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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Parkinson's Disease (Holistic)
Slow the disease's progression by taking 1,200 mg a day of this powerful nutrient
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
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
Get involved in a regular exercise program to increase strength, flexibility, and balance
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.
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.
Doctors recommend that people with Parkinson's disease supplement with fiber and maintain adequate fluid intake to reduce constipation associated with this disease. Eating high-fiber foods may also help.
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 some in 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.
Preliminary trials have suggested that the amino acid, methionine (5 grams per day), may effectively treat some symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Drug therapy for Parkinson's disease has been reported to deplete vitamin B3 in humans. 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. 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. One researcher has recommended 5 mg taken twice per day for people with Parkinson's disease. However, one small, double-blind, short-term trial using injections of NADH found no significant effects.
In a small, four-week trial, D-phenylalanine (DPA) supplementation improved motor control and tremors in people with Parkinson's disease. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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, even though Parkinson's patients are not deficient in vitamin E. 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. 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 disease and to a large ten-year controlled trial of high amounts of vitamin E combined with the drug deprenyl. 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. The ten-year controlled trial used 2,000 IU of vitamin E per day found no benefit in slowing or improving the disease. 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. 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. The difficulty in increasing brain vitamin E levels may explain the poor results of the large, controlled 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. 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.
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. 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. Until these findings are confirmed, L-tyrosine should not be used as a replacement for, or in addition to, L-dopa.
People with Parkinson's disease treated with L-dopa have been reported to have reduced levels of the neurotransmitter phosphatidylserine. 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. 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.
Doctors recommend that people with Parkinson's disease supplement with fiber and maintain adequate fluid intake to reduce constipation associated with this disease.Preliminary research has shown that psyllium seed husks improve constipation and bowel function in people with Parkinson's disease and constipation. A typical recommendation for psyllium seed husks is 3 to 5 grams taken at night with a one to two glasses of fluid.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in Parkinson's disease. In a double-blind trial, supplementation with 1,200 IU per day of vitamin D for 1 year slowed the progression of Parkinson's disease, compared with a placebo.
In people with Parkinson's disease, vitamin D deficiency combined with reduced levels of activity may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. Low vitamin D levels in Parkinson's disease have been reported to increase the risk of hip fracture due to osteoporosis. This risk has been significantly reduced with the use of synthetic, activated vitamin D—a prescription drug. 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.
1. Reuter I, Engelhardt M, Stecker K, Baas H. Therapeutic value of exercise training in Parkinson's disease. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999;31:1544-9.
2. Corrigan FM, Wienburg CL, Shore RF, et al. Organochlorine insecticides in substantia nigra in Parkinson's disease. J Toxicol Environ Health 2000;59:229-34.
3. Fleming L, Mann JB, Bean J, et al. Parkinson's disease and brain levels of organochlorine pesticides. Ann Neurol 1994;36:100-3.
4. Corrigan FM, Murray L, Wyatt CL, Shore RF. Diorthosubstituted polychlorinated biphenyls in caudate nucleus in Parkinson's disease. Exp Neurol 1998;150:339-42.
5. Ritz B, Yu F. Parkinson's disease mortality and pesticide exposure in California 1984-1994. Int J Epidemiol 2000;29:323-9.
6. Geusau A, Tschachler E, Meixner M, et al. Olestra increases faecal excretion of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. Lancet 1999;354:1266-7.
7. Moser GA, McLachlan MS. A non-absorbable dietary fat substitute enhances elimination of persistent lipophilic contaminants in humans. Chemosphere 1999;39:1513-21.
Last Review: 06-08-2015
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