Parkinson’s Disease. Discover the Best Ways to Manage Symptoms

Updated: 10/5/23

Living with Parkinson’s is difficult, but there are ways to make it more manageable and even lessen symptoms. While each person experiences the disease differently, many can find relief through dietary changes, supplements, physical activity, and stress reduction techniques. If you are living with Parkinson’s or have a loved one who does, understand the treatments available so that you can live as best as possible. Keep reading to explore our guide on how to manage Parkinson’s symptoms for yourself or someone you love!

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder of the nervous system that affects an estimated 10 million people worldwide. It is a chronic and progressive condition that primarily affects movement, but it can also impact other areas of the body such as mood, sleep, and cognitive function. Although it is not yet fully understood, the disease is caused by the gradual degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the brain.

It’s a progressive disease of the nervous system. It occurs when dopamine-producing neurons in the brain become damaged. As a result, a person with PD develops an imbalance in dopamine, which affects motor skills and emotions. It also causes a decrease of the chemical messenger norepinephrine, which plays a role in regulating functions of the autonomic nervous system. This affects things like blood pressure, energy levels, sexual arousal and digestion.

Most people who are diagnosed with PD are over the age of 60. However, symptoms can start at an earlier age. Currently, about  one million of those 10 million people worldwide being in the United States. As people begin to live longer, the rates of PD will rise. About 50 percent more men develop PD than women.

Parkinson’s eventually affects the ability of a person to live independently. The disease isn’t fatal, but can cause complications that lead to death. Researchers have come up with treatments to help relieve some of the symptoms of PD. However, no cure exists yet.

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Parkinson’s progresses through different stages. The symptoms of PD begin slowly and may go unnoticed at first. In fact, it’s estimated that 50-80 percent of a person’s dopamine-producing cells may already be depleted by the time symptoms appear. The way each person with Parkinson’s experiences these symptoms differ.

Motor Symptoms

  • Tremors, which can occur in the hands or be felt internally
  • Moving slowly, also called bradykinesia
  • Stiffness or rigidity of the muscles in the arms, legs and trunk
  • Loss of coordination which may lead to falls
  • Hunched posture

Non-motor Symptoms

Researchers believe that the non-motor symptoms such as loss of sense of smell, problems with sleeping and constipation may start years before motor symptoms. As a result, they’re focusing more attention on these symptoms to detect and treat PD earlier.

How Parkinson’s Disease Progresses

The first stage of Parkinson’s disease is called the early stage, and it usually lasts for several years. During this stage, the symptoms are usually mild and may not interfere with daily activities. The most common symptoms include tremors, stiffness, slowness of movement, and loss of balance. The symptoms may affect one or both sides of the body.

The next stage is the middle stage, which can last for several years. During this stage, the symptoms become more severe and may interfere with daily activities. The most common symptoms include difficulty walking, balance problems, speech difficulties, and bladder and bowel problems. The person may also experience non-motor symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive problems.

The last stage is the advanced stage, which can last for several years. During this stage, the symptoms are severe and debilitating, making it challenging to carry out daily activities. The most severe symptom is immobility, where the person cannot move without assistance. The person may also experience hallucinations, delusions, and dementia.

Are Parkinson’s and MS Similar?

Overall, Parkinson’s disease and MS symptoms are comparable, but they are not the same. The two diseases are caused by different cellular malfunctions and are treated differently, and both have distinct effects on patients’ lives. It is essential to diagnose the illness accurately, seek medical attention, and get the right treatment to ensure optimal quality of life.

Can Parkinson’s Be Hereditary?

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain responsible for motor control. Although the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, it is widely believed that both genetic and environmental factors play a significant role in the development of the disease. However, it is important to note that not everyone with a genetic mutation linked to Parkinson’s will develop the disease, hence the disease is not purely hereditary.

Symptoms of Parkinson's

Causes of Parkinson’s Disease

There’s a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. In people with Parkinson’s, the neurons (nerve cells) that produce dopamine within the substantia nigra no longer work. In addition, the brain produces less norepinephrine, a hormone that controls the autonomic nervous system.

However, it’s still unclear what causes these neurons to deteriorate. Certain genes have links to the disease, but not everyone with these genes develops PD. Currently, researchers generally believe that it’s most likely a combination of genetics and environmental factors such as exposure to certain toxins.

Some people have a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s. Risk factors include:

Exposure to Chemicals

Increased exposure to chemicals and pesticides, even inadvertent, is a known risk factor. For example, two common pesticides, paraquat and rotenone, are in the blood of a large number of Americans everywhere, despite being banned from garden and home use. These chemicals affect the mitochondria of the cells, which results in oxidative damage. Oxidative damage impacts the function of cells, and in the case of Parkinson’s, the dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra are the ones with impairment.


