Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Eating for Parkinson's

Despite living in Japan, I have been blessed with a qualified young doctor willing to carefully answer my questions and explain my options in English. I am new to this world called Parkinson's Syndrome and there is a great deal to learn.

The doctor's advice was 'to lose weight', and find an appropriate medicinal mix of L-DOPA + dopa agonist.  Japanese doctors are always amazed at my size and remind me with gleeful consistency to be less. And so, here I am again with a sense of impossibility, being less than me.

Hohen and Yahr Stage 2 is my official status. In Japan, stage 3 thru 5 moves you into handicap status, a statistical advantage I'd sooner delay. This doctor estimates two to three years of negotiating symptoms, for near normalcy. A bit less than the three to five years I had first heard at the initial assessment... perhaps with two years lost to improper diagnosis. No matter, there is only one option. Dealing with whatever happens, whenever it happens. 

Despite discomfort and a general lack of enthusiasm, I am officially on a diet, a kind of religious calling, to a die-in-the-wool atheist. In my twenties, a diet meant simply having no job or the natural result when recouping from a broken heart... Later I experimented with fasting and 'diet pills'. The ill-tempered emotional state from this foolishness guaranteed more the loss of friends than weight. Life was emotional and in motion, weight gain a sign of solvency.

Hard core walking in my thirties became a better solution. As a performance artist, in line with Richard Long, I joyfully tracked every street and avenue on the isle of Manhattan. And later in a flight of fancy, as a Buddhist pilgrim, I walked the arduous eighty-eight temples of Shikoku Japan. Manhattan provided a wondrous parade of characters, an on-foot living fantasy. Japan lifted me to new heights of experiential clarity, with muscle tone to match. When you are happy, challenging your physical perimeters, life and body fall together. Manifesting a masculine integrity so beautiful to be.

In my forties I made a family. In an endless task of busy-ness, life and body become entangled. Working hard becomes less physical perfection, more an acidic mix of anxiety and responsibility. Becoming a widowed dad of two young power houses, my fifties had me radicalising my diet in a desperate search for food as sacrament, a solution to the emptiness of soul. I dabbled deeply into raw food veganism, workshopping and wheat juice fasting with my children at the Ann Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico.

There was also success, then bounce back, with Atkins, and then success again, when Paleo allowed me my meat lust madness again. And now in my sixties I am an unbeliever, too jaded with verifiable inconsistencies, depleting the wisdom of both my meat eating no-carb brothers and high strung animal lover veg-kins. I eat these days on inspiration, an uninspiring hodgepodge of guilt ridden delicacies. 

While I'd love again the pure simple environment of a health food community, I am sure it would be more likely 'libido' opportunism than any honest appraisal. When I walk, even for only blocks, or simply stand to do the dishes, pain envelopes my being. And being in pain brings me down, undermining whatever will I had to diet. 

It is true, I'd love to be a believer. But believe in what? In need of a simply sense of what is best, a food faith for these sacred few remaining tears... a diet with teeth and heart. Man again in both body and spirit, wilful assuredness in what I do and how I do it. That would be sweet!

StageHoehn and Yahr ScaleModified Hoehn and Yahr Scale
1Unilateral involvement only usually with minimal or no functional disabilityUnilateral involvement only
1.5-Unilateral and axial involvement
2Bilateral or midline involvement without impairment of balanceBilateral involvement without impairment of balance
2.5-Mild bilateral disease with recovery on pull test
3Bilateral disease: mild to moderate disability with impaired postural reflexes; physically independentMild to moderate bilateral disease; some postural instability; physically independent
4Severely disabling disease; still able to walk or stand unassistedSevere disability; still able to walk or stand unassisted
5Confinement to bed or wheelchair unless aidedWheelchair bound or bedridden unless aided

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