Get support for Parkinson’s by focusing on fitness and nutrition. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
Discover coenzyme Q10
Slow the disease’s progression by taking 1,200 mg a day of this powerful nutrient
Get support from C and E
Help delay the need for medication by supplementing with a daily combination of 3,000 mg of vitamin C and 3,200 IU of vitamin E
Adjust your diet
If you are taking a drug that contains levodopa, eat a low-protein breakfast and lunch, followed by a high-protein dinner to enhance the action of levodopa and improve symptoms
Work in a workout
Get involved in a regular exercise program to increase strength, flexibility, and balance
About This Condition
Parkinson’s disease results from progressive damage to the nerves in the area of the brain
responsible for controlling muscle tone and movement. The damaged cells are those needed to produce a
neurotransmitter (chemical messenger in the brain) called dopamine, so people with Parkinson’s disease
manufacture inadequate amounts of dopamine.
Parkinson’s disease occurs primarily, but not exclusively, in the elderly. Parkinson-like symptoms
can also be caused by prescription and illicit drugs.
Symptoms include a fixed facial expression, wide-eyed stare with infrequent blinking, fluttering of the eyelids, drooling, illegible handwriting, monotone voice, and rhythmic movement of the fingers, hand, foot, or arm when at rest. People with Parkinson’s disease often have difficulty getting out of bed or a soft chair, and may tend to stand stooped over and walk leaning forward with limited arm-swing and small, shuffling steps. Depression and decreased mental functioning are also common symptoms in advanced stages.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
People with Parkinson’s disease are at higher than normal risk for osteoporosis and vitamin D deficiency. Regular weight-bearing exercise, exposure to sunlight, and a variety of supplements and dietary changes may be helpful in preventing osteoporosis.
A twice-weekly, 14-week program of intensive exercise has been shown to significantly improve the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.1Athletic training included resistance exercises in water to increase strength, as well as exercises increasing flexibility and balance.
There is substantial preliminary evidence that exposure to certain organochlorine insecticides (e.g., lindane [Kwell®, Kildane®, Scabene®] and dieldrin [Dieldrite]) may contribute to the development of Parkinson’s disease.2, 3, 4 In California, death from Parkinson’s disease increased by about 40% in all Californian counties reporting use of restricted agricultural pesticides since the 1970s compared with those reporting none.5 Avoiding contact with pesticides and pesticide residues may be an important preventive measure for Parkinson’s and other diseases. Interestingly, consumption of the fat substitute olestra appears to increase elimination of certain organochlorine pesticides in the feces.6, 7 However, no scientific studies have tested olestra as a possible treatment or preventive measure against Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, since olestra consumption may be associated with other health risks, such as depletion of beta-carotene, people with Parkinson’s should consult with their doctor before consuming products containing olestra.
The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.
Feast on fiber
Doctors recommend that people with Parkinson’s disease get lots of fiber and drink plenty of fluids to reduce constipation associated with this disease. Good sources include fruits and vegetables, fresh and cooked.
Doctors recommend that people with Parkinson’s disease supplement with fiber and maintain adequate fluid intake to reduce constipation associated with this disease.8 Eating high-fiber foods may also help.
Be cautious with fava beans
Eating large amounts of fava beans, also known as broad beans, might increase the action of L-dopa and possibly lead to L-dopa overdose. Talk with a doctor before adding broad beans to your diet.
Consumption of large amounts of fava beans (Vicia faba), also known as broad beans, might increase the action of L-dopa and possibly lead to L-dopa overdose. Parkinson’s disease patients should, therefore, talk with a doctor before adding broad beans to their diet.
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
1,200 mg a day
In a double-blind trial, coenzyme Q10 given to people with early Parkinson's disease significantly slowed the progression of the disease.
In a double-blind trial, administration of 1,200 mg of coenzyme Q10 per day for 16 months to people with early Parkinson's disease significantly slowed the progression of the disease, compared with a placebo.9 Smaller amounts of CoQ10 were slightly more effective than placebo, but the difference was not statistically significant.
