Can you increase Dopamine in your brain without medication?

The internet is a treasure trove for discovering new music to new videos. A simple dopamine booster is browsing Pinterest or even Amazon for new products and items.             – endless events

While surfing the internet I ran across an article titled 10 WAYS YOU CAN INCREASE DOPAMINE LEVELS IN THE BRAIN WITHOUT MEDICATION on the website dailynaturalcures.*   I eagerly read the article to find out what magic tricks would help release some more much-needed dopamine into my poor brain.  

maxresdefault.jpgBasically, the author says that we get a release of dopamine when we receive a reward of any kind.  The more we are rewarded, the more dopamine is released.  And what are those rewards?  One obvious example:  a trip to Vegas can give you a big dopamine rush, especially if you win.  My MDS (Movement Disorders Specialist) once told me that the reason we get addicted to games on our phones, tablets or computers is because of the instant feedback (think reward) that causes a small dopamine rush.   But rewards don’t have to be something measurable.  It can be the satisfaction of getting something done, creating something, etc.   

The article goes on to differentiate between addiction, where you need to seek more and more rewards to feel fulfilled, probably as a result of some past trauma in your life,  and working towards rewarding actions to create fulfillment and achievement.

Another article from Endless Events lists 10 WAYS TO INCREASE DOPAMINE TO BOOST YOUR PRODUCTIVITY.  The author suggests many of the same things from a different point of view.  The bottom line is that there are many things you can do to increase the dopamine release in your brain, but please, do not look at this as a substitute for medical care.

A little more internet surfing (and many more dopamine releases later) turned up numerous articles and some hilarious videos – one narrated by a robotic voice (watch here )- on how you can increase the dopamine in your brain.  Everyone has some “snake oil” cure for you.  Read at your own risk.

So here are some of things the two articles mentioned above suggest to increase dopamine:

  • Make a checklist for your small stuff each day.  Just getting through the list each day is a reward
  • Exercise
  • Do something creative – draw, paint, write, etc.  Many Parkie’s have found new creative outlets which really do make them feel better.
  • Listen to music
  • Meditate
  • Increase your Tyrosine – foods like Almonds, Avocados, Bananas, Chicken, Chocolate, Coffee, etc.
  • Take supplements – but be careful with these.  Some may interact with your medications, so check with your doctor first.

I would like to add a few more ideas:

  • Eat more chocolate- it contains small amounts of a compound called phenylethylamine, stimulating your brain cells to release dopamine.  (And it’s a reward!  Well, sort of.)
  • Laugh a lot (thank you Yuma Bev)
  • Hug your spouse, your children or grandchildren
  • Take your dog for a walk
  • Curl up on the sofa and read a good book
  • Finish the Sunday crossword puzzle, or solve that really hard Sudoku game
  • Learn something new:  a new language, music lessons, a new skill
  • Celebrate each birthday, anniversary or other special date with those you love.
  • Finally, just make time for yourself and do what ever you want.  Pamper yourself. With chocolate of course.
 *The original article was written by Stephan Gardner and was published in Collective Evolution   on January 20, 2016

Finally, some guidelines for a Parkinson’s Diet

Dr. Laurie Mischley, of Bastyr University,  has been tracking People with Parkinson’s (PwP’s) for several years for her “CAM Care in PD” study.  When I spoke to her at the World Parkinson’s Congress last fall, she explained that this is the only study looking at how people are living with PD now and following them to see who is having a more positive outcome and why.   Data is collected with twice annual surveys sent to the participants.  Multiple models were used to examine the association between diet, lifestyle factors, and PD severity, with Patient Reported Outcome (PRO-PD) scores used as the outcome variable. She just released an abstract published in “Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity” on September 10.

I will not try to summarize the entire report.  You can read it here.  However, I will give you some of the key findings.

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The Good:

A plant- and fish-based diet, similar to a Mediterranean diet, is associated with the lowest PD severity score.  Fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, fish, olive oil, wine, coconut oil, fresh herbs, and the use of spices were all associated with statistically significant lower rates of disease progression.

The Bad:

Ice cream, cheese, and yogurt intakes were associated with higher rates of PD progression.

DIET SODA WAS ASSOCIATED WITH A FASTER RATE OF PD PROGRESSION

Consumption of canned fruits and vegetables was a strong predictor of PD progression. Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible.

Soda, specifically diet soda, was also associated with a faster rate of PD progression.

A few other things to stay away from include meat and fried foods.

Nutritional supplements:   Only coenzyme Q10 and fish oil were associated with statistically significant reduced rates of PD progression.  The use of Melatonin for sleep produced inconclusive results.  Iron supplements increased PD progression.

And finally, organic foods were associated with a lower rate of progression.

What does this mean for us?  I have basically followed a Mediterranean diet for years, however, I am allergic to fish, so  I often each chicken instead.  I haven’t eaten red meat in years.  I never buy canned fruit and vegetables. My downfall is cheese.  I am not sure I can eliminate that completely from my diet, but I can certainly cut back on it.  I recently substituted almond milk for milk to use with coffee and cereal.  Years ago I switched to Tom’s toothpaste and deodorant to avoid the excess aluminum exposure.  The good news is that the progression of PD has been relatively slow for me.

This study will be continuing and more PwP’s are still being recruited.  If you are interested, contact Dr. Mischley at neuroresearch@bastyr.edu.

 

 

For more information on living with Parkinson’s, read   Natural Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease  by Dr. Laurie Mischley

 

Computer Games as Therapy for PD????

