Parkinson’s is one of the most debilitating conditions that can render you quite helpless. Not being able to walk, eat, or move properly on your own can leave you with an unnerving depression. And there’s no one-stop solution to this condition yet. But don’t give up hope!
Alternative natural remedies for Parkinson’s can strengthen your body and mind enough to be in charge of your life again. To treat Parkinson’s, these remedies target 3 aspects of the disease:
- Increasing dopamine in the brain (mostly like the drug called Levodopa or L-dopa used frequently in Parkinson’s treatment)
- Easing irregular movements like tremors
- Reducing psychological issues like depression
Alternative Natural Supplements For Parkinson’s Disease
The causes of Parkinson’s can vary, but the treatment options are generally the same. Given here are some supplements, diet foods, exercises, and lifestyle choices that will help you tackle this hard-to-treat condition on your own terms:
1. Velvet Bean
Velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens), a type of legume grown mostly in parts of Africa and Asia, is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicines as an L-dopa alternative. Regular supplementation of this legume reduces Parkinson’s by increasing dopamine content in the brain and regulating mood swings. With fewer side effects, this herb might be just what your body needs.
To manage the long-term effects of Parkinson’s, take around 30 gm of velvet beans a day in any form.1
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is a herb commonly grown in East Asia and across the U.S. It is commonly used in traditional medicines for cognitive enhancement, to reduce anxiety, and to improve memory. This herb can treat Parkinson’s by reducing cell death and targeting dopamine deficiency.
Note: Discuss with your doctor about the right dosage of brahmi as it can cause gastric upset if taken in high doses or if you’re particularly sensitive to this herb.2
3. Fish Oil
We all know the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil on our health. But did you know that it can treat Parkinson’s as well? Regular use of fish oil prevents neuronal cell death and thus helps with Parkinson’s. And combining these omega-3 fatty acids with antioxidants will reduce oxidative stress and fight the disease. Studies also show that fish oil can combat depression without the help of antidepressants.3
Note: Since the type of food and medicines you take have to be considered, talk to your doctor or dietician first to figure out the ideal amount of fish oil that is good for your body.
4. Broad Beans
Broad beans are another amazing source of L-dopa. Eating these beans regularly has been seen to improve motor movements in Parkinson’s patients, especially in the beginning stages. While the whole plant is nutritious, the pod is supposedly the most effective source of the L-dopa.
Note: Excess beans might cause allergies or stomach upset. So consult your doctor for the appropriate dosage.4
We’ve all been through the guilt trip of eating just one too many of those sinful dark chocolates. But let’s give you a healthy reason to continue eating so! Cocoa extracts are another way of regulating dopamine levels in Parkinson’s. Along with this flavonol extract, cocoa also contains substances like caffeine that have a definite neuroprotective effect in Parkinson’s disease as well as Alzheimer’s.5
6. St. John’s Wort
Treating Parkinson’s mainly involves managing its symptoms, which include depression. Most antidepressants usually make you feel sleepy and unable to go about your regular day. St. John’s wort is a herbal supplement that is successful in treating mild-to-moderate depression; a severe depression will require medical attention.
Commonly used in traditional medicines across European nations, the recommended dosage for this herb is about 300 mg, 3 times a day.
Note: Ensure you discuss with your doctor before taking this supplement. The herb might interfere with other medical treatments and it should not be taken with other antidepressants.6
Ashwagandha helps in the management of Parkinson’s symptoms related to muscle control, movement, and balance by regulating dopamine levels. It also fights free radicals, enhances the antioxidant activity in the body, and thus lowers inflammation, which is one of the root causes of Parkinson’s.
Note: The recommended dosage is about 1–2 tsp of Ashwagandha powder or 300–1200 mg of its extract, twice a day with meals; this can be taken for both short term and long term. You can make a mild decoction with ashwagandha powder or mix it with milk, buttermilk, ghee, or honey. Ashwagandha is also available as capsules.
Diet Changes For Treating Parkinson’s Disease
While some nutrients protect the nerves, some actually cause neurodegeneration or nerve damage.7 Here are a few of the foods you should eat and a few you should avoid.
