Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015, I have left no stone unturned in testing out the latest and greatest of nonprescription solutions to ease my symptoms. In my view, some have had good press and showed a lot of promise.
But identifying dosages and brands for readily available, over-the-counter, “natural” solutions was frustrating. It became time-consuming and expensive and required too much trial and error.
One challenge of trying various supplements to treat Parkinson’s is that unless they’re verified by a third-party group, such as NSF or USP, there is no way of knowing whether they contain what they say, or whether they might be contaminated with heavy metals, bacteria, or pesticides before being sold. Even if a supplement has been certified to contain what’s on the label, the potential exists that it could still cause serious side effects.
I usually gave a particular remedy 3-4 months to see if it had any positive effects. If it noticeably alleviated any of my symptoms, I didn’t even care whether it was due to a placebo effect. That is how desperate I am to find a natural alternative for treating my disease. But in my case, I’ve always felt defeated.
Why did I try and fail with these nutriments?
Some treatments are accompanied by online testimonials from people with Parkinson’s who attest to the great symptom relief they have observed by taking them. However, I was not one of the lucky ones who saw consistent improvement in my quality of life.
Note that I emphasized the word “consistent.” As many with Parkinson’s can attest, sometimes we can have a good day and not know why. Is it because the weather is good? Is it because we slept well the night before? Could it be because we timed our medications perfectly with our meals? Or was it the effect of the “natural” remedy? Fill in the blank.
What is mannitol?
Mannitol, a sweetener, is approved as a food additive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has deemed it nontoxic. It’s also used in a clinical setting for other conditions.
Parkinson’s is believed to be caused by a protein, alpha-synuclein, which clumps and impacts dopamine-producing neurons (and other neurons later in the disease), and mannitol is believed to have the potential to inhibit aggregation of alpha-synuclein.
Why mannitol, and why now?
Just when I had sworn off trying out the latest nonmedication “cure” or successful treatment for Parkinson’s, a co-worker asked if I had tried mannitol. I had heard of it, but thought it was another overhyped solution for Parkinson’s relief; another opportunity to empty my wallet and once again smash my hopes of finding symptom relief.
However, several reasons have convinced me to take a chance on another nutriment:
- Mannitol is readily available and inexpensive. Once registered for CliniCrowd (see below), a recommended dosage is provided.
- A clinical trial in Israel is being funded by the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology, not a pharmaceutical company. This trial came about due to the success of mannitol in treating fruit flies and mice with Parkinson’s-like attributes. Preliminary results are expected by the end of this year.
- In 2016, CliniCrowd, an online registry, was created for people to share personal experiences of researched nutriments. CliniCrowd’s goal is to explore potential treatments that pharmaceutical companies might have no interest in investigating or promoting, such as mannitol.
CliniCrowd was established when its founders wanted to help a friend diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The friend began using mannitol and saw improvements in his symptoms. The founders wanted to share these experiences for the benefit of others.
This likely would have been of no interest to pharmaceutical companies, because it would not have been worth the time and effort to test nonpatentable, widely available “natural” remedies.
CliniCrowd published some results from their platform of registered users that look quite promising for using mannitol in the treatment of Parkinson’s.
“So what did I learn from the mannitol story?” asked the Hadassah Medical Center’s David Arkadir, MD, PhD, in a discussion published by the MDS SIC Blog. “That public and philanthropic support is crucial for testing the true potential of non-patentable substances; that enthusiastic individuals can advocate for trials; and that a bit of luck can always help, even for chemical substances.”
One more stone to unturn
I have yet to see anything definitive offered by pharmaceutical companies to cure or slow the progression of Parkinson’s. Most of what is newly available or on the horizon are drugs to treat symptoms. Based on feedback from the CliniCrowd results, mannitol looks like it might have promise, both in terms of relieving symptoms and possibly slowing progression.
Rather than wait for the trial to end, and after I consult with my neurologist, I may take mannitol to see what it might do for me. Hopefully, in six months, I can report some positive results.
Keep in mind this column is not meant as medical advice, but rather a source of information. Discuss any treatment options with your healthcare providers before trying something new.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” –William Arthur Ward
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.
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