Neurodegenerative diseases are debilitating conditions that affect the neurons and cause the degeneration or death of nerve cells in the brain, which are the building blocks of the nervous system. These diseases are known to be highly complex and obscure.
Neurodegenerative diseases cause problems with mental functioning and movement. Depending on the disease, these problems may affect many bodily activities, including balance, speaking, breathing, memory, intelligence, and heart function. It may also lead to symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, depression, agitation, and mood changes.
Well-known types of neurodegenerative diseases include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA)
- Lewy body disease
- Motor neuron diseases (MND)
- Prion disease
- Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA)
Because these types of diseases cause permanent damage, symptoms tend to get worse as the disease progresses.
Underlying Causes of Neurodegenerative Diseases
In the medical field, mystery surrounds neurodegenerative diseases. The cause of the disease may often be unknown. However, what researchers do know is that many of the diseases are genetic, while some may be caused by a medical condition, such as a stroke, tumor, or alcoholism.
Researchers are researching the role that environmental factors may play as well, including:
- Chemicals used in consumer or industry products
- Air pollution
- Pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides
- Metal imbalances
- Dietary and lifestyle factors (dietary antioxidants, caffeine, tobacco smoke)
Further, some researchers believe that a combination of factors may increase a person’s risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease, including age, environmental factors, genetic mutations, and traumatic brain injuries.
Natural Regimen Options for the Symptoms of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for neurodegenerative diseases and no effective treatment to slow disease progression. However, treatments can help control mental and physical symptoms. Natural symptomatic treatments can be used in conjunction with medication to help maintain quality of life.
1. Medical Cannabis
Cannabinoids may help to treat neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, MS, Parkinson’s, and ALS by reducing inflammation and protecting nerve cells. Because the endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis, it may also help protect the body against environmental stressors and toxins. Studies show it may also boost brain function.
Common neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS, MS, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, are qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in many states. If you’re interested in medical cannabis for the treatment of your symptoms, book an appointment with a Heally doctor in your state to get your medical ID card.
2. A Healthy Diet
Diet modifications may help patients with neurodegenerative diseases remain strong and healthy. Eating a diet rich containing fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, beans, and legumes may help patients stay energized and healthy.
Evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet, for example, can promote healthy brain aging and prevent the decline of cognition. The ketogenic diet may also have similar benefits.
Nutrition may even slow disease progression. The Institute For Functional Medicine suggests that specific nutrients, like vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, may help slow disease progression and improve quality of life.
Exercise has neuroprotective effects.
Exercise can be a great treatment option for people with neurodegenerative diseases that affect their mobility. It can help improve their quality of life. Movements, especially those that require coordination on both sides of the body, can help improve balance and mobility, as well as potentially slow the progression of diseases like Parkinson’s.
Patients with Huntington’s disease who maintain physical fitness for as long as possible also tend to maintain better control over their movements for a longer period of time.
Exercise has other benefits, too. For example, exercise may improve brain function and reduce constipation, a common secondary symptom of Parkinson’s.
4. Herbal Medicine
Herbal remedies have become more popular in the treatment of some neurodegenerative diseases. Many medicinal plants offer neuroprotective effects and the maintenance of neurological health, as well as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neurotrophic effects.
For example, some herbs, like turmeric, ginseng, sage, ginger, and rosemary, may be useful in improving cognitive impairment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Ayurvedic herbs, including Brahmi, dashmool, and ashwagandha, are often used in the treatment of symptoms of Huntington’s disease as well.
5. Emotional Support
Being diagnosed and living with an incurable and debilitating disease can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. That’s why emotional support shouldn’t be understated.
Mental health counseling and patient education can help patients better manage the emotional and mental toll such a diagnosis can have on a person. In turn, this can help them better manage their symptoms and situation.