Thursday afternoon I went to a very informative session on “Speech and Swallowing”. There are several points that are worth sharing. First of all, voluntary coughing is a good thing as opposed to a reflexive cough that occurs when you swallow wrong. If you are having problems with swallowing , you should see a Speech Pathologist who specializes in PD for an evaluation. There are many non-medical treatments that are available such as postural changes, diet modification and LSVT/LOUD training. LSVT/LOUD trains you to speak louder and also strengthens the muscles in your throat that are involved in the swallowing reflex. There are progams available on-line, but the speakers all recommended working with a Speech Pathologist and using the programs for practice. The other interesting fact is that the Basal Ganglia in your brain gives the feedback to your speech. In PD it does not function well and the perception is that your voice is louder than it actually is. So when others complain that they cannot hear you, think about going for a speech eval. Finally, sing! Singing can have a positive effect on your speech.
We all know now that exercise is an essential part of any therapy for PD. “Exercise as Treatment” reinforced the need for exercise of any kind. Your brain becomes engaged when you exercise. It switches from automatic functioning to more cognitive, which in turn can create resiliency/plasticity in the brain. In other words, your brain is adapting and reconnecting, forming new pathways. The more complex your exercise, the more effective it is. A combination of more than one type of exercise is optimal. If you are new to exercise, you need to work with someone who understands PD and can adapt an exercise program that works for you. The biggest issue with studies for exercise and PD is that most studies only use people with mild or moderate disease. People with more advanced PD need to be included to see if they can also benefit from exercise.
Finally, the standing room only session on Complementary Care (CAM) did not disappoint. CAM care is not embraced by many doctors, but is very popular with patients. And the research is beginning to prove that it does help in many ways. Although he had no samples for us to try, Dr. Benzi Kluger spoke about the benefits of Cannibis and the different forms that are available. Some of his slides are below for your enjoyment. Dr. Indu Subramanian, who happens to be my MDS, talked about Yoga and its benefits for PD, challenging the doctors in the room to encourage their patients to give it a try. Dr. Laurie Mischley spoke about her studies using Glutathione for PD, something which is definitely not on the radar of many doctors. The results of the few studies are inconclusive. Some show benefit, others don’t. Finally, after some technical difficulties, Matt Ford entertained us with music that we can all relate to, using it as therapy. He began with “Staying Alive” from Saturday Night Fever and then showed a video of a man who could barely move until he put on some music. You would never know that he had PD. At the end, everyone was singing and dancing in the aisles. He left us wanting more!!!