Risk factors of Parkinson's Disease

The risk factors of Parkinson's Disease include an unhappy bowel and certain toxins, many of which remain unknown. 

Parkinson's Disease was originally thought to be just a head disorder in which the cells in a nucleus called the Substantia Nigra die; the SN is a part of the basal ganglia that connect many elements of the brain.

Cells that produce two important neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine are affected.

Any surviving cells in the Substantia Nigra are affected by a toxic protein called alpha-synuclein; it is produced from mutations caused by oxidative stress of the genes.

"The intestinal microbiota, that community of bacteria, viruses and yeast cells inhabiting the healthy GI has the ability to influence physiological aspects of the body; including a direct communication to the brain from the gut."

- Journal of Cell Physiology

However it has now been clearly shown that many of these neurotransmitters are also synthesised by both the cells lining the intestines and the friendly bugs in the microbiome. Following what is being called the gut-brain axis they too have a profound influence on mood, movement and degenerative changes in the basal ganglia.

Thus Parkinson's Disease is in many ways not dissimilar to the other neurodegenerative conditions; what is happening in the gut is vitally important.

Alzheimer's Disease, of course is another.

Broad beans from just two plantsBroad beans are the only common natural source of L-dopa.

Braak's hypothesis

Braak's hypothesis is that a pathogen such as a herbicide initiates Lewy Pathology[6] when it reaches the intestine. A diminished microbiota leads to a leaky gut and inflammation; that releases the toxic alpha-synuclein protein which spreads via the vagus nerve to the brain.

A balanced colony of friendly bacteria, viruses and yeast cells that should be colonising the gut mucosa is also able to synthesise dopamine; and the other hormones like norepinephrine.

Any deficiency of these neurotransmitters affects the normal functioning of the gut; in fact the whole of the body.

Gut health predicts Parkinson's Disease

Gastroparesis means weaker than normal contractions of the muscles of the stomach; it is usually caused by a loss of nerve stimulation. The Odds Ratio is 4.6 times more likely in those suffering from Parkinson's Disease[2].

This may occur in diabetes as well as conditions like Parkinson's Disease where there is decreased dopamine; and hence its derivative norepinephrine.

Common symptoms of gastroparesis include indigestion, acid reflux and even vomiting[3].

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is four times more likely.

Constipation is 3.3 times more likely in those suffering from PD. Dopamine is the precursor of norepinephrine that stimulates gut motility.

Risk factors of Parkinson's Disease

The greatest risk factor is an environmental toxin that targets the dopamine-producing cells in the Substantia Nigra.

Herbicides, certain pharmaceuticals and food additives all come under the spotlight. Nitrites used in processed meat and chemicals for dry cleaning have been strongly fingered in research. Scientists are saying it's largely a man-made disease.

"90,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. each year. This represents a steep 50% increase from the previously estimated annual rate of 60,000."

- Parkinson's Foundation

Rotenone and Paraquat

Two herbicides have been strongly fingered, causing the oxidative stress leading to genetic mutations and Parkinson's Disease.

Rotenone is supposedly a natural compound that is used in lakes and reservoirs to kill fish that are perceived as pests; it gets into our drinking water.

Paraquat is used to kill weeds and dry off potato haulms just before harvesting. Residues are left in the food we eat.

Lifting new potatoesOrganic, new potatoes are not glycemic and have not been sprayed with Paraquat.

Dry-cleaning agents

Certain alkyl halides used in dry-cleaning have now been proved to be amongst the many toxic chemicals that destroy the cells in the Substantia Nigra[8]. Young people are particularly vulnerable and for unknown reasons decades later have a far higher prevalence of Parkinson's Disease.


Some antipsychotics used for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolarism and depression for example, block the dopamine receptors; they may cause the signs and symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.

Beta-carotene is protective

A Japanese study found that those eating foods with large quantities of beta-carotenes had 56% protection compared to those eating the smallest amounts[1]. Those in Okinawa eat large amounts of sweet potatoes; it is one of the five Blue Zone countries where longevity is the word.

Beta-carotene is the precursor of vitamin A.

Barrowful of butternutButternut is an excellent source of beta-carotene.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 plays an essential role in over 100 enzymatic reactions in the body; one of them is the synthesis of dopamine in a nucleus in the brain called the Substantia Nigra.

Vitamin B6 is one of the ubiquitous nutrients; it is found in many different foods and nobody eating even an average diet should be deficient. Yet researchers found that 49% of elderly folk in a nursing home had low levels. It is thus certainly one of the risk factors of Parkinson's Disease.

This is perhaps because vitamin B6 is needed in six different forms; pyridoxine is the best known but there are five others.

What does Parkinson's disease do?

Parkinson's Disease causes tremors, tightness of the muscles and loss of balance. As dopamine levels decrease so do the normal bowel movements.

The weakness of skeletal muscles causes the trunk to lean forwards; to compensate those suffering from PD tend to take quick, short steps known as festination to keep their balance. They are more likely to suffer from back pain.

