Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Tryst with Parkinson's Disease - and how am I managing it? -

By Mr.Kanu (Harshad) Kamdar

I have had a fairly long, healthy and active life of over seven decades. I have also had my fair share of ill health, overweight, by-pass (sans angina), appendix, enlarged prostrate and now Parkinson's.

I have been thinking, interacting with friends, learning and rethinking. I feel we should see that we remain in trim health without medication. In order to achieve this, it is essential that we observe a diet regime, mental health through positive thinking, exercise and of course a change in life-style; discipline and regularity.

As stated earlier, I have had a fair share of health problems, and hence take appropriate and timely measures to prevent any major mishap.

Childhood and Youth

My childhood (born 1935) was normal and had no major illness except amoebic dysentery and pneumonia. Educationally I did my Masters from Bombay University and started my working life, interrupting it for study and gaining experience in Germany and England.

Working years

After returning home at the age of 25, I started my career as a business executive in a large business house. I had a life full of stress, and dining and wining regularly. In 1976 I left this position to start my own business of ship breaking.

In early 1983 I was instrumental in starting Alang Shipbreaking Yard, near Bhavnagar in Western India. Alang became the world's largest ship breaking yard in 1989. As a part of my surveillance of the coastal topography, I had climbed the 100 ft Alang Lighthouse on several occasions in a period of six months.

In 1986 I set up an energy contracting firm. In the year 2000 I retired from commercial activities at the age of 65. Since 2000 I am pursuing areas of my interest that of providing energy through solar and other renewable energy forms to the downtrodden who are presently denied access to finite energy. I am now the Hon Director - Soft Energy and Conservation Programmes with Prakruti a NGO working amongst the poor in villages. In 2007 one of our innovations, Pedal Power Generator was recognized and won an award at World Bank’s IDM 2007.

Personal Health Problems

At the age of 36 I had my first major surgery - Appendicectomy

In September 1983, at the age of 48 I was visiting my brother in law Dr. Arun Shah (Cardiologist) in Porbander. He noticed T wave changes in my ECG. I was heavy for my height even though I was practicing YOGA since the age of 25 and walking since childhood. He referred me to Dr. Pahelajani a Mumbai based Cardiologist who put me through a stress test. The Stress test was positive and I was advised Angiography. I under went the procedure immediately and was advised that my arteries were blocked and I needed to undergo Coronary By-pass, an open heart surgery. I underwent the surgery promptly in USA.

My surgeon in the US, Dr Basset, after he heard that I had climbed a 100 foot high light house, a number of times, just before my ECG and stress test remarked, 'Were you a resident of the US, I would not have operated you' and added 'since your collaterals are good.’ However I ventured the operation.

During the ensuing period I underwent a lifestyle change. My daughter who was training to be a dietician put a diet change which also benefited the family. For her Post Graduate Project work she chose the subject ' Diet for heart disease related patients.' I continued to go for morning walks and practiced Yoga under the guidance of my Yoga Guru Shri Chotu Gandhi.

Post surgery I was prescribed life time medication - Persantin and Aspirin which I took for about seven years (1983-90). Needless to say I never had Angina or a heart attack before or after the bye-pass surgery.

In the year 2000, I was visiting the US the renowned Cardiologist in Michigan, Dr Dinesh Shah examined me and prescribed

Atenol 25 and

Aspirin 50mg for life.

This was much against my own philosophy and my body language as understood by me. However I started the medication and continued till March 2005 when I began tapering them off. By August 2005, they were stopped completely. Simultaneously as a part of my lifestyle change I had included swimming in August 2003.

At the age of 67, doctors informed that I had enlarged prostate and underwent a planned surgery. My recovery from the surgery was normal with no complications.

What is Parkinson's Disease (PD) and how I manage it.

1. Neurons in Substantia Nigra in the brain are not being regenerated and as such the production of Dopamine is affected. This in turn creates tremors and other complications of Parkinson's Disease

2. Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that most commonly occurs to people older than 50. The most common symptoms are tremors, stiffness, slowed movement and loss of balance. Other symptoms may include cramped handwriting, stiff facial expressions, a shuffling walk, muffled speech and depression.

