Women's hands holding a bowl of coloutful healthy food. Eating a blanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, fish and healthy fats is associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson's Disease and slower disease progression.

Navigating Parkinson’s Disease – a conversation about a more natural approach

This week’s blog comes from guest writer Max Tomlinson N.D, naturopath and functional naturopathic nutritionist and Parkinson’s Disease expert.

My personal clinical journey with Parkinson’s disease started seven years ago when my sister was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD). Such a devastating diagnosis for a 51-year-old woman in her prime – she was senior vice-president of a major global music company and enjoying her life to the full.

I am an Australian trained naturopath, with 38 years of clinical experience. I immediately turned my practice around, initially with the sole focus of stabilising my sister and then optimising her neurological function so that she could return to living with passion and joy.

I specialised in Parkinson’s, creating a very successful Parkinson’s Clinic for patients across the globe. The journey has been intense, but we have won, and my sister is thriving.

We also recently created a plant-based, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) standardised support option that really works for her, and others looking for an alternative approach to their symptom management.

 ‘My diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease hit really hard. I was 51 and in an instant I felt my future and dreams evaporating. I needed hope, I needed to learn to live well with this strange and transformative disease. I decided then and there to win.’  CT, London.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system. It is characterised by a decrease in dopamine levels due to the degeneration of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain.

This leads to a variety of motor symptoms, including tremors, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), rigidity, and postural instability. Shockingly, PD symptoms only start to show after losing around 80% of the dopamine producing cells in the brain. In addition to motor symptoms, PD can also cause non-motor symptoms such as cognitive impairment, lethargy, depression and sleep disturbances.

PD affects around ten million people worldwide. It is the fastest growing neurodegenerative condition in the world, with 145,000 people in the UK living with the condition. It is estimated that numbers will increase by nearly a fifth to 172,000 by 2030.

The incidence of PD increases with age, and the majority of cases are diagnosed in individuals over the age of 60. However, around 4% of people with PD are diagnosed around the age of 50, indicating early-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD). 

‘You don’t necessarily suffer from Parkinson’s – you do have to learn to live with it’.  SB, South Africa

The pathology of Parkinson’s Disease

The pathology of PD revolves around the gradual degeneration of specific regions of the brain, leading to the characteristic motor and non-motor symptoms associated with the disease. The primary pathology is the presence of abnormal protein aggregates called Lewy bodies.

Lewy bodies consist mostly of a protein called alpha-synuclein. In PD, alpha-synuclein misfolds and forms clumps, disrupting normal cellular function. These protein clumps accumulate within certain types of nerve cells, particularly the dopamine-producing neurons in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra.

The degeneration of dopamine-producing cells is critical in the development of the motor symptoms of PD. This is because dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in regulating movement, and the loss of dopamine-producing cells leads to an imbalance in the brain’s motor circuitry, leading to tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia, and postural instability.

The pathology can extend to other regions of the brain, including the cortex and subcortical structures. This widespread involvement may explain the presence of non-motor symptoms in PD, such as cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances.

The exact mechanisms underlying the development and progression of alpha-synuclein pathology and Lewy body formation are still under investigation. Researchers believe that a combination of genetic factors, environmental factors, and impaired protein clearance mechanisms may contribute to the accumulation of alpha-synuclein and subsequent neuronal dysfunction and death. 

Diet and lifestyle interventions

My naturopathic approach:

In my PD practice we start our investigations with a panel of blood tests that looks at biochemistry, nutrient levels, hormone function, neurotransmitters, microbiome, toxins, digestive function and analysis, viruses and other infections. The restorative protocol we create then sets out to restore, support and rebalance the test findings. In our PD clinic we analyse the following blood and urine markers as a starting point:

  • Homocysteine, Haemoglobin A1c, fasting insulin
  • Lipid Panel: Total Cholesterol, HDL, Triglycerides, LDL-Cholesterol (calculated), Cholesterol/HDL Ratio (calculated), Non-HDL Cholesterol (calculated), Complete
  • Metabolic Panel: Albumin, A/G Ratio, ALT, AST, BUN/Creatinine Ratio, Calcium, Carbon Dioxide, Chloride, Creatinine with GFR Estimated, Globulin, Glucose, Potassium, Urea Nitrogen, Hs-CRP (high sensitivity C-reactive protein),
  • Hormone status: oestradiol, DHEA-S, total testosterone, free T3, reverse T3, free T4, TSH, progesterone, cortisol, Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, B12, folate, C, Vitamin E (Vitamin A, E, b-carotenoid Panel)
  • Heavy Metals Panel: (Hg, Pb, As), Serum Zinc, Serum Copper (Total), RBC Mg, IL-6, Osmolality, Glutathione, Iron, Ferritin, Serum Iodine, Gluten sensitivity, Omega-6:Omega-3 Ratio, Antibodies to HSV-1, Ceruloplasmin, Microbiome and gut parasites