Foods That Reduce The Symptoms Of Parkinson’s
- Nicotine-containing veggies such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers and cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage that are rich in antioxidants
- Fruits containing nicotine and/or antioxidants pears, berries, grapes, and apples
- Tea (about 2 cups a day), which reduces the risk of Parkinson’s and delays motor issues
- Caffeine, which provides neuroprotection both before and after the onset of the disease
- Foods with low protein, as high protein reduces the absorption of L-dopa by the body
- Soybean, which might be specifically beneficial for preventing Parkinson’s in menopausal women
- Carotenoids, found in carrots and leafy greens, which fight against free radicals and reduce oxidative stress
- Resveratrol, found in grapes, which reduces cell death and enhances coordination of muscles
Foods That Increase The Risk Of Parkinson’s
- Fermented foods like dairy products and fermented cabbage (sauerkraut)
- Dried meat
- Aged cheese
- Alcoholic beverages like beer
Exercising To Manage Parkinson’s Symptoms
Exercising for at least 2.5 hours every week can strengthen the muscles, improve your balance and posture, reduce stiffness, and enhance the brain’s usage of dopamine.
Of all the symptoms of Parkinson’s, the one that bothers the patient the most is their lack of control over physical movements. While this can be depressing, don’t lose heart! Take up exercises that focus on stretching, strengthening and endurance, and aerobics. These include Yoga, running, tai chi, dance, and pilates.8
In the case of joint issues, opt for aerobics in water or swimming. Gait training by learning new ways to walk, turn, and stand will improve your movements. And don’t forget your facial muscles! Chew vigorously, read out loud frequently, exaggerate your facial movements while speaking, or even make faces in front of your mirror.
Exercising Tips For People With Parkinson’s
- Know when to stop. Do not overexert your body; stop as soon as you feel sick.
- Always exercise and learn under the guidance of a professional, whichever format you choose. Exercise consistently and sign up for exercise programs tailor-made for the condition to keep yourself motivated.
- Exercise near a wall or railing for support. You’ll gradually gain enough balance to exercise on your own. Also, try working out with a partner for constant support, both physical and emotional.
- Start with something as simple as walking for about 10 minutes every day and take it from there. While 1 hour a day around 4 times a week might be enough, know that the more you exercise, the higher are your chances of recovery.
- Always give some time to warm up before and rest after the exercise routine.
- Be safe! Avoid slippery floors, have adequate lighting, and keep your exercise space clear of any kind of obstacles that might hurt you.
Exercising with Parkinson’s disease can be really hard as your body does not work as efficiently as it used to. So have patience, choose something that you’ll enjoy, and keep at it no matter what!
A Word Of Caution
- Do not stop taking your medication; these alternatives are just complementary.
- Do not try any of these without discussing with your doctor. Doctors will adjust your medication as required, ensure the remedies don’t interfere with your treatment, and check if the alternatives are actually harmful to you.
- Take up exercises only under the guidance of a practitioner or therapist who is qualified and has good knowledge.
- Start small and slow to ensure your body does not react adversely.
- Take extra precaution if pregnant as some therapies might actually be harmful.
Last but not the least, with the quality of life already going down, you need to be extra cautious about how you live your life. Follow a healthy lifestyle, eat nutritious foods, keep your body fit, and your mind positive. Know that no matter how unnerving a disease is, your mind is capable of winning over it and living a happy life. Do not give up on yourself.
|↑1||Katzenschlager, R., A. Evans, A. Manson, P. N. Patsalos, N. Ratnaraj, H. Watt, L. Timmermann, R. Van der Giessen, and A. J. Lees. “Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson’s disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 75, no. 12 (2004): 1672-1677.|
|↑2||Jadiya, Pooja, Asif Khan, Shreesh Raj Sammi, Supinder Kaur, Snober S. Mir, and Aamir Nazir. “Anti-Parkinsonian effects of Bacopa monnieri: insights from transgenic and pharmacological Caenorhabditis elegans models of Parkinson’s disease.” Biochemical and biophysical research communications 413, no. 4 (2011): 605-610.|
|↑3||da Silva, Ticyana Moralez, Renato Puppi Munhoz, Cristiano Alvarez, Katya Naliwaiko, Ágata Kiss, Roberto Andreatini, and Anete Curte Ferraz. “Depression in Parkinson’s disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study of omega-3 fatty-acid supplementation.” Journal of affective disorders 111, no. 2 (2008): 351-359.|
|↑4||Rabey, J. M., Y. Vered, H. Shabtai, E. Graff, A. Harsat, and A. D. Korczyn. “Broad bean (Vicia faba) consumption and Parkinson’s disease.” Advances in neurology 60 (1992): 681-684.|
|↑5||Nehlig, Astrid. “The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance.” British journal of clinical pharmacology 75, no. 3 (2013): 716-727.|
|↑6||St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum). National Parkinson Foundation.|
|↑7||Seidl, Stacey E., Jose A. Santiago, Hope Bilyk, and Judith A. Potashkin. “The emerging role of nutrition in Parkinson’s disease.” Frontiers in aging neuroscience 6 (2014): 36.|
|↑8||Exercise. National Parkinson Foundation.|