Parkinson’s disease affects men more than women. Studies have shown that men are 1.5 times more likely to develop the disease than women. Researchers theorize that hormonal differences between men and women may play a role in this discrepancy.

Factors that Lower Risk

While some things put people at a higher risk for eventually developing PD, other factors may decrease the risk. However, despite these being potentially protective against PD, some can cause other health problems.

  • Drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea
  • Smoking; nicotine appears to have a protective effect
  • High uric acid levels in the body, although this only applies to men
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen
  • Adequate vitamin D status
  • Exercising from an early age

Diagnosis of Parkinson’s

There is no single test that can definitively diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Instead, healthcare providers will use a variety of tools to evaluate a patient’s symptoms and medical history. This may include a neurological examination, brain imaging, and laboratory tests. If a healthcare provider concludes that Parkinson’s is likely, they may also prescribe a dopamine replacement medication to help alleviate symptoms.

The Importance of A Parkinson’s Specialist

When seeking a Parkinson’s diagnosis or treatment, it’s important to work with a healthcare provider who specializes in the disease. Parkinson’s specialists have experience evaluating the complex symptoms of the disease and understanding how to best manage them. They also often have access to the latest research, resources, and support networks that can help patients and their families navigate this challenging disease.

Can Parkinson’s Disease Be Cured?

Although there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are various treatment options available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Medications such as Levodopa and Carbidopa are commonly receive prescriptions to boost dopamine levels in the brain. While these medications can be effective in reducing symptoms, they are not without side effects, which can include nausea, dizziness, and dyskinesias (involuntary movements).

Parkinson’s Disease Treatment


Medication can’t cure PD yet, but can improve symptoms. Parkinson’s treatment usually begins with medications that increase dopamine levels in the brain or mimic dopamine’s effects. Dopamine replacement drugs, such as levodopa, are the most common medication for Parkinson’s, and they effectively control motor symptoms. Other drugs like dopamine agonists and monoamine oxidase inhibitors also work by increasing dopamine levels. However, these medications can have side effects like nausea, dizziness, and uncontrolled sudden movements. Doctors and patients work together to monitor changing symptoms and adjust medication as necessary.

Researchers are working on finding new drugs. For example, studies that include binding caffeine to other drugs such as metformin, nicotine and aminoindan appears to help prevent the destruction of neurons in laboratory tests.

In addition, since PD results from oxidative damage to certain brain cells, a focus of research aims to find an antioxidant to prevent damage in the first place. A nutritional supplement called inosine, which converts to another compound called urate in the body, is being studied for this purpose.


Many people with Parkinson’s benefit from therapies that help strengthen and retrain muscles. Parkinson’s disease therapy involves several treatments that aim to control or alleviate the symptoms of the disease. Medications are the primary treatment for Parkinson’s disease, aiming to balance the amount of dopamine in the brain. These medicines are to supplement the brain’s natural chemical dopamine to improve movement, balance, coordination, and tremors.

Deep Brain Stimulation

This type of treatment involves inserting electrodes into the brain through surgery. The goal is to help those whose medications can’t adequately control involuntary muscle movements.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help Parkinson’s patients maintain mobility and balance issues. Therapists use cardiovascular exercises and resistance training to preserve muscle function and improve strength. It can also teach patients how to perform daily activities, such as walking and bending, to boost their self-esteem and enhance their quality of life.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy helps Parkinson’s patients to live independently and improve their quality of life. It teaches patients adaptive strategies for daily living skills, like dressing, cooking, and personal hygiene. Furthermore, it offers support to the patients to continue to engage in productive activities.

Speech Therapy

Parkinson’s disease can also affect communication skills, leading to a softer voice, slurring of speech, or difficulty with enunciating words. Speech therapy can help Parkinson’s patients to improve speech clarity, voice loudness, and intonation. Patients can also learn techniques and strategies to cope with speech changes, such as pacing and taking regular breaths while speaking.

Diet and Lifestyle

The goal of preventing and managing Parkinson’s disease partly involves preventing the oxidative damage that occurs to brain cells. Diet plays a role, though researchers are still studying exactly which types of foods to recommend.

Generally, the Mediterranean diet, which is made up of lots of antioxidant-rich plant-based foods such as vegetables and olive oil, may be a good choice. Studies show that it may have a protective effect and help prevent the onset of PD.

Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep, can also help in managing Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Exercise can help improve strength, flexibility, and balance, reducing the risk of falls and improving overall health. A diet rich in vitamins B6, B12, D, and E and omega-3 fatty acids can help optimize brain function. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and stress can also reduce the severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

Supplements for Parkinson’s Disease

Various supplements can help in managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Some can interact with medications, however, so be sure to check with your doctor before taking any.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

CoQ10 is a naturally occurring compound that plays an important role in generating energy in our cells. Research has shown that supplementing with it can help alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In one study, researchers found that taking CoQ10 supplements for up to 16 months improved motor function and decreased the need for higher medication doses. They also found that CoQ10 supplements could slow down the progression of the disease.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that our bodies cannot produce on their own and must be obtained through our diet. These fatty acids improve heart health, brain function, and reduce inflammation. In Parkinson’s disease patients, inflammation in the brain is thought to contribute to disease progression. Research has shown that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids can be helpful in reducing inflammation and slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Mucuna Pruriens

The seeds of the mucuna pruriens extract plant have been used for a very long time in Ayurvedic medicine as a mood booster and adaptogen. This plant contains L-dopa, which research shows a, may be an effective natural alternative to levodopa, the main medication prescribed for Parkinson’s. Because everyone’s symptoms and state of PD is different, it’s important to consult a knowledgeable healthcare provider for guidance on dosage. However, as a general dietary supplement, the suggested serving size for mucuna pruriens is 500 mg twice daily (once in the morning and once in the afternoon). Best taken with water or meals.

N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC)

N-Acetyl L-Cysteine is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the body’s glutathione levels, one of the most potent antioxidants naturally occurring on the planet. Research shows that NAC has neuroprotective benefits, and it can help preserve the levels of antioxidants needed to protect dopaminergic neurons associated with Parkinson’s disease. In addition, NAC has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress that occurs in the brain, reflecting that NAC may also protect the brain against neurodegeneration.

Green Tea Extract

Green tea contains antioxidants called polyphenols that benefit the heart, skin, brain, liver and can even help prevent certain cancers. In addition to all of that, green tea extract is being studied with some success as a natural way to help prevent the progression of diseases like Parkinson’s. To use green tea extract as a supplement, 500 mg taken once or twice per day is recommended. Intake should never amount to more than 1,000 mg per day, and this supplement should never be used for more than three months at a time. 

Milk Thistle

People with Parkinson’s Disease often take several medications to manage their symptoms. Medications eventually process through the liver, putting a strain on this critical organ. Milk thistle helps protect the liver from toxins. While no studies exist that relate specifically to milk thistle and PD, some practitioners advise taking the herb along to help protect the liver. As a dietary supplement, take 250 mg per day, or as directed by a physician. Take this supplement with or without food.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is an herb widely used to improve memory and cognitive function. It’s famous for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to improve blood flow to the brain. In Parkinson’s disease patients, it can help with cognitive decline, depression, and anxiety, which are common symptoms of the disease. Research has shown that Ginkgo Biloba supplements can improve cognitive function in Parkinson’s disease patients.


A compound found in turmeric, curcumin naturally reduces inflammation. It also has antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. As a result, research suggests that curcumin may have an important role in the management of PD, specifically by helping to ease symptoms that medications so far cannot. Curcumin is to be taken in one dose of 1,000 mg or less per day, depending on the intended effect. Take it along with water or a meal.

Vitamin D

Low vitamin D status is associated with a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s. Your doctor can test your levels and make sure they’re within a healthy range. If not, supplements may be recommended. Making sure you take the appropriate dose of vitamin D is important because it slowly builds up in your system and can be toxic if levels become too high. Because of how concentrated this vitamin D3 supplement is, it should be measured and consumed with care. The recommended dosage is 50 mg per day. Do not supplement this product if you do not possess an accurate milligram scale. It is strongly suggested that those unsure of serving sizes choose less concentrated forms of vitamin D3 to avoid overdose. Since individual needs may vary, always start on the lower end of dosing.

The Bottom Line

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that most often affects people over the age 60. It occurs when the cells that produce dopamine in the brain become damaged. Symptoms of include tremors, loss of balance, slowed movements, mood changes, poor posture and lack of motor control. Causes of Parkinson’s are still unclear, but may involve a combination of genetics and environmental factors. No cure exists yet, but medications to balance dopamine levels remain the first line of treatment. In addition, physical therapies, brain stimulation, lifestyle adjustments and/or dietary supplements can also be part of the overall management strategy.

Living with Parkinson’s disease can be challenging. It’s a progressive condition that can significantly affect the quality of life of those who suffer from it. Fortunately, several supplements can help alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and promote overall health. CoQ10, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, Gingko Biloba, and Curcumin have all been effective in reducing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. If you or a loved one is living with Parkinson’s disease, incorporating these supplements into a comprehensive treatment plan can improve symptoms and promote overall health. However, it’s essential to speak with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease

Author: James D