhancing agents on the lawn and no artificial chemical smelling agents in the house. Many of these products are neurotoxins, your brain is made of neurons, we don’t want anything that could hurt these neurons.
  • No chemical flea products. These are neurotoxins and can potentially contribute to seizures. If you have flea issues in the home consider using natural agents like diatomaceous earth. If you need to treat for fleas consider using the safest product you can find, Revolution is the one I normally recommend, and only on the other animals in the home.
  • Food!! Food is important for animals with seizure disorders and some seizures will actually go away with a proper diet. Feed a diet with no grain which is minimally processed. I like raw, freeze dried raws, or cooked whole food diets. In Seattle I often turn to Natural Pet Pantry, which makes an excellent cooked stew product and a raw, or Darwins for raw food. Other options are Stella and Chewy’s, Honest Kitchen, My Perfect Pet or Instinct raw.
  • Consider a consultation with a holistic vet to see if there are underlying imbalances that can be corrected or if acupuncture would be helpful. Many of these animals have underlying issues.
  • Hemp/CBD products. There is some question about if these will stay on the markets but I have had dogs with seizures significant improve on HempRx.

Seizures are a hard to treat condition and not every dog is simple to get under control. If dogs are having potential life threatening seizures then medications need to be started but for those with milder or less frequent seizures some of these other things can be tried first.

Using supplements to treat young onset Parkinson’s from LRRK2 mutation

February 18th, 2017

As some of you know who frequent my blog, I was recently diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s. I also recently learned that I have a genetic mutation called LRRK2 which is responsible for my disease. Over the past few months I have been working with an amazing naturopathic team (Thank you Dr.Samantha Evans and Laurie Mischley!) and doing my own research and I am actually getting better and feel like my brain is starting to heal! I want to share what I have been doing and also find a way to connect with anything else that is helping other folks, especially with LRRK2. I’ll get back to the animals soon!

My natural parkinson’s protocol for YOPD 8 (LRRK2 mutation) – click on the names for Amazon links