5 grams per day
Preliminary trials have suggested that the amino acid methionine may effectively treat some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Preliminary trials have suggested that the amino acid, methionine (5 grams per day), may effectively treat some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.10
5 mg twice per day
NADH—the active form of vitamin B3 in the body—has been shown to reduce symptoms and improve brain function in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Drug therapy for Parkinson’s disease has been reported to deplete vitamin B3 in humans.11 Vitamin B3 may be needed to decrease SAMe levels, and in so doing, may possibly help people with Parkinson’s disease. However, the two main forms of vitamin B3, niacin and niacinamide, when taken in combination with L-dopa, have demonstrated no benefit for people with Parkinson’s disease.12 Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH)—the active form of vitamin B3 in the body—effectively raises the level of dopamine in the brain, making it potentially useful in the treatment of people with Parkinson’s disease. In preliminary research, NADH supplementation reduced symptoms and improved brain function in people with Parkinson’s disease.13, 14 One researcher has recommended 5 mg taken twice per day for people with Parkinson’s disease.15 However, one small, double-blind, short-term trial using injections of NADH found no significant effects.16
Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner
In one trial, D-phenylalanine (DPA) supplementation improved motor control and tremors in people with Parkinson’s disease. DPA should not be taken with L-dopa as it may interfere with the transport of L-dopa to the brain.
In a small, four-week trial, D-phenylalanine (DPA) supplementation improved motor control and tremors in people with Parkinson’s disease.17 Additional research is needed before the benefits of this treatment can be considered proven. DPA should not be taken with L-dopa as it may interfere with the transport of L-dopa to the brain.18 People with Parkinson’s disease should consult with a physician before using DPA. Some commercially available phenylalanine products contain a 50:50 mixture of DPA and LPA, the form of phenylalanine that occurs naturally in food (these products are known as DLPA). People with Parkinson’s disease should consult a physician before using DPA or DLPA.
30 mg three times a day
In one study, people with Parkinson’s disease who had vitamin B2 (riboflavin) deficiency and supplemented with riboflavin experienced improved motor capacity.
In a preliminary study of 31 Brazilian individuals with Parkinson’s disease, all had laboratory evidence of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) deficiency. Nineteen of these individuals received 30 mg of supplemental riboflavin three times a day for six months. After three months, all participants treated with riboflavin demonstrated an improvement in motor capacity, and this improvement was either maintained or greater at six months.19 The participants in this study also eliminated red meat from their diet, but it is not clear whether that dietary change played any role in the observed improvement.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E
3,000 mg of vitamin C and 3,200 IU of vitamin E
Supplementing with vitamins C and E may help people with early Parkinson’s disease delay the need for medication.
Some preliminary studies have indicated that high dietary intakes of antioxidant nutrients, especially vitamin E, are associated with a low risk of Parkinson’s disease,20, 21 even though Parkinson’s patients are not deficient in vitamin E.22, 23 The correlation between protection from Parkinson’s and dietary vitamin E may be not be due to the vitamin E itself, however. Legumes (beans and peas) contain relatively high amounts of vitamin E. Independent of their vitamin E content, consumption of legumes has been associated with low risk of Parkinson’s disease.24 In other words, high vitamin E intake may be a marker for diets high in legumes, and legumes may protect against Parkinson’s disease for reasons unrelated to their vitamin E content.
Interest in the relationship between antioxidants and Parkinson’s disease led to a preliminary trial using high amounts of vitamin C and vitamin E in early Parkinson’s disease25 and to a large ten-year controlled trial of high amounts of vitamin E combined with the drug deprenyl.26 In the trial combining vitamins C and E, people with early Parkinson’s disease given 750 mg of vitamin C and 800 IU of vitamin E four times each day (totaling 3,000 mg of vitamin C and 3,200 IU of vitamin E per day) were able to delay the need for drug therapy (i.e., L-dopa or selegiline) by an average of about two and a half years, compared with those not taking the vitamins.27 The ten-year controlled trial used 2,000 IU of vitamin E per day found no benefit in slowing or improving the disease.28 The difference in the outcomes between these two trials might be due to the inclusion of vitamin C and/or the higher amount of vitamin E used in the successful trial. However, the difference might also be due to a better study design in the trial that found vitamin E to be ineffective.
