What causes ET?
Essential Tremor (ET) occurs as a result of abnormal brain signals in the areas related to movement and motor control. However, no one knows what triggers dysfunctional signals to begin with. In about half of cases there is a family history, suggesting an inherited genetic mutation. However, for those with no family history, there are many theories about exposure to toxic substances that may disrupt normal brain function. ET may not be a single disorder. Different patterns among patients suggest ET is more like a group of related disorders, which may also explain why medication doesn’t work for everyone. However, achieving optimum wellness can help patients cope better physically and emotionally with ET.
Can nutrition protect against or improve Essential Tremor?
The chemicals in food build every cell in our body. Healthy foods boost quality of life by improving energy, appearance, weight, moods, and immune system. Food groups interact with each other to form a synergistic “wellness cocktail.” For example, the Mediterranean Diet (MeDi) is made up of foods that are separately healthy, and combine for an even more powerful effect. The MeDi includes:
- Vegetables, legumes, fruits
- Whole cereal grains
- Monosaturated fatty acids
- Low levels of dairy, meat, and poultry
- Low to moderate alcohol consumption
When eaten consistently over time, the MeDi improves cardiovascular health, reduces inflammation, and provides antioxidants to shield against the effects of environmental toxins and slow aging. The MeDi also benefits neurological (brain and nerve) function. For example, higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MeDi) was associated with lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The evidence implies that the MeDi may also benefit ET patients.
Consult with your doctor before making dietary changes
Wellness Works – Maximizing energy and defending against Essential Tremor
Besides the potential protective benefits of good nutrition, gaining and maintaining robust health results in better energy and a confident, positive outlook. In turn, these attributes help ET patients commit to exercise and to manage stress better.
Exercise and ET
Any form of exercise may increase shakiness while performing it, but exercise is a long-term investment in overall strength, energy and balance. Aerobic exercise can improve sleep, burn off toxins, and act as a mood elevator in addition to building stamina and cardiovascular wellness.
Studies have shown that upper body resistance training, especially the arms, can “improve aspects of manual dexterity and reduce force tremor in older ET patients.”iii
Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program
Stress management and ET
Stress can worsen tremors. When stressors occur, the body’s natural reaction is called the fight-or-flight (also called the stress response). It causes an involuntary biochemical and electrical surge that almost immediately heightens physical and mental survival processes. It happens practically instantaneously, flowing from the brain to all areas and systems of the body. It can amplify hand or other tremors.
ET patients can acquire conscious skills to calm the stress response and quickly minimize its effect on tremors. Developing these skills works best on a foundation of good nutrition and exercise. For most people, they must be learned and practiced – but it’s worth it because they work! A small investment of time (and possibly money for classes, DVDs, etc.) can lead to a consistent, rewarding use of any of the following calming methods:
- Relaxation techniques, including breathwork
- Yoga or Tai Chi
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