Category Archives: mind body spirit

Saying It Gracefully Through Poetry—Robin Morgan’s TED Talk

Eloquent and Poignant Descriptions

Robin Morgan’s TED talk in 2015 is an eloquent expression of her poetic epiphanies from years with Parkinson’s disease. Her gentle cadence and masterful verbiage put her finger on many of the concerns, frustrations, and unknowns in dealing with a most mysterious illness.

Poetry has always puzzled me. I read it—I write it, but rarely for public consumption. Ms. Morgan’s poetic prowess builds upon 4 of her poems that walk the listener, or this case, the viewer into what Parkinson’s disease is, on a very personal level.

A Better Understanding of Parkinson’s Disease

I found it to be fortuitous and coincidental that Ms. Morgan expresses the very same attitude towards the need of expression that I profess. My blog post from yesterday speaks of urgency for communication for a series of obvious reasons when it comes to an unpredictable neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s disease.

Sharing More-Hearing More

Not everyone with Parkinson’s is as comfortable and as candid as Ms. Morgan is in expressing themselves. Exposure from the growing, blogs, books, and videos, are opening the eyes of both those familiar and unfamiliar with revealing insights. Education and demystifying the layers of Parkinson’s disease can only lead to better understanding, communication, and therapies.

Ideas For The New Year

 

Fresh Starts Aren’t Always Necessary

It’s a new year and the thought of those resolutions on the club napkin are but distant memories. Seriously, resolutions can be wonderful intentions yet only to create a burden that wasn’t the intention in the first place. If you are truly goal-oriented, resolutions are simply extensions of those goals that are nagging you the most.

Making Priorities

My biggest battle with my body and mind as I age with Parkinson’s disease is prioritizing:

  • Contending with what I should do and what I don’t want to do.
  • Weeding out projects that I really want to do but know I shouldn’t do.
  • Identifying what I can let go of.
  • There are things I must let go of just to get better.

 There are sacrifices for one reason or another that we all must make. Illness doesn’t always influence our important decisions, but it can most assuredly be a contributor to the making of those decisions.

Drive

Illness provides a perspective for many of us, due to a pushing drive and a boosted sense of urgency. The only solution to quelling the nagging feeling, is fulfilling that drive to produce.

Trimming and Expanding

Most resolutions includes weight loss, health, reading more, less television, or a making more of or a reducing of something. Wanting to improve ourselves is the right direction to go, but if we go overboard, it may have a reverse effect and cause us stress, anxiety, and or tension. We must be careful to ensure that we aren’t doing ourselves a disservice by taking on too much. Knowing our stress level and not exceeding it is crucial to our well-being. Keep your stress level in mind as you monitor your health regimen and overall wellness. Be kind and forgiving to yourself whether you fall off the diet, or not. Stay committed to your projects of 2020! Best of luck!

It’s National Family Caregivers Month-Here are some thoughts!

CarePartner/Caregiver Appreciation

Those of us living with Parkinson’s disease and have a caregiver or care partner to assist us, may overlook or take our helpers for granted. Take the time to show your love and gratitude for all that your caregivers do for you. Show your support and make them aware of your appreciation and the changes that they make in your life. This is a thank you to all those selfless people who make life easier for those who need assistance.

 

Here are some tips for you and your carepartner/caregiver:

  • Caring-Taking care of another can be a rewarding and spiritual adventure that can bring our relationships closer. In any relationship, there are caregiving challenges that will require patience, understanding, compassion, empathy, and possibly, even more patience.
  • Stay Vigilant-You, the caregiver, are the cheerleader, coach, and trainer, all in one, for a team that may or may not show up. It is your responsibility, as a caring helper to be observant and to ensure that you not over tax yourself. You must see that you take respites and time for self-refreshment.
  • Appreciation-My wife, Angela, is the most caring, most selfless, most generous, and most thoughtful person that I have ever met. Acknowledge and do your best in thanking those making a difference in your life. It’s so vital that those caring for us know that they are valued.
  • Limits-If carepartners fail to monitor and maintain their own health, it is vital that those who care about them step up and say something.
  • Watch for Burnout-Continuously caring for another takes a toll on body, mind, and spirit. If a caregiver overextends themselves, they are likely to face health, sleep, and stress related illnesses.
  • Self-Care-Caretaking for yourself, even for a small part of your day can be calming, centering and help to keep you healthy. Keeping your identity and getting time for yourself is a health must for you and those around you. Just a few minutes a day can rejuvenate the entire body.
  • Taking Your Time-Pay close attention to any changes in how you interact and communicate. If you find yourself on edge, quick to react, and overly sensitive or emotional, take a few moments to scan yourself and the situation. Just finding a quiet spot like an office nook to try some deep relaxing breathing may quiet things down.
  • Knowing your Limits-This requires knowing one’s self. Monitoring your condition is as important as the patient’s status. As a team, if the caregiver can function well, the patient sees those benefits as well. Taking care of yourself is the best gift that you can give to those that you love.

