Self Help

Self Help

We refer again to Parkinson’s Health, and their statement that: “Managing Parkinson’s disease can be complicated, but it’s nothing you can’t handle”.

Go to Parkinson’s Health  for more on self-help. We derive much of the following advice from them. Suggested highly-achievable goals for managing your condition include:

  • Reducing your Parkinson’s disease symptoms
  • Minimizing problematic side effects
  • Maintaining your activities of daily living
  • Ensuring your emotional well-being
  • Continuing your work or hobbies
  • Maintaining relationships with family and friends
  • Maximizing your independence


If you are not exercising regularly, start today. However, always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Exercise can help make living with Parkinson’s disease easier by:

  • helping you feel more in control of your movements
  • reducing gait problems and muscle/joint injuries
  • improving flexibility
  • increasing muscle strength and balance
  • increasing energy, stamina and cardiovascular health

Your exercise program should be tailored to your personal abilities and any other health concerns, such as high blood pressure or arthritis. Your doctor and physiotherapist can advise about this. Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates technique may be particularly effective. Many people with Parkinson’s are involved in active sports and activities such as racquet sports, bowling, sailing, skiing, swimming and dancing. You may be surprised how much you can do.

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation has co-produced an exercise DVD. See their site or Motivating Moves. This is also a subject where our Health Information we Trust list and our Complementary Techniques and Therapies guide could be very helpful.


A good night’s sleep keeps your body and mind functioning properly, but Parkinson’s disease can include symptoms that interfere with your sleep – such as vivid dreams, sleeplessness, or restless legs. Try these tips to help you catch your rest:

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants in the evening.
  • Minimize fluid intake in the hours before bedtime.
  • Establish a regular sleep routine if possible
  • Avoid oversleeping
  • Create a comfortable, peaceful environment in your bedroom
  • Exercise regularly


Meditation can allow you to discover and enjoy a profound stillness and peace, no matter what your body is doing. Try the Shollond Trust website in our Complementary Techniques and Therapies guide for an easy and effective start.

Supplements, Snake-oils and Diets

Although there is little conclusive scientific information on natural supplements, researchers are examining several substances to evaluate their effectiveness on slowing Parkinson’s disease progression and managing its symptoms. Note that you should discuss using any supplements with your doctor or chemist before taking them to avoid potentially dangerous interactions.

Since there is evidence relating oxidative damage of nerve cells to PD, some researchers are studying antioxidants. A 2002 study focused on the potential antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is believed to play an important role in mitochondria health. Mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of a cell, and some scientists think that abnormalities of mitochondrial function may play a role in Parkinson’s. A recent clinical trial found that high doses of CoQ10 (up to 1200 mg) showed a possible slowing of disease progression in a small number of subjects. These results are promising but researchers have not studied CoQ10 extensively enough to recommend it.

Scientists have also examined Vitamin E, Vitamin C and health foods to evaluate their oxidative properties. Vitamin E can fight damage in the brain caused by free radicals, and has been suggested to lower the risk of PD. However, researchers conducted an extensive and thorough study over 10 years ago ( the DATATOP trial) and failed to find any evidence that Vitamin E slows the progression of Parkinson’s or manages symptoms. Since Vitamin E has very few side-effects, many Parkinson’s patients continue to take it in high doses of 400 IU or more. Researchers are also examining health foods, such as fermented papaya and blueberries, to determine their role in slowing nerve cell death. Some scientists are optimistic about the research but do not have enough conclusive data yet to recommend these supplements.

Creatine is another compound of scientific interest that increases levels of phosphocreatine (an energy source in muscle and the brain). Multi-centre clinical trials are being conducted to determine if creatine protects against nerve cell damage. Researchers have also studied a compound called glutathione to determine its effect on nerve cell metabolism and its power as an antioxidant. Both compounds show promise, but the appropriate dosing is unclear, as are the most effective method of administration, side-effects and long-term dosing risks.

Both the BBC and the Alzheimer’s Society report that Ecstasy and cannabis can have positive effects for people with Parkinson’s. In 2001 a BBC Horizon’s programme featured a young man whose symptoms disappeared when he took Ecstasy. The mechanisms by which both Ecstasy and cannabis may alleviate symptoms are being studied. Speaking of such ‘recreational’ drugs, The Alzheimer’s Society warns quite sternly against the use of any illegal recreational drug. Definitely check Medline Plus to learn more about any supplement which interests you.

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