Early signs of Parkinson's disease

  1. A resting tremor in the hand or chin is one of the early signs of Parkinson's Disease.
  2. Changes in one's handwriting is common; the script is made smaller and less clear.
  3. Easily confused with Covid there may be loss of smell of common foods like garlic, limes and ginger.
  4. Jerking movements during sleep are common.
  5. The neck, arms and legs become stiff and don't swing normally when walking.
  6. Heartburn, bloating and constipation are common signs.
  7. Changes in one's voice is another hallmark; it becomes softer and others have difficulty hearing you.
  8. Loss of facial expression is another sign; always looking serious.
  9. The loss of norepinephrine, synthesised in the body from dopamine may mean your blood pressure doesn't rise when standing up; you feel faint and could fall.
  10. When walking and standing you start to lean forwards.

I cured my Parkinson's disease

Few things are more scary than the start of an uncontrollable, resting tremor in the hand when you are still in your forties; and the neurologist says it could turn into Parkinson's Disease.

Severe constipation had always been a problem, ever since childhood; but not many years after the tremor started, I began to get severe acid reflux. Several nights a week I would have to sit up in bed groaning and could only sleep on my left side.

There were mental changes too. I could no longer find a tool, book or spectacles even though they were right in front of me under my eyes. I had difficulty noting the details of what people were saying. Once when soaring I could not see the airfield even though it was immediately beneath me; I gave up flying.

There was no formal diagnosis of PD; but looking back I can see it was part of a pattern of change in my brain and body.

  1. I dealt with the constipation; it meant a great increase in the fibre in my diet. Greens at least twice a day was particularly helpful, as was regular enjoyment of beets.
  2. I never drank coffee after dinner, gave up beer and started eating smaller, simple suppers.
  3. I was introduced to the importance of the microbiome and started making my own kefir, sauerkraut and homemade wines; in particular various meads using honey from my hives.
  4. At the time, coincidentally I took a job in Holland which meant cycling to and from work for an hour each day. I now walk daily.
  5. Again seemingly unrelated I was introduced to young fresh broad beans. I had previously a lifelong aversion to the old and starchy favas as they are sometimes called; they are the only common source of pharmaceutical quantities of L-dopa, the treatment for PD.
  6. I started growing my own potatoes and refused to eat commercial spuds which I feared had been sprayed with Paraquat.
  7. I drank only rainwater to be sure there was no Rotenone or other chemicals.
  8. I became a healthy nut; fascinated by the Blue Zones of the world I became passionate about growing and cooking my own food. 

Am I cured? No, of course not, but my tremor and gut issues are well under control. Approaching my 75th birthday I take no medication whatsoever. 

eggs parkinsons diseaseEggs Parkinson's Disease is my daily breakfast. The broad beans look like small grey ticks.

This essay on the risk factors of Parkinson's Disease covers the many toxins we are exposed to from our food and the environment; and the lifestyle that can successfully manage the condition without drugs.

The journey continues

How to make kefirKefir is the simplest natural probiotic.

I have never been formerly diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease though, looking back many of the signs and symptoms were starting. Still today I can only drink soup or porridge using a large spoon if I have not eaten broad beans; otherwise there is an embarrassing spillage.

Quite independently I started making certain changes that clearly have benefited in any case and may have slowed the progression of the disease. Growing enough favas so that I could freeze them and have five beans every single day has greatly contributed to reducing the tremor in my right hand.

Making my own kefir daily contributed enormously to the epigastric pain; but I still feel nauseous and vomit very occasionally at night. A change from commercial beer to homemade mead has helped; it's a natural probiotic.

We grow most of our own food and bake our own bread from freshly-ground wholemeal; and buy much of our dairy and meat from an organic farmers' market. I enjoy bacon, preserved with nitrites only on "high and holy days."

Actually without even knowing it, I intuitively began to deal with the risk factors of Parkinson's Disease. The scientists are now saying that it is mostly a man-made disorder.

Glass mulberry meadHomemade mulberry mead.

Dealing with the risk factors of Parkinson's Disease has been one of the greatest journeys of my life; it has been fun and the hard work endured. I have recently embarked on my 76th orbit of the sun; and still take no pharmaceutical L-dopa or any other medication.

Broad beans are the only known source of pharmaceutical levels of the phytonutrient.

Unashamedly I am a disciple of Hippocrates.

"Let thy food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food."

Hippocrates (460 - 370 BC)

broad beans and blue zonesGrowing broad beans requires the patience of Job.


Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself and Mother Earth for future generations; and your family too, of course. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books.

Here are the back issues.

  • Lifestyle and ideal body weight
  • What are ultra-processed foods?
  • Investing in long-term health
  • Diseases from plastic exposure
  • Intensive lifestyle management for obesity has limited value
  • A world largely devoid of Parkinson's Disease
  • The impact of friendly bacteria in the tum on the prevention of cancer
  • There's a hole in the bucket
  • Everyone is talking about weight loss drugs
  • Pull the sweet tooth
  • If you suffer from heartburn plant a susu
  • Refined maize meal and stunting
  • Should agriculture and industry get priority for water and electricity?
  • Nature is calling
  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
  • Wear your clothes out
  • Comfort foods
  • Create a bee-friendly environment
  • Go to bed slightly hungry
  • Keep bees
  • Blue zone folk are religious
  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Family is important
  • What can go in compost?
  • Grow broad beans for longevity
  • Harvest and store sunshine
  • Blue zone exercise
  • Harvest and store your rainwater
  • Create a cyan zone at your home

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