  • Sinemet 100/25 1/3 pill three times a day. This is the standard drug for Parkinson’s disease. I’m on a very low dose! I know my Sinemet helps my symptoms but it is really everything below that is healing me and keeping me on this low dose. That being said my naturopath firmly believes that Sinemet be started early and that it will actually slow progression by keeping the dopamine receptors from dying. It should only be reduced when the body’s need for it is less.
  • Niacin 500mg 2 capsules three a day . Niacin completely got rid of the severe anxiety component of my disease and decreased my fatigue symptoms significantly. Niacin helps with blood flow to your brain and helps preserve mitochondrial function. It converts to NAD (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) which is showing promise for neurodegerative diseases.You need to take real niacin, not flush free and you will go through flushes. See The Niacin Flush I started with 500mg a day and slowly moved up to 3g a day. I rarely flush now and when I do it’s mild. There was a recent study on niacin and its potential benefit for genetic parkinson’s to slow disease progression. People with forms of early onset PD may benefit from Niacin.
    I followed Bill W. (who started AA)’s protocol.
  • Lion’s Mane 3g (6 pills) a day . I saw significant improvement in my fine motor control and bradykinesis with this dose. Lower dose didn’t help me. Lion’s mane contains NGF which helps repair nerves. This mushroom is pretty amazing. See Anti Stress Lion’s Mane Mushroom and Parkinson’s Disease. It also enhances cognitive ability and lowers stress. The dose I take sometimes causes mild itching.
  • Glutathione – I can’t say enough about glutathione. I get immediate improvement from the injections. We know that PD patients have reduced glutathione. We know it improves symptoms. Us LRRK2 folks don’t make it properly. It is a powerful antioxidant and reduces oxidative stress. I take a liposomal product orally which is now thought to work better than intranasal. To have it work orally you need a liposomal product. I use the LivOn labs packets as air and light cause a rapid loss of potency. Here’s a couple pubmed studies
    Glutathione and Parkinson’s disease: is this the elephant in the room?
    Reduced intravenous glutathione in the treatment of early Parkinson’s disease
  • Citicoline 1g a day has been shown to improve the effectiveness of l-dopa drugs like Sinamet. See Citicoline in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease . It seems to have some ability to repair the brain as well. My Sinemet doses last a long time, I think this is why.
  • Fish Oil 2g a day – helps increase dopamine in your brain and reduce inflammation, need I say more. Make sure to use a product that is tested for heavy metals and high in Omega 3s. Many people with Parkinson’s are low in stomach acid and don’t digest the capsules correctly in the stomach so use a liquid product. My naturopath is convinced that fish oil will prevent dyskinesis from Sinemet and allow you to take the drug long term.See A Simple Intervention in Parkinson Disease?
  • Vit D/K2 – vitamin D may slow down Parkinson’s progression. Most of us are deficient in it anyway. See Study shows vitamin might be beneficial for parkinson patients with certain genetic makeups
  • Vit B multi – Sinemet can make you deficient in B vits so I take this to compensate.
  • Ginkgo is an antioxidant which increases dopamine and blood flow in your brain. I take a supplement with gotu kola, ginkgo and Siberian ginseng, 2 pills a day. Gotu kola also increases dopamine production.
  • Magnesium with calcium and vitamin C This supplement almost guarantees that I will sleep well! Magnesium lowers stress and relaxes muscles. If you have issues with constipation it also helps there. If I forget my magnesium my sleep is off. Sleep is what let’s us heal!
  • Coenzyme Q10. My naturopath has found that this with fish oil and glutathione are the supplements that slow progression. I take 400mg a day. Chew the tablets as long as you can to get buccal absorption.
  • Nicotine – I use the small 7mg patches. This drug is deserving of a whole article which I will write soon. However it is the only thing we have that we know without a doubt reduces your risk of PD by 50% and slows progression. It is highly neuroprotective to dopaminergic neurons and makes your cells release dopamine. I also have a theory that it can reverse the damage caused by a neonicotinoid pesticide I was exposed to in my 20s. Of course it is also highly addictive.

This protocol is working well for me. If you have something to add that has helped you please let me know!

Heart Disease in Dogs – Herbal Approaches

January 16th, 2017

I’ve been receiving quite a few questions on heart disease in dogs and though it was time to address it in a blog post. I’ve been pretty impressed on how much herbs and acupuncture can help stabilize these dogs.

You all know where I’m going with this! I do believe acupuncture is a great treatment to slow down heart disease. Acupuncture works with blood flow, helps keep blood pressure stable, and helps assure blood flows smoothly and easily throughout the body. I really love to work with dogs with heart issues because I think it helps them feel better and live longer!

I just want to say a word about medication. Unless they are very early in disease, most of the dogs I work with are also on medication. This is a disease where western and eastern treatments work well together. Don’t skip the meds!

Below are a few of my favorite herbals/supplements

  1. Hawthorn is about the best heart supporting herb out there. It is also very safe. I combine it with ginkgo, which also supports the heart and blood flow. I sell a version on etsy called Heart and Brain support and Animal Essentials also has a product called Heart Health.
  2. Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang. This Chinese formula helps with blood stagnation especially in the chest. Most of the heart disease we see in animals is due to blood stagnation (not true in humans) and I’ve seen this formula really help. You can use the formula I make with added E Zhu and Sang Leng or the formula without the added two herbs.
  3. Coenzyme Q10. I’m more of an herbalist than a supplement vet but I do really like CoQ10 and use it in some of patients. It is a powerful antioxidant, helps supplement the health of the heart muscle and studies have shown it prolongs survival in people with heart failure. It also helps protect the heart from drugs that can damage it like the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. I use 200mg a day for average sized dogs.

There are other supplements and herbs that can help with heart disease but these are my favorites!