The key to treating Parkinson's disease is to enhance the patient's quality of life and wellbeing by focusing on a high-quality diet, a good daily multivitamin, effective stress control and, where appropriate, a programme of exercise.
* Diet and nutrition. Eliminate heavy metals from your diet - mercury, aluminium and high intakes of iron can more than double the risk of PD (Can J Neurol Sci, 1990; 17: 286-91), and high copper blood levels can contribute to symptoms (Lancet, 1987; ii: 238-41). If you're on the Pill, get off it immediately as these contraceptives cause copper levels in the body to soar.
Levodopa is known to work better at some times of the day than at others. Research has shown that such fluctuations are linked to protein consumption which, when reduced and taken all at once with the evening meal, led to a significant decrease in PD-associated tremor (Neurology, 1989; 39: 552-6).
* Vitamin/mineral supplementation. Studies have found several amino-acid supplements that are beneficial to PD patients, including L-tryptophan, which helps regulate mood (Acta Med Scand, 1973; 194: 181-9). Patients with PD are deficient in D-phenylalanine (Arzneim Forsch, 1973; 23: 884-5), and L-tryosine levels can drop because of the low-protein diet. In fact, according to one study, L-tyrosine, a precursor of levodopa, on its own can work better than levodopa and has fewer side-effects (CR Acad Sci III, 1989; 309: 43-7; Life Sci, 1982; 30: 627-32). However, these amino acids must never be taken at the same time as levodopa as they may interfere with drug uptake.
Vitamin B6 aids dopamine production (Clin Sci, 1979; 56: 89-93), although patients with heart conditions should not take this vitamin. Thiamine has been linked to PD prevention in one study (Lancet, 1988; i: 363), and folic-acid deficiency has been associated with the development of PD (J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry, 1986; 49: 920-7). Vitamin C can counteract the side-effects of levodopa (Adv Neurol, 1983; 37: 51-60), and omega-6 fatty acids (such as in evening primrose oil) can reduce tremors (Critchley EMR, in Horrobin DF, ed, Clinical Uses of Essential Fatty Acids, Montreal: Eden Press, 1982: 205-8). Many PD patients taking conventional levodopa therapy have also benefited from taking niacin (Biochem Med Metab Biol, 1986; 36: 244-51).
* Ayurvedic Medicine. A herbal remedy called HP-200, containing an extract of Mucuna pruriens, can prevent involuntary twitching and has fewer side-effects than most conventional drugs (J Alt Complement Med, 1995; 1: 249-55).
* Exercise. Regular walking, swimming, stretching and yoga can ease PD symptoms. In addition, physiotherapy and the use of ozone-producing machines appear to improve nervous system and brain function in PD patients.
* Plant remedies. Bach Flower Remedies can relieve symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and insomnia. The passion flower herb, although having only a minimal effect when used on its own, works well with conventional medicines to improve the effectiveness of levodopa in reducing tremor. Ginkgo biloba is an effective free-radical scavenger and is able to boost blood circulation to the brain.