I recently read an article from Parkinson’s News Today that explores the use of Computer Games as a non-drug therapy for Parkinson’s Disease.  Being an addictive person who spends way too much time on the computer anyway, I had to check this out.  Can I really justify the minutes – ok hours – spent playing games on my iPad as therapy for my brain? This sounds too good to be true.

The scientific study titled, “Early stage feasibility assessment of a non-pharmacological intervention for motor slowing and fatigue in Parkinson’s disease,” will be conducted by researchers from Bangor University’s School of Psychology(BUSP), the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), and Walton Centre in Liverpool.

They say that the project will record Parkinson’s disease patients’ movement ability before and after playing touch screen “spatial reasoning games” to assess motor function and potential improvements.

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Sudoku

That sounds great, but shouldn’t there also be a study looking at complex reasoning tasks and cognitive ability in games such as Sudoku and Word Brain, where the puzzles get more and more challenging as you progress?  I have been playing these games for a while, and can judge how well I am doing cognitively by how well I do on the games on any given day.  Being able to solve the most difficult Sudoku games is an accomplishment and a measure of cognitive ability.  Some days, I have no problems solving the games.  On those days, I feel that my brain is working the way it should.  Other days, it is just plain difficult and I have to work harder to achieve my goals.

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Word Brain is a word search puzzle, which starts out very easy with a    2 X 2 puzzle and progresses through 20 levels 0f 20 games each, most of which are 6 X 6.  The difficulty increases with each level.  Like Sudoku and other games, it requires  higher and higher levels of problem solving as you progress.

 

Do you have a favorite computer game that stimulates your brain?  Please share it here:

Odds & Ends

Lots of things to share this week.

First, about sleep problems.  I found a Yoga Nidra meditation by Jennifer Piercy that I really like.  It is called Yoga Nidra for Sleep and can be found on a website called DoYogaWithMe.  I don’t think I have stayed awake until the end of the meditation yet.  Now I just need my dog to sleep later in the morning so I can sleep in.  Someone else mentioned that they like Jennifer Reis’s Yoga Nidra CD.  I have not checked that one out yet.

Second, Lisa Boyd, whose story I featured last summer, titled Did Trauma During Childbirth Set off her YOPD?, had an article published on the Michael J Fox Foundation website.  You can read it here.

Cheryl Kingston, another member of the women’s group that I run, has also had several articles published on the MJFF website in the last year. They are Moose vs. Mouse,  The Many Masks of Parkinson’s, and  To Tell or Not to Tell: Secrecy and Privacy

This past weekend, the Michael J Fox Foundation hosted the Parkinson’s Policy Forummjf-advocating in Washington, DC.  200 members of the Parkinson’s community from across the US had the opportunity to meet with their congressperson and/or Senators after an intense day of training.  Darcy Blake has written about her experience in her blog post Parkinsons Women Support.   Thank you Darcy for your summary of the  forum.  If you would like someone to speak to a group about advocacy and lobbying for PD, check with MJFF to see who attended from your area.

Finally, I will be working with the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation for the next two years on a program titled  “Women and PD Teams to Advance Learning and Knowledge,” or Women and PD TALK .  PDF received a $250,000 PCORI (Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute) award for this program in an effort to address long-standing gender disparities in Parkinson’s research and care.  The press release went out yesterday and you can read it here.

I am very excited to be a part of this project.   Multidisciplinary teams, which include experts in the patient, research, and health care communities, will be charged with identifiying women’s needs and prioritizing solutions. 10 regional forums, designed to educate and collect the insights of women with Parkinson’s, will drive the project. Experts will utilize these insights to develop an action plan to change the landscape of Parkinson’s care.

 

I am looking forward to sharing more with you as we proceed over the next two years with this exciting project.

Make your voice heard. A study for all People with Parkinson’s

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

John Wooden

One of the most important thing that we, as People with Parkinson’s can do, is to take part in clinical trials.  There are many trials that have very specific criteria for participants.  And often, these trials do not get enough people to participate in order to complete the study because they are so specific.

But there is one trial that anyone who is reading this blog can participate in.  The study is being conducted by Laurie K Mischley, ND, PhD, MPH, at the Bastyr University Research Institute and is titled Complementary & Alternative (CAM) Therapies in Parkinson’s Disease.  You do not need to leave your home.  You do not have to meet with a doctor, take medications or any kind of tests.  All you need is a computer with on-line access, an email address and basic computer literacy.  You do not need to use CAM therapies to participate.

I spoke to Dr. Mischley at the WPC about the study.  The goal of this PD study is to collect as much data as possible over a five-year period with the hope of finding dietary and lifestyle factors associated with a slower disease progression.  The theory behind the study is that of “Positive Deviance”

“Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups (the positive deviants), whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers. These individuals or groups have access to exactly the same resources and face the same challenges and obstacles as their peers.

The Positive Deviance approach is a strength-based, problem-solving approach for behavior and social change. The approach enables the community to discover existing solutions to complex problems within the community.” *

I have been involved in this study for about 2 years, so it was a pleasure to meet Dr. Mischley to talk about what she is doing.  She told me that so many studies look at what happens before a person is diagnosed with PD.  Her study seeks to look at PwP’s from diagnosis forward to see why some people do better than others.

Every six months I get an email from Dr. Mischley with 2 questionaires to complete.  It does not take more than 90 minutes to complete.  If you are interested in participating or would like more information, go to the website at http://www.CAMCarePD.bastyr.edu.

www.positivedeviance.org