Normally when we think of someone suffering from PD we imagine a person who has tremors, rigidity etc associated with limited movement. He is prescribed a lot of medicines. But here I am a person with zero medication and having normal mobility.

Since the end of 2002 I had noticed mild tremors in my hands, which increased whenever I held a large bone china plate. I discussed this experience with Yoga Guru Chotu Gandhi who attributed it to the side effects of medication I was taking for my heart disease.

In Jan/Feb 2003 at the age of sixty-eight, I consulted my family members in the medical profession and after observing me walk and my hand tremors they recommended me to the Neurologist Dr. Ramesh Patankar. After examination he diagnosed that I was suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson is a debilitating disease. My walking, Yoga, diet and swimming amongst other things have helped me to:-

1. Build up self confidence in my system

2. Understand my body language

3. Manage my PD and

4. Stop it’s progress or rather see that I return to normalcy.

By 2004, I stopped driving and fully changed over to public transport. I used Mumbai's excellent public rail network and bus system. This entailed keeping my mind alert while crossing roads and also climbing up and down railway over bridges. This helped me to build self confidence that nothing can happen and that I am normal and mentally alert.

I also travel frequently out of Mumbai and often travel alone by train and long distance buses, with confidence that nothing would happen as long as I maintain my diet and exercise scheduke. In my diet I a mitahari i.e. minimum food required to maintain my body functions as opposed to over eating. This also gave me confidence and inspired me to reduce and taper off and discard PD medicines totally.

My Neuro-physician, Dr Patankar in Feb 2003 started me on two medications and I saw him every 2 months. I began running into depression and was shy to even talk about my PD to friends. Thus I passed the year 2003 in a depressed mood.

Due to loss of balance (induced by depression) in Aug 2003, I fell and fractured my Humerus, the long bone connecting the shoulder joint to my elbow. For six weeks I was off my swimming but had to undergo vigorous physical therapy and resumed swimming thereafter.

My medicine dosage was continuously being increased and from Oct 2004 and up to 15th Aug 2005 it was:-

1. Inderal 40 Mg. 1/2-1/2-0

2. Pankintane / Traphane 1-0-1

3. Syndopa-110 1-1-1

I used to surf the net regularly and found many positive stories about PD patients. In particular I read an inspiring story of a PD patient partaking in a Marathon as well as how water exercise and swimming helped in maintaining balance. Inspired by this I took part in the 2008 Mumbai Marathon (in the Sr. Citizen section of 6Km)

In May 2004 I came in contact with a Chemical Engineer Dr. S. G. Kane, who was doing research in Ayurvedic herbs and its effects amongst other things on the neuro-degenerative diseases. While I was taking the dosage prescribed by Dr Patankar, including 3 tablets of Syndopa 110, I started on the three herbal extracts recommended by Dr. Kane. The herbal extract contained Amla, Brahmi, Jatamansi, Kavachbeej, Aloe, Trifala, Jyesthimadhu, Halad, Daruhalad, Ambehalad, Kachora and Khair

By mid 2004 my handwriting had deteriorated and my bankers had also observed it, as my signature had varied substantially. After starting on herbal extracts, I found my handwriting improved as I had a firmer grip on the writing instrument.

I had been a regular swimmer since the summer of 2003 as I had the facility in my new residence. I did practice yoga and visualization although not very regularly but I am a regular walker since childhood and since mid 2003 a regular swimmer. I swam regularly till June 2006 for nearly 40/50 minutes and averaged 4 times a week. My depression also reduced and began disappearing after practicing positive thinking and learning from friends with long term diseases such as Cancer, Macular degeneration of vision, Myostemis Gravis, etc.

I also took to nature cure and underwent diet control, massage, enema & steam bath with a young Naturopath Dr Kaustubh Salvi at Panvel. During 2004, 2005 and 2006 I took massage, steam bath for a month each year.

In August 2005 while I was under the treatment of my neuro physician Dr. Patankar and after informing him I started reduction of my dosage and slowly tapered it to zero level on 29th January 2006, a period of nearly six months.

What is the position on Parkinson now?

