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Parkinson’s Disease and Pesticides

Written by: Dr. Fred Harvey, MD

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is an illness that affects approximately one million Americans. It is a neurodegenerative, multi-system disease. That means that nerve damage affects the whole body. Its cause is unknown, but it occurs through damage to nerve cells or neurons in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. The neurons in this area make dopamine and are called dopaminergic neurons. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that signals between nerve cells. It is known to help with fluid movement and is called the smile chemical because it helps us to feel happiness. Lack of dopaminergic neurons results in the symptoms of PD.

Early symptoms can include fatigue, loss of smell sensation, small handwriting, loss of facial expression, tremors at rest and muscle rigidity. As the disease progresses, more movement dysfunction occurs, and tremors worsen. Posture becomes more stooped, and steps become smaller and faster. Muscle rigidity may impair functions. The degeneration is not limited to the dopamine nerve cells, however. With time other neurons are affected and then there is decrease in available serotonin, adrenalin, and acetylcholine. This results in more symptoms like depressed mood, cognitive impairment, and sleep disorder.

Although the cause is not clear, we know that the process involves the interplay of genes with the environment. Genes involved in processing toxins for removal from the body are critical in the development of the disorder. The interaction of toxins with cells that have poor genetic detoxification resources results in dysfunction of mitochondria, enzymes and increases oxidative stress and inflammation. These processes are responsible for degenerative disease. Many petrochemical toxins have been implicated, but the most plentiful evidence suggests that organochlorine pesticides are among the worst offenders.

Paraquat was extensively used to kill weeds and cannabis. Many cannabis smokers were exposed in the 1970’s and 1980’s to paraquat because the Mexican government would spray the cannabis, but it would still find its way into consumer hands because the grower was not about to lose his crop. Atrazine which is used extensively in the Midwest and southern agriculture causes changes in fetal cells that appear to decrease the dopaminergic neurons and predispose to PD. 2,4-D is the chemical in Agent Orange that the VA recently added to list of PD causes that poisoned the military in Vietnam. They are using 2,4-D in America now because the weeds are evading Roundup. Roundup contains glyphosate, a membrane destabilizer, which increases damage from the pesticides.

We are not going to eliminate these toxins from our environment, so we need to be smart to avoid excess exposure. Use the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce list to guide smart, low-pesticide choices. Drink two liters or more of filtered water daily. Exercise to sweat out toxins regularly. Use detoxification supports such as homeopathic Drainage drops, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), alpha lipoid acid, milk thistle, CoQ10, probiotics, fiber/prebiotics, and methylated B vitamins for help in off-loading the toxins that we store in our fat. The Harvey Center’s Nutripharmacy stocks these and other physician grade detox products. Feel free to reach out to Supplement Specialist Alicia or any of my team to see how to support your detoxification.

Fred Harvey, MD doc@harveycenter.com

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