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Glutathione and Parkinson's disease: Could GSH therapy be the answer?

By: Richard Chandler,

A few weekends ago I found myself on a treadmill at a local gym, jogging for the "Power Over Parkinson's" fundraiser that my company sponsors and participates in each year. Halfway through my second hour, classic rock music blaring in my ears so I could maintain my pace, an elderly gentleman tapped me on the shoulder. I slowed down and removed my headphones, and the man asked if he could speak with me for a moment.

The man must have noticed the Parkinson's fundraiser t-shirt that I was wearing, because he began to tell me the story of a close friend of his who had recently passed away from complications due to Parkinson's disease. While his friend had been dealing with symptoms of the disease, this gentleman had been doing research to see if there was any way to help his friend. In doing so, he found out about a doctor in Florida who had performed experiments with a substance called glutathione that seemed to actually show signs of treating Parkinson's disease and its symptoms more effectively than any drug. The elderly gentleman said he had spoken to his friend's doctor at length about glutathione and about trying it to see if it would help his friend, but the doctor refused and insisted on sticking to the different medications commonly used for Parkinson's. In the end his friend lost his ability to speak or move around independently, and depression eventually sunk in.

Now I have always believed in the power of eating right and using supplements to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent disease. I rarely ever turn to medications, especially painkillers, to treat any ailment I have unless absolutely necessary because, in all honesty, I really don't trust them. If I feel as though I am coming down with a cold, I will typically add more oranges to my diet and take vitamin C supplements before I will try any over-the-counter drugs. I use hot and cold therapy for aches and pains before I will take any painkillers and I drink a lot of water every day to keep my system flushed out and properly hydrated. So when this gentleman told me his story, it really struck a nerve. I decided to find out more about glutathione and how it relates to Parkinson's disease.

What is Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson's disease, or PD as it is often called, is classified as a movement disorder. This degenerative disorder attacks the central nervous system, resulting in impaired motor skills, speech, and other impairments. Often characterized by tremors, muscle rigidity, and slowing or loss of physical movement, Parkinson's disease can affect one's ability to swallow, impair their ability to speak clearly, and cause them to walk with a shuffling, stooped, and off-balance gait. Over one million people in the United States have Parkinson's disease, with an additional 50,000 being diagnosed each year.

A variety of products are available to help those with Parkinson's and their families deal with the symptoms. Mobility Aids such as the U-Step Walker Advanced Walking Aid are specifically designed to provide those with difficulty keeping their balance a way to exercise and walk around. Because a Parkinson's patient tends to stoop forward and shuffle, essentially causing their top half to move faster than their bottom half, the U-Step is fitted with brakes that are automatically engaged unless the user squeezes the handle. This device also has a seat for when the user feels fatigued and can folded for storage or travel. The U-Step Walker also offers an optional Laser Light for freezing episodes.

"Freezing", or gait freezing, is an inability to move the feet which may worsen in tight, cluttered spaces. By projecting a target on the floor in the front of the patient, the Laser Light on the U-Step walker helps prevent freezing episodes and allows the patient to remain mobile. Similar lasers can be found in devices such as the Laser Cane, which is essential a walking cane fitted with a laser light to help with freezing episodes.

Hand tremors are often compensated for by using Good Grips Weighted Utensils, weighted cups, and weighted toothbrushes. The added weight engages more muscle control, allowing the Parkinson's patient to remain more independent, which can help with the depression side of this disease.

According to Wikipedia and other sources, no known cure for Parkinson's exists at this time. Unlike other illnesses that can be cured or stopped as long as the patient has the money to spend on it, Parkinson's disease affects everyone regardless of the size of their bank account. Boxer Muhammad Ali, actor Michael J. Fox, and former US Attorney General Janet Reno deal with the disorder on a daily basis. Additionally, Parkinson's disease can be diagnosed at a very early age, such as the case with MTV presenter Michael Gibson who was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 18.

While Parkinson's disease is not considered to be a fatal disease by itself, it does progress with time. The average life expectancy for a patient with PD is generally lower than those who do not have the disease, and complications such as choking, falls, or pneumonia increase the risk of death. While progression of symptoms can take over 20 years for some people and a very short time for others, there is no way to tell how Parkinson's disease will progress for an individual person.

Glutathione Therapy Parkinson's Treatment

What treatments are commonly used for Parkinson's disease symptoms?

Since it is a chronic disorder, Parkinson's disease requires a great deal of care, including general wellness maintenance, physiotherapy, exercise, nutrition, support group services, and education for both the patient and the patient's family. While there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, medications and surgery are used to help treat the symptoms of Parkinson's.