Currently after forty four months of stoppage of all medications, I do have mild tremors, but there is absolutely no rigidity or loss of balance while walking, climbing or doing manual work. My handwriting continues to be legible and my signature is accepted by my banker. I continue with positive thinking, yoga, swimming, walking and controlled diet.

I do not know what the side effects of various medications are. However constipation (caused by Syndopa) is one of the known side effects. I used to move my bowels twice while I was on medication. Even today I continue with the habit.

Exercise and Micro Exercises (MEx)

During mid August and end December 2006 I was visiting the US, where I took to.

  1. Indoor cycling…. A daily seven mile goal,
  2. Climbing stairs on a stepper... a 33 floors goal and
  3. Walking an average 8 Km (5 miles).

Even after returning to Bombay I use the gym or swim four times and walk about six times a week. I also practice various Yoga asanas (postures) as well as Shavasan a Yogic posture to calm down the body and mind. I also do other exercises that move most of the over six hundred muscles in the human body.

To avoid rigidity, while walking I consciously swung my arms in opposite direction and now it is normal and automatic. I also began walking at a faster pace and improved my pace. Swimming helped me in maintaining the balance.

On the control of my tremors, I was advised by my Naturopath Dr Salvi to do the following Sukshma Yoga or Micro Exercises (MEx):-

  1. Clenching of fist and unclenching the same simultaneously stretching the palm.
  2. Turning the clenched fist in clockwise and anti clockwise directions
  3. Turning shoulders clockwise and anti clockwise
  4. Squatting on the floor and running the palm on the knee clockwise and anti clockwise simultaneously Turning shoulders clockwise and anti clockwise
  5. Raising and lowering of the foot in standing and in lying in prostate position.
  6. While sitting on the floor stretching both legs and moving the foot clockwise and anti clockwise.

These MEx have to be repeated three to four times a day for twenty times in each session. They can be done even while walking. A beneficial impact of these MEx was an improvement of the hand writing.

I also minimize the use of the elevator and climb stairs whenever possible.


The first restriction I put on my diet since my by-pass surgery in 1983 was to stop all meat and eggs. Reduce intake of fried food and fast foods. Now after PD I also reduced intake of foods which were with ATHA i.e. fermented and baked which included bakery products such as bread, biscuits etc. I reduced intake of proteins, curds etc and increased intake of fruits and raw salads. In the protein group I completely avoid polished Dals (Pulses). Since I am now a vegetarian I have not to cut my intake of red and white meat, eggs etc.

I restrict only to fruit intake once or twice a week and have plenty of fresh as well as dry fruits, salads and raw vegetables, sprouted pulses to my daily regular diet. I take minimum oil-fried diet reduced intake of salt, chilies (mirchi) and spices.

I have totally stopped taking tea and coffee to reduce stimulating caffeine.

Unfortunately the whole medical system is based on consumption of drugs and medication for life. The doctor generally does not advise patients to change life-style, dietary habit etc. Patients also feel happy with "Eat drink and make merry" approach. The basic, that health is a function of what you eat and think, is lost sight of.

On the positive side, I have started actively moving in Adivasi Ashram Shalas (AAS) or residential schools for tribals. Started working on projects with teachers and students. The AASs that I visit are located in rural areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat. This entails traveling and staying away from home. I feel this also helps in keeping my mind diverted from my PD and to positive thoughts. As a result of my involvement in AASs we won the coveted World Bank Award at the IDM 2007 for our Pedal Power Generator.

Conclusion At one time Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) was thought to be irreversible. Because of considerable research by Dr. Dean Ornish in the USA, Dr Ramesh Kapadia in India and many others there is recorded evidence to prove that the CAD is reversible.

From my experience with PD I feel it is reversible. I feel confident of reversal with a clear determination and commitment on the part of the health provider and the patient.

Kanu (Harshad) Kamdar 312 Telang Road, Matunga, Mumbai 400019

Cell +91 98219 99401 kanukamdar@gmail.com

If any one is interested in meeting me and sharing my experience, they are most welcome to do so. Do not hesitate to contact me as per above details and I will be happy to share my experience for common good.

Dated Mumbai Wednesday, September 23, 2009

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