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From the May 1st, 1998 issue of Smart Life News [v6n6]. Copyright (c) 1998. All rights reserved.

Parkinson’s Disease Update

The Importance of Attitudes

by Annetta Freeman with Anne Fowkes

There are many attitudes that people may need to face when trying to implement a nutritional treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The attitudes of doctors, patients, family members, etc. are all critical to the success or failure of this approach. This article will cover some the issues that I have observed in situations related to me over the phone.

Dopaminergic Drives

The first one is rather ironic. It takes a good bit of drive to stick with my program, and drive is an area of diminished capacity for the Parkinsonian. Drives arise from the dopamine-rich neurons in the substantia nigra region of the brain, which are being compromised in Parkinson’s disease. The part we need is the part we’re losing.

Dopaminergic neurons play an essential role in regulating the neural activity of the limbic system. The limbic system lies in the core of the brain and regulates our basic emotional and motivational tone. The limbic system drives us to achieve what we need to survive, and it rewards us with gratification and pleasure when we succeed. When dopaminergic tone is high, we are driven to accomplish goals and we have coping power to deal with stressful challenges. When the limbic system fades, we become passive and apathetic. We are easily overwhelmed by challenges and are willing to accept less-than-ideal living circumstances. Such emotional and motivational factors play an essential role in our ability to develop the new health habits which are necessary to implement my program.

Pills, Pills, Pills

An area in which Anne and I both have had to face attitudinal problems regards the question “How do you take so many pills?”

The first thing I tell people when they ask me that question is that I no longer think of them as “pills.” They are essential nutrients that are building my body back to health. Every time I swallow them, I visualize nutrients making my body stronger. You can look at it like gasoline and anti-rust spray for your car, with vitamins paralleling the gasoline and antioxidants paralleling the anti-rust spray. Fuel and maintenance.

My program includes eight glasses of water per day. Many people say that there is no way they could ever drink that much water. For me, the water issue is simple. I need it to help break down and absorb all of those nutrients.

When I keep my eye on the progress I have made, I don’t have any problem with the difficulties of the process. People are so good at thinking negative thoughts that if we don’t carefully track the progress, we are apt to overlook it. And if we only pay attention to the process (taking the pills and drinking the water), we are apt to have negative thoughts about what a bother or burden it is.

Watch the progress, keep your mind’s eye focused on the desired results, and take joy in what you achieve.

Professional Attitudes

The attitudes of the medical profession can also be critical to the success of an anti-Parkinson’s program. Many people, especially of the age that are now encountering Parkinson’s disease, regard the doctor as an authority figure with all of the answers. This type of respect, whether or not it is deserved, tends to foster a passive role on the part of the patient. They ask, “who am I” to question whatever the doctor dictates. If the doctor encourages such a dependent relationship, therapeutic approaches outside of the doctor’s clinical experience are unlikely to be considered.

I have known people in whom faith in doctors is so ingrained that even when they themselves know that what their doctor is telling to do is killing them, they will still follow the doctor’s instructions.

Doctor’s attitudes are significantly influenced by what they learned or didn’t learn in medical school. As Dr. Ward Dean said in a recent issue of Smart Drug News, “doctors tend to be down on things they are not up on.” This attitude, of course, is not unique to doctors. However, it is ingrained in the medical education process. It is very easy for doctors to assume that if it wasn’t taught to them in medical school, then it musn’t be very important. Many currently practicing doctors went to medical school when medical wisdom included such beliefs as “vitamins only enrich the sewer” and “you get everything you need in food.” Until recently, the average doctor only received approximately one day of nutrition education during four years of medical school. Such educational deficiencies make closedmindedness a serious liability, one that may undermine any attempt by the patient or family to investigate or implement an alternative therapy.

A doctor’s attitude about alternative treatments is also influenced by regulatory pressures. Medical licenses are regulated by state medical boards which judge the conduct of physicians. The “standard of care” by which doctors are judged is a peer standard that is established by what other doctors do, not by what works best, what is safest, or what is in accordance with the beliefs and preferences of the patient. Even doctors who actively utilize some alternative therapies may still feel reluctant to use some other alternative therapy to minimize their “alternative” exposure and hedge their bets to protect their medical licenses.


Another critical attitudinal influence is that of the primary caregiver. I have observed that it is even more important for the primary caregiver to be in support of the program than the person with Parkinson’s disease. If the caregiver is against the program, it will fail.

I have run into situations where the caregiver is a woman whose husband used to be “in control” of the decision-making process in the relationship and who will fight the program because she doesn’t want to give up the control that she has gained as a result of the debility of her spouse. It can be very scary.

Sometimes the caregiver is primarily interested in simplicity in the care of their spouse or relative. The broad spectrum nutritional program I have developed has many components and is fundamentally much more complicated than “take four pills three times a day.” The caregiver may resent the attention that is required to 1) arrange all the pills, or 2) alter the program based on what is happening with the Parkinson’s patient. The process of withdrawing from Sinemet can be especially vexing to the caregiver due to the similarity in symptoms between too much Sinemet and too little. Such decision-making may be extremely stressful to a caregiver who feels unqualified to make such decisions. Even in caregivers who openly support the program, such stresses can create unconscious resistance and resentment towards the program.

There is no simple formula for resolving attitudinal problems. One may be able to fire a doctor with a bad attitude, but one cannot fire one’s spouse or relatives. If the attitudinal conflict can be acknowledged and openly discussed, then there is hope for resolving it. Often, it takes a “mediator” who is not personally involved in anybody’s issues to draw out each person’s emotional involvement in a non threatening way. Sometimes this should be done one-on-one, and sometimes it is best to deal with larger family groups. If each involved person understands their own and everybody elses issues and expectations, then there is the greatest chance that everybody can work together towards implementing an effective therapeutic program.