The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Using Alternative Therapies Instead of Drugs

For a long time we’ve advocated using a variety of alternative therapies with LBD and other degenerative disorders. The reason is simple. They are usually safer than drugs and are often more effective as well. That sounds like a win-win situation to us!

Why do alternative therapies tend to be safer than drugs?

First, please know that we don’t advocate avoiding drugs altogether. Some, such as Exelon or Aricept, are helpful. However, many are not. The most dangerous are anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic drugs. Visit for links to several lists of Lewy-dangerous drugs. People with—or AT RISK for—LBD can develop severe sensitivities to these drugs. Then, a normal dose acts as an overdose, with symptoms such as increased dementia, motor problems and/or heavy sedation. Although a person with PD may not have been sensitive to these drugs in the past, the likelihood that they will be increases as the Lewy bodies increase in their brain. The scary part is that a person may not know that they have become sensitive until they have a reaction—and then it can be too late.

Many Lewy body disorder symptoms fall into the psychotic or anxiety category: anxiety itself, depression, paranoia, hallucinations, sleep difficulties, and more. Stress also becomes an issue because the pressure involved in everyday dealing with a Lewy body disorder depletes a person’s ability to handle stress. Yet the drugs most commonly used for all of these problems are all on those “Lewy-dangerous” lists. Incidentally, many have also been deemed dangerous for anyone one over the age of 65, even if they don’t have LBD.

Alternative therapies (ATs) help us use our own resources to deal with the above problems. They don’t add chemicals to the body, don’t break the skin, and don’t conflicts. Yet they can be very effective. It is amazing what we can make our bodies do with a little direction. And that’s what alternative therapies do. For instance, if your muscles feel tense, you can take a pill which will make your muscles relax. However, you may also have side effects. Or you can use massage, which guides your muscles into relaxing themselves without side effects.

Why are alternative therapies often more effective than drugs?

Even when the drugs do not cause unwelcome side effect, they are often not as effective as alternative therapies. They only treat the symptom. They don’t develop your ability to deal with the problem. In fact, it is just the opposite. When you use a pill, it takes over and does the work that the body would normally do. That’s fine if the body really can’t do the job, as for instance, produce insulin. Then the drugs are lifesavers. However, in most cases, we just need a boost—a little help. The body is all about conservation of effort. If it becomes used to a pill doing a job, it will view an internal effort to do the work redundant—and may “forget” how. With alternative therapy, the goal is to provide a little assistance and guidance so that the body can continue to do its own job.

Anti-anxiety pills cause chemical changes in the body that cause the muscles relax—that is, they do the job for you. Eventually, the body may “forget” how to relax without their help. Massage is more natural and simply guides the muscles into the right formations and helps them to do their own work.

Other “alternative therapies” help the body use and main its resources. Physical activity is a great example of this. You may not think of exercise as an “alternative therapy” but it fits the description perfectly: It helps the body use internal resources to maintain its health without the use of drugs. In fact, most clinicians will tell you that exercise is more effective than any dementia drug.

Speech, physical or occupational therapy also fits this definition. It is well known that they can all be very beneficial with LBD, PD, AD and many other degenerative disorders. AT can also refer to a variety of stress management techniques from acupressure to yoga. Massage, deep breathing and positive thinking are also fairly well accepted forms of stress management. Meditation, brain stimulation and kinesiology are types of alternative therapies that are less well known. Essential oils, sound/vibration, puzzle, art and fractal therapies are some other forms of alternative therapies. These last types along with massage therapy are described further on We will be using these therapies in our workshops that will start in the fall.

Several types of alternative therapies are also discussed in Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson’s and Other Lewy Body Disorders, available on


  1. Sounds great, but scheduling in yet more appointments alongside "standard" medical care (which is time-consuming enough!) is not do-able for a lot of us...

  2. In response to the comment from Keira on July 24, 2014, you don't need to schedule more appointments to use non-pharmacological approaches. Most of what the Whitworths outlined can be done by the care partner at home. Even the speech, physical, and/or occupational therapy can be done at home. A doctor can prescribe home health care for one or all of these therapies. The alternative is the severe adverse effects of Lewy-dangerous drugs. Having had a LO with neuroleptic sensitivity gave me first hand experience in how to avoid Lewy-dangerous drugs and use alternative therapies. They work and are doable.