It’s hard to take care of others well, if you aren’t well. Take care of yourself and thank you!

Rock Steady Boxing is making a difference in my Parkinson’s disease!

Rock Steady Boxing and my coach, Alec Langstein (https://rocksteadynova.com/), have made me stronger, fitter, and quicker. There is a definite and noticeable improvement in my mobility, agility, and balance. When I am hitting a heavy bag, I will hit it hard but when given the chance to hit with someone wearing focus mitts, I always hit harder, faster, and with more intensity. There is just something about the human interaction that makes me want to step it up a little and to put in even more effort. My coach and my boxing mates motivate me to do my best and to push myself to excel.

Rock Steady Boxing, three days a week, has made a very noticeable difference in my stamina, my overall condition, and my life. I am in the best shape of my life, if you don’t count the Parkinson’s disease—it sounds hard to believe, but it is true.

Finding What Works For You

Motivating words and cuing from my coach, my care partner/spouse, or even a concerned bystander can help me to work harder and find strength that I didn’t know was there. Music moves me, makes me box harder, focus better, and picks up my spirit, all at once. Digging deep down for strength has taught me that if I push myself, just a little more, I may be able to do a little more than I thought.

I encourage everyone with Parkinson’s seeking inspiration, motivation, and an exercise program to check out Rock Steady Boxing in their area. Finding that right exercise, therapy, or practice that feeds your spirit, is so important. Don’t wait or stop trying to find what works for you—time is precious!

World Parkinson Congress (WPC) 2019 in Kyoto!

WPC Kyoto 2019

I have had the good fortune to attend 3 World Parkinson Congresses: DC, Montreal, Portland. The 5th Congress has been taking place in Kyoto, Japan #WPC2019. I have been listening to their official podcasts and highly recommend the first three days of podcasts: They are quite well done! The @WorldPDCongress brings the world of people together. This Congress brings together 55 different countries and 3000 plus attendees. I had the honor to be an official blogger for the 2016 Portland event. It is an amazing congregation of people with Parkinson’s, neurologists, researchers, care partners, sponsors, exhibitors, and demonstrations of what people around the world are doing to help themselves. For 4 full days, there are events presentations, panels, and discussions to inform, educate, and inspire. This podcast is hosted by Larry Gifford @ParkinsonsPod

Please take the time to listen to all the podcasts! This link starts with WPC Day 1 and the rest of the recordings will follow in succession.

The Mysterious Future

 

Ben Franklin is quoted to having said:

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight”.

This quote speaks to me when discussing Parkinson’s disease or any illness. Living our best life now, prepares us for a better life in the future. For many of us who try to live in the moment but sometimes slip into predicting the future, we create unnecessary worry, fear, and anxiety. Procrastination for taking care of ourselves now, only delays our future wellness.

There are actions that we can take to prepare for our future physical health, financial health, mental health, and spiritual health. Some future planning can be very helpful in reducing future anxiety.

Our creative and active imaginations can run away with innumerable variations of what our future self will look like. Put a hold on that thinking and focus on the now. Our futures are variable, undetermined, and largely up to the decisions that we make, right now. Fate, destiny, karma, and the universe are most likely going to intervene as well, so let the winds blow and hope for the best, but don’t fret over the outcome, especially if it hasn’t happened, yet.

The quote also refers to the ‘sunlight’, something we all need but many of us with Parkinson’s are susceptible to skin problems. Due to the way our medications may impact our skin to sunlight, it is so important to  apply  sun protection to our skin, avoid direct sun exposure, monitor your skin, moles, and marks for any changes that might be a red flag to rush to your Dermatologist.

Franklin was focusing on staying positive and keeping a positive attitude for the future, in his quote. This is a message for us all to remember when we look to the future. The unknown isn’t to be feared but should be a fresh opportunity. The future may be different than we expect it to be, but it doesn’t have to be negative just because it is out of our control.

Thursday 5/23/19 Dealing & Healing Book Reading & Author event in NoVA

For those in the Northern Virginia area, I’m pleased to announce that this Thursday 5/23 the Patrick Henry Library in Vienna VA will be hosting us to share and discuss our Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s and Other Health Conditions book from 7:30pm-9pm. We will be reading excerpts from the book and taking questions from the audience. Copies of the book will be on sale and we will be signing books also.
No registration is required for this evening. You can visit the library’s event page for more information or click the link or image to download the flyer below.  We hope to see you on Thursday!

