Lifestyle Changes Can Help Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a major neurological disease, second only to Alzheimer’s disease, affecting an estimated 8,5 million people in 2019 according to WHO.1 More alarming is the fact that the incidence of Parkinson’s has increased by over 100% since 2000 and this is accelerating. In the USA, the Parkinson’s Foundation estimates that approx 90,000 new cases are reported each year, a 50% increase from the previous estimates. The good news is that a considerable amount of research has focussed on how lifestyle changes can help Parkinson’s sufferers. Studies have shown that lifestyle changes, in particular diet, supplementation and exercise can help prevent and also slow the progression of Parkinson’s.

PD is characterised by tremors, loss of balance, restricted movement, problems with sleep, pain and cognitive decline. Currently there is no cure and the symptoms get progressively worse. Current drugs have many side effects, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, pain, constipation, lack of concentration, low blood pressure, raised homocysteine levels, postural deformity, renal problems and more. Looking at these, it makes good sense to look at alternate solutions. In this article we’ll look at how lifestyle changes, specifically nutrition, exercise and supplementation, can help Parkinson’s sufferers.

Before we look at the solutions, we need to understand the cause of the disease itself. Parkinson’s is the result of a deficiency in dopamine, a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) that is essential for memory, movement, and other cognitive functions. Dopamine is also a “feel-good” hormone that plays an important role in the brain’s reward system – it’s associated with pleasure, motivation, and satisfaction. This deficiency has a number of causes. The brain slows down production because of deficiencies of nutrients or enzymes needed to make dopamine, or environmental toxin build up. In each of these cases a good diet can help by 1) supplying all the nutrients and enzymes the brain needs to manufacture dopamine 2) by supplying nutrients to protect the brain from the ravages of environmental toxins.


Current research has highlighted just how important a good diet is for preventing disease and maintaining good health. In fact, some scientists say that a bad diet is a better indicator of poor health than smoking!2 The same applies to Parkinson’s – there is irrefutable evidence that improving nutrition can help prevent and slow the progression of Parkinson’s3,4. These reviews confirm that eating a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, good fats and wholegrains, like the Mediterranean, Mind and Dash diets, can play a role in preventing PD and slowing the progression of the disease. To quote from the two reviews mentioned here:3 “The consensus from the academic literature was that a MeDi/MIND … diet pattern (fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, omega-3 fish and olive oil) is the best practice for improving PD outcomes.” and 4“most studies examined in this paper support the role of diet and dietary patterns in reducing the risk of PD or alleviating PD severity.”

In practical terms, what should one do? Well, start by increasing the amount of whole, fresh foods in your diet and eliminating the processed, packaged and fast foods. Sugar intake has been shown to play a major role in Parkinson’s.5 Excess sugar in the diet affects the balance of the microbiome (the gut bacteria)6 which seems to affect Parkinson’s sufferers adversely. In addition, some PD drugs, like Mirapex (Pramipexole dihydrochloride) can increase cravings for sweetness, which aggravates the problem. So be aware of your sugar intake, bearing in mind that it’s not just the teaspoons of sugar you have in your tea and coffee. Just about all processed, packaged and convenience foods are loaded with sugar, in the form of high fructose corn syrup (a sugar substitute that is far worse than sucrose), as are many low fat, no fat foods. Removing the fat makes them taste terrible so food manufacturers add chemicals, including sugar, to improve the taste. The bottom line is, eat foods the way God made them, not the way the factory makes them.

A common problem with Parkinson’s sufferers is constipation. Eating a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses and wholegrains can help prevent this as they are all high in dietary fibre. This also helps balance blood sugar levels, as high blood sugar has a negative effect on people with PD. Drinking enough water daily will also help prevent constipation.


Exercise is crucial for anyone who suffers from Parkinson’s. Studies have shown that it can slow the progression of the disease, reduce tremors, improve balance and slow mental decline7,8. A combination of exercise types appears to yield the most benefits, so the aim should be a programme that involves aerobic, strength and flexibility training. Yoga, Tai Chi, water aerobics and pilates are all beneficial ways of exercising. They don’t need fancy equipment and can be done without expensive gym memberships. Being part of an organised exercise group has the benefits of encouragement and a feeling of accountability, which help to keep one committed to exercising. The benefits of exercising include better balance, surer walking, increased strength, increased concentration and overall improved self confidence. Here are links to two excellent articles on the topic:

Obviously,one should not start a strenuous exercise programme without the guidance of a medical professional, but there’s nothing to stop one from walking round the block regularly if able to.


In our modern world it’s unfortunately impossible to get all the nutrients we need to maintain health from our foods. Because of modern farming methods, transportation and cold storage our fruit, vegetables and grains simply do not contain the nutrient density they did 50 years ago. To bridge the gap we need to supplement, especially if we’re ill. As with all major diseases, research shows that supplementation can help PD sufferers. A major review of PD studies concluded that “diet and food supplementation often are a critical factor”.9

Here are the most beneficial supplements for PD sufferers:

1. Multi Vitamin and Mineral

Use a good quality organic, whole food derived multi vitamin and mineral supplement. Think of this as the foundation of your supplementation programme. A recent study found that “we estimated that the effect of the multivitamin intervention improved memory performance above placebo by the equivalent of 3.1 y of age-related memory change.”10

2. CoenzymeQ10

Because of its powerful antioxidant properties and its ability to protect the mitochondria (which produce energy in our cells), CoQ10 has been shown to help the production of dopamine and protect neuronal cells from oxidative damage.11 This makes CoQ10 a good choice for PD sufferers.

3. Vitamin B Complex

PD sufferers suffer from higher than normal homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a naturally produced hormone-like substance that is implicated in every chronic disease. Aggravating the problem for PD sufferers is the fact that L-dopa medications increase homocysteine levels. Lowering homosyteine has been shown to play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia (see the article I wrote on this for more info). Studies suggest that lowering homocysteine levels also helps PD.12,13 Vitamin B is very effective in lowering homocysteine levels and keeping them at a safe level. Because Vitamin B is water soluble (meaning it cannot be stored in the body), it’s important to use a sustained release formula.

4. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant which has been shown to help prevent PD14 and increase the production of dopamine.15 As with Vit B, it is water soluble so one needs to ensure that you use a sustained release formulation. In one study, PD patients were given a combination of Vit C and Vit E (3000 mg and 3200 IU respectively). The researchers found that this delayed the need for PD drug therapy by two to three years!16

5. Omega 3

Omega 3 is probably one of the most studied nutrients ever and is good for just about everything, heart, brain, eyes, joints and more. It’s also been found to play a beneficial role in helping delay the onset and progression of PD, as a number of studies and reviews have shown.17,18,19 Other studies, using Omega 3 and Vit B showed that this combination can do wonders in protecting the brain.20,21 Although these studies focused on Alzheimer’s patients, the benefits should also apply to PD sufferers.

There is no doubt that supplementing with good quality, organic, whole food derived supplements can make an enormous difference to the prevention, onset and severity of PD.

The bottom line is that making lifestyle changes, especially diet, exercise and supplementation, can help Parkinson’s. Not only can they help prevent one from getting the disease, but they can also help slow the progression and reduce the severity of the effects, should one be so unfortunate as to get it.























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