In the late 1950's researchers discovered a significant deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine in Parkinson's patients. This lead to the development of L-Dopa, or Levodopa, as a treatment used to increase dopamine levels in the human body to treat Parkinson's disease. A number of adverse reactions to L-Dopa are common, including hair loss, confusion, gastrointestinal bleeding, but it is noted that when compared to other Parkinson's treatments, L-Dopa has the fewest side effects. Other, more intense treatments such as deep brain stimulation surgery is used when the patient no longer shows any reaction to the drug treatments.

Glutathione therapy for Parkinson's disease

Oddly enough I did not find any mention of glutathione on the Wikipedia page for Parkinson's disease. However, after a relatively short search online, I found the name of the doctor the elderly gentleman was referring to: Dr. David Perlmutter of the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, Florida. On the website, Dr. Perlmutter offers insight into the role glutathione can play in the treatment of a number of neurological disorders, namely Parkinson's disease. In the early 1980's, it was discovered that Parkinson's patients showed a high deficiency of glutathione in the brain. Dr. Perlmutter notes that while L-Dopa has been the treatment of choice for Parkinson's patients since the 1960's, more recent research has shown that L-Dopa can significantly enhance the production of free radicals. These free radicals can increase brain damage caused by Parkinson's and other degenerative neurological disorders. It has also been noted that patients being treated with L-Dopa therapy showed increased levels of homocysteine, which increases the likelihood of a stroke or heart attack.

The Perlmutter Health Center began treating Parkinson's patients with glutathione through intravenous injection in 1998. To further emphasize the positive effects glutathione can have on patients with PD, Dr. Perlmutter's website shows video footage of three Parkinson's patients (two male, one female), all in different stages of the disease and at different ages. The video footage shows the patients before intravenous glutathione treatment, each of them demonstrating the most common sign of Parkinson's, such as a shuffling gait, difficulty turning 180 degrees, lack of facial expression, and poor balance. It was difficult for me to watch these videos as you can clearly see the frustration in the face of one of the patients as she finds herself unable to turn around in a standard width hallway. However, shortly after being injected with glutathione, the same woman is able to walk back and forth freely and turn around unassisted in the same hallway. In each case, regardless of the progression of the disease, the Parkinson's patients showed incredible improvement in their balance, movement, and rigidity between 15 and 45 minutes after being injected. The transformation was absolutely incredible, and in each case it is clear by the expression on the patient's face how pleased they are with the change. Dr. Perlmutter also notes that patients showed noticeable reduction in tremors and improved speech after receiving the glutathione IV.

What is glutathione?

Glutathione is a tripeptide, or a peptide consisting of three amino acids: L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid, and glycine. Used to maintain the integrity of red blood cells and protect white blood cells, glutathione is secreted directly into the blood stream from the liver. It is also found in the lungs and intestinal tract where it helps carbohydrate metabolism and the breakdown of oxidized fats. Glutathione, commonly referred to as GSH, is an antioxidant, without which other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E could not do their jobs effectively. It is the strongest anti-cancer agent produced in the body and plays a key role in defense against pollutants and ultraviolet radiation. Glutathione is also used to treat infertility, cataracts, and the HIV virus.

While research has shown supplementation of glutathione to be difficult as it is not easily absorbed into the human body's digestive system, glutathione and its precursors can be found mostly in fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, peaches, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, potatoes, strawberries, and oranges. Asparagus, avocados, and walnuts are very high in glutathione while cysteine, a building block of glutathione, can be found in high-protein foods such as chicken, pork, cottage cheese, granola, and oat flakes.

Is glutathione the answer Parkinson's researchers have been looking for?

I'm not a doctor, nor am I qualified to offer any sort of medical-related advice, other than helping you decide which walker or shower chair will work best for you. But after researching glutathione and seeing the videos taken by Dr. Perlmutter's staff in Florida, it seems that further exploration of glutathione as the primary therapy for Parkinson's should be taken very seriously. The immediate transformation of the three Parkinson's patients in the video was absolutely incredible, and despite my lack of formal medical education, the effects are far too difficult to ignore. Most important is the fact that no known side effects have been found when patients are treated with glutathione.

Clinics across the country, such as the Hoffman Center in New York, have adopted glutathione therapy as part of their offered programs for Parkinson's patients. As one website indicates, glutathione treatment is safe, effective, and affordable. Looking back, I can truly understand the frustration of the gentleman who approached me at the "Power Over Parkinson's" Fundraiser. Perhaps his friend could have enjoyed a longer life free of Parkinson's symptoms with the help of intravenous glutathione therapy.

So I end this article with a question for medical professionals everywhere, in the hopes that this encourages further research into Parkinson's treatments using natural supplements as opposed to synthetically produced drugs: is glutathione the key to a possible cure for Parkinson's disease?

Author: Richard Chandler
Direct: 480.459.3200

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