Patrick Henry Library Book Event flyer 2019

Karl Robb Patrick Henry Library flyer 2019

 

 

 

An Informative Interview with Retired Dietitian, Kathrynne Holden

One question that get all the time, is how to manage their diet with medications, protein, and their Parkinson’s symptoms. Today, I am thrilled to bring you someone who knows Parkinson’s disease, was a registered dietitian, has written and advised extensively on the subject of Parkinson’s and diet (I am vegetarian and some of the following recipes are my guest’s suggestion), and now, will share her knowledge with you! I am so excited to present my interview with Kathrynne Holden:

Question 1:  What pointed your focus in nutrition to Parkinson’s? Was it a personal focus for a loved one or a need that you saw that had to be addressed?

I discovered a need that had to be addressed. In university, we studied medical nutrition therapy for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and many other conditions; also food-medication interactions, of great importance for dietitians. After graduation I offered free counseling at our senior center, and a gentleman asked if there was any special diet for Parkinson’s disease. In seven years of study I had never heard of Parkinson’s disease, so I said I would do some research and get back to him. What I learned on Medline was staggering. There was a vast array of nutritional obstacles, including a major food-medication interaction: levodopa and protein. Yet there were no nutritional guidelines, either for patients or health professionals. I determined to narrow my focus to Parkinson’s disease alone. In the process, I coauthored research, wrote two manuals for dietitians as well as books for people with Parkinson’s and their families, and contributed to two physician’s manuals on Parkinson’s. Currently several of us are petitioning our parent organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to include Parkinson’s Disease as a condition requiring nutrition therapy. If successful, insurance coverage might be a result as well.

Question 2: What should every person with PD know about diet and this illness?

Karl: Maybe, you can list a few suggestions. For me, I noticed that my meds efficacy and my digestion improved from being a long-time vegetarian. I discovered that my pills activated faster when I took them with caffeine and that Not until I visited Hawaii did I find out that Macadamia nuts were a natural laxative. These were helpful tidbits that I had to find on my own.

Kathrynne: Karl, you’ve hit on one of the most important points. Medication effectiveness, digestion, and constipation are concerns for almost everyone. But the solutions can be quite different from one person to the next. And no one knows you as well as you do, so it’s important to be your own detective, and learn what works best for you. But here are some points to consider.

For constipation, besides fluids and a high-fiber diet, some foods that can help include, as you note, macadamia nuts,  kiwifruit, cashew nuts, cooked prunes, beets, flax seed, whole grains, and well-soaked chia seeds. You’ll need to experiment to find what works best for you.

For those using levodopa, some people report that taking it with a carbonated drink such as seltzer water speeds its absorption.

It’s also important to take levodopa 30 minutes before meals containing protein, so it can dissolve and enter the small intestine for quick absorption. Do not take it with, or right after, meals, because the stomach hasn’t emptied and the levodopa can’t pass through to the small intestine. Also, because Parkinson’s can slow the motion of the gastrointestinal tract, it can take 90 minutes or longer for the stomach to empty. If it doesn’t seem like your levodopa is effective, it may be due to slowed stomach emptying, a question to discuss with your doctor.

Also, when timing of meals and levodopa is complicated it can help to use quick-absorbing “liquid levodopa.” The Parkinson Foundation has instructions for making it. Go to Parkinson’s Disease Medications: https://f5h3y5n7.stackpathcdn.com/sites/default/files/attachments/Medications.pdf On page 73 find the “Formula for Liquid Sinemet.”

Question 3: We are all very different in our symptoms, medicines, and stages of illness but is there a universal truth that can benefit all our diets?

Yes. It’s important to realize the value of whole foods, as opposed to vitamin and mineral supplements. Parkinson’s is a stressful condition, and stress, along with other conditions, creates “free radicals” – very reactive particles that cause damage in the body and brain. But antioxidants stabilize free radicals, making them harmless.

Foods are a much better source of antioxidants than supplements, because foods contain substances that support each other and make the antioxidant more effective. For example, a Brazil nut contains vitamin E, which you can also get from a pill. But the Brazil nut contains the entire array of tocopherols and tocotrienols that make up vitamin E, and it also contains selenium, an antioxidant mineral that works with vitamin E, forming an antioxidant combination much more powerful than either one alone.

Vegetables, fruits, and nuts are rich in antioxidants, as well as fibers that both help prevent constipation and serve as food for our “friendly bacteria” known as the microbiome. Some good examples are berries, grapes, plums both fresh and dried (prunes), carrots, beets, blue corn, broccoli, pecans, bell peppers. Another excellent food is fatty fish, such as salmon, for omega-3 fatty acids that benefit the brain.