The amounts of vitamin E used in the above trials were very high, because raising antioxidant levels in brain tissue is quite difficult to achieve.29 In fact, some researchers have found that even extremely high intakes of vitamin E (4,000 IU per day) failed to increase brain vitamin E levels.30 The difficulty in increasing brain vitamin E levels may explain the poor results of the large, controlled trial.
Refer to label instructions
L-tyrosine is the direct precursor to L-dopa and therefore could be an alternative to L-dopa therapy, however, it should not be taken with L-dopa as it may interfere with L-dopa transport to the brain.
L-tyrosine is the direct precursor to L-dopa. Theoretically, supplementing L-tyrosine could be an alternative to L-dopa therapy; however, L-tyrosine should not be taken with L-dopa as it may interfere with the transport of L-dopa to the brain.31 One small preliminary trial demonstrated that some people with Parkinson’s disease who supplemented with L-tyrosine (45 mg per pound of body weight) for three years had better clinical results and fewer side effects than did patients using L-dopa.32 Until these findings are confirmed, L-tyrosine should not be used as a replacement for, or in addition to, L-dopa.
Refer to label instructions
An extract of Mucuna prurient (HP-200) significantly reduced symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease in one trial.
In preliminary research, an extract of Mucuna prurient (HP-200) was studied in people with Parkinson’s disease, 43% of whom were taking Sinemet before HP-200 treatment; the remaining 57% were not medicated.33 Statistically significant reductions in symptom scores were seen from the beginning to the end of the 12-week trial. The amount used in the trial was 7.5 grams of the extract (dissolved in water) three to six times daily.
Refer to label instructions
Supplementing with phosphatidylserine may improved the mood and mental function in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
People with Parkinson’s disease treated with L-dopa have been reported to have reduced levels of the neurotransmitter phosphatidylserine.34 In one trial, supplementing with phosphatidylserine (100 mg three times daily) improved the mood and mental function in patients with Parkinson’s disease, but exerted no beneficial effects on muscle control.35 The phosphatidylserine used in this trial was obtained from cow brain. That product is not available in the United States, because of concern that an extract of cow brain could cause Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, the human variant of “mad cow” disease. The phosphatidylserine sold in the United States is manufactured from plant sources and cow-brain phosphatidylserine.36
3 to 5 grams taken at night with a one to two glasses of fluid
Preliminary research has shown that psyllium seed husks improve constipation and bowel function in people with Parkinson’s disease and constipation.
Doctors recommend that people with Parkinson’s disease supplement with fiber and maintain adequate fluid intake to reduce constipation associated with this disease.37Preliminary research has shown that psyllium seed husks improve constipation and bowel function in people with Parkinson’s disease and constipation.38 A typical recommendation for psyllium seed husks is 3 to 5 grams taken at night with a one to two glasses of fluid.
Refer to label instructions
Vitamin B6 has been reported to improve Parkinson’s symptoms. It can be used in conjunction with L-dopa plus carbidopa (Sinemet) or selegiline (Eldepryl, Atapryl), rather than with L-dopa alone.
Although vitamin B6 was reported many years ago in preliminary research to improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,39 it must not be used by people taking L-dopa alone. Taking vitamin B6 with L-dopa increase the conversion of L-dopa to dopamine outside the brain,40, 41 thereby reducing delivery of dopamine to the brain., However, vitamin B6 can be used in conjunction with L-dopa plus carbidopa (Sinemet) or seglegiline (Eldepryl, Atapryl).42
Refer to label instructions
Vitamin D deficiency is common in Parkinson’s disease and may increase the risk of hip fracture due to osteoporosis. This risk may be reduced by taking vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s often get insufficient sun exposure and have reduced levels of activity that adversely affect calcium metabolism.43 Low vitamin D levels in Parkinson’s disease have been reported to increase the risk of hip fracture due to osteoporosis.44 This risk has been significantly reduced with the use of synthetic, activated vitamin D—a prescription drug.45 Whether the same effect could be achieved with supplemental vitamin D remains unknown, though some doctors recommend 400–1,000 IU vitamin D per day. People with Parkinson’s disease may wish to discuss the use of synthetic activated vitamin D with a healthcare professional.
Find Drug Interaction Information
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
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