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Alternative Medicine for Parkinson's Disease

By Jennifer Markowitz, MD ; Updated August 14, 2017

Although its symptoms can improve with medication or surgery, Parkinson’s disease worsens over time and no cure is currently available. Because of this, many people with Parkinson’s disease turn to complementary therapies to relieve the severity of their symptoms. One study found that 63 percent of people with the disease use nutritional supplements, according to the April 2006 issue of Neurology.

Vitamins, Supplements and Nutrition

People with Parkinson’s disease lose brain cells that make the chemical dopamine, which the brain uses to send signals about movement. Scientists have tried to find treatments that could slow this process. Vitamin E and the supplements coenzyme Q10 and creatine have been studied but were not found to be effective. Vitamin E has also been tested to see if it could treat symptoms related to movement, but it was not effective for that either. In terms of nutrition, according to the March 2014 issue of Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and moderate caffeine intake may decrease the risk of Parkinson’s disease. However, it has not been established how much and what kind of caffeine to consume, and dietary recommendations are not based on rigorous scientific research.

Mind-Body Approaches

Acupuncture, which involves insertion of tiny needles along energy channels in the body, feels helpful to some people with Parkinson’s disease, however, there is not substantial research to back up this claim. Music therapy could also benefit one’s mood, movement and quality of life. Yoga has been investigated to help with balance and movement in Parkinson’s disease. Some people with Parkinson’s disease have also felt improvement in stiffness and posture with massage therapy.

Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapies

Physical therapy, including exercises like walking on a treadmill, appears to improve balance, walking and cardiovascular fitness in people with Parkinson’s disease. Another type of weight-training exercise called progressive lower-limb resistance training can improve strength in the legs. Some people with Parkinson’s disease participate in occupational therapy to find new ways to perform their daily activities despite their neurologic challenges. For people whose speech is soft or unclear due to Parkinson’s disease, speech therapy can also be helpful.

Warnings and Precautions

Unlike prescription medications, vitamins, herbs and supplements are not regulated by the FDA. This means that the amount of the active vitamin, herb or supplement in each pill can vary depending on the brand and that there can be additives in them that you do not know about. Vitamins, herbs and supplements may also interact negatively with your prescription medications, therefore it is important to let your health care provider know about any supplements you are taking.

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