Here are links to recipes using some of these foods, by George Mateljian, whose work in nutrition is excellent, I’m a great fan:

Sautéed Vegetables with Cashews

http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=229&utm_source=daily_click&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_email

Super Carrot Raisin Salad

http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=164&utm_source=daily_click&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_email

Kiwi Salad

http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=190&utm_source=daily_click&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_email

5- Minute Blueberries with Yogurt

http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=286

5-Minute “Quick Broiled” Salmon


Question 4: It is believed that Parkinson’s disease begins in the gut. Have you seen diet make an impact on your client’s symptoms as well as progression?

It seems likely that PD may begin in the gut via the vagus nerve, which is a pathway from the digestive tract to the brain. In an analysis, researchers found that individuals whose vagus nerve was severed were at a much lower risk for developing PD. But scientists believe that there are likely to be other causes besides the gut-brain pathway. Some also theorize that unhealthy gut microbes may communicate to the brain by way of the vagus nerve, and that maintaining a healthy microbiome might lower risk of PD.

Regarding diet’s impact on PD, yes. Persons with PD who turn to wholesome, nourishing foods, have offered such comments as “digestion has improved,” “PD symptoms have lessened,” “depression has lifted.” It appears that with a good diet, medications can be more effective, and there is a general sense of improved well-being.

It’s possible that this could be due to nourishing the gut microbiome – the colony of microorganisms that live in our gastrointestinal tract. We now know that dietary fibers are food for these beneficial microbes, keeping them in good health. They can then communicate with our DNA to influence our health.  A healthy microbiome appears to help prevent the inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome that so often plague people with PD. It fights cancer, and may be a factor in preventing some types of depression. Some strains produce a dopamine byproduct that is associated with better mental health.

But they need to be fed the proper food – dietary fiber – in order to do their work. That’s why whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are so important, and why refined flour and sugar and highly-processed foods are so harmful – they leave nothing for the microbiome to feed on. I recommend eating a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, because each has different fibers, and the various types of microbes each need their own kind of fiber.


Question 5: What should we be avoiding in our diets to get the most from our food and to assist our medications?

I would avoid what I call “anti-foods” – those that are made from refined, highly-processed ingredients like white flour and sugar, hydrogenated fats, and artificial colorings and flavorings. Many of the ready-to-eat frozen meals and canned soups fall into this category.

Also, as much as possible I would avoid produce grown with herbicides and pesticides in favor of organically-grown produce. There is a growing association between pesticide and herbicide use and risk for Parkinson’s disease. Organic foods are often more expensive, but the Environmental Working Group posts a list of foods that are the most and least contaminated. See their website: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php   Good food will never let you down.

My thanks to Kathrynne Holden for making this interview possible. I am very appreciative that she shared so much great information on diet and Parkinson’s disease with us! I hope you find this interview helpful. Eat Well!

Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD (retired)  is author of “Eat Well, Stay Well with Parkinson’s Disease,” “Cook Well, Stay Well with Parkinson’s Disease” and “Parkinson’s Disease and Constipation (CD)” See her blog at nutritionucanlivewith.com for more on nutrition for Parkinson’s disease.

The Power of an Amazing Quote

Powerful words stay with us and in a world of sound bites, there is no doubt that a good quote leaves a lasting impact. Here is my video on The Power of an Amazing Quote. Words inspire, motivate, and invigorate. Good quotes are memorable and timeless.
I hope that you enjoy this reading! Feel free to share it – if you find this to be helpful!
Thank you!
– Karl

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month 2019

2019 Parkinsons awareness month shirt 1

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness – Together WE are ONE

The month of April is upon us and this means a month of Parkinson’s awareness! There is an array of events, fundraisers, lectures, walks, and more that are planned for April, around the world. If you or someone that you care about is looking for an event in your area, you may want to Google:  local Parkinson’s events in my area, or visit your favorite Parkinson’s organization/charity website to see what they have going on, or consult your local support groups, hospitals, clinics, to see what you might attend locally.

We have updated our events page on this website for the speaking engagements that Angela and I will be presenting this month. If you are in the Northern Virginia area and have an interest in hearing us talk, please visit the 2019 upcoming events page and see what talk you think might interest you. We look forward to seeing you at one of the events on our list of future events!

Watch for more upcoming events and updates! You may want to subscribe to our site, to get the latest post fresh off the press.


In my 30 plus years of dealing with Parkinson’s disease and attending numerous events, conferences, walks, lectures, World PD Congresses, I have amassed an extraordinary collection of Parkinson’s disease related tee shirts which I will commemorate and share with you this April. This first tee shirt is sort of a mystery, but I believe it was created by my dear friend and Parkinson’s advocate, the late James Trussell. He was a dear friend and is greatly missed. He gave so much to the Parkinson’s community!

The shirt speaks of unity and strength–what a perfect message to start Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month!

Watch for more tee shirts from my collection, this month!

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