Strategies that have proven to be beneficial in my PD practice

Avoiding common food allergens:

The most common allergens are gluten, cow dairy (but not cream or butter, if tolerated) and alcohol. Avoiding these has made a significant difference in some of our patients. Conversely, reintroducing these foods has an immediate negative impact on the condition.

Balanced nutrition:

In my clinic we generally recommend a diet tailored around nutrient-dense foods, very low sugar, low GI/GL fruits, low-starch vegetables, non-gluten whole grains, adequate animal and plant proteins, low allergy footprint and healthy fats. Antioxidant-rich foods (such as berries, leafy greens, and nuts) help combat the oxidative stress associated with PD.

Mediterranean diet:

One of our top recommendations, especially in those who are new to dietary intervention, is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, fish, and healthy fats. The Med diet has been associated with a lower risk of PD and slower disease progression.3

Ketogenic diet:

We use a keto diet on occasions in clinic but monitor the patient’s weight and body composition carefully as older patients tend to lose weight very quickly on keto.4 Research suggests that a ketogenic diet (high in fats and low in carbohydrates) benefits individuals with PD. It helps reduce inflammation and improve mitochondrial function.4

Correcting sugar metabolism:

Dr David Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist, has made notable contributions to the understanding of neurodegenerative diseases, including PD. His work emphasises the role of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (ketogenic) diet in reducing inflammation and supporting brain health.

Coffee andcaffeine:

A coffee a day keeps PD away? Research has consistently shown an inverse association between coffee consumption and the risk of PD. Caffeine, a component of coffee, may have neuroprotective effects.5

Exercise and physical therapy:

We encourage our patients to exercise like Olympians, albeit paying attention to their physical limitations and personal safety. Engaging in regular physical activity and participating in physical therapy programs tailored to PD improves motor symptoms, balance, flexibility, and overall physical function.

Emotional support and stress management:

PD can have a significant impact on mental and emotional well-being. We ask patients to engage in stress-reducing activities, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, or counselling, to help manage emotional challenges associated with the disease. Frank and open discussions regarding relationships, self-esteem and work can go a long way to alleviating the anxiety associated with a PD diagnosis.

Mucuna pruriens:

Our first choice for intervention is Mucuna pruriens, a tropical legume that contains a natural form of levodopa (L-DOPA), which is the primary medication used to manage motor symptoms in PD. L-DOPA is a precursor to dopamine and replenishes dopamine levels in the brain. The main stumbling block for mainstream medical acceptance of Mucuna as a natural approach to PD symptom management is the lack of standardisation of the active L-Dopa.

A large number of scientific studies have investigated the efficacy and safety of Mucuna pruriens in PD. This is one study that is a good summary of all findings:

A randomized controlled trial published in the journal Neurology compared the effects of Mucuna pruriens to synthetic levodopa/carbidopa in PD patients. The study found that Mucuna pruriens significantly improved motor function and quality of life compared to the synthetic levodopa/carbidopa treatment.

It is worth noting again that the dosage and standardisation of Mucuna pruriens preparations can vary, which will impact its effectiveness and consistency in delivering the desired therapeutic effects. We suggest seeking out HPLC standardised Mucuna products.


  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) has shown in studies to slow the functional decline of PD.6 CoQ10 is an antioxidant and essential component of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Some studies have shown potential benefits of CoQ10 supplementation in reducing motor symptoms and slowing PD progression.13
  • Antioxidants: Several large studies have investigated the role of antioxidants in PD. Consuming foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, has been associated with a lower risk of developing PD.7
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish and certain plant sources, have a protective effect against PD and help reduce inflammation.8
  • Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of PD. Adequate sun exposure and supplementation can help maintain optimal vitamin D levels.9
  • Prebiotics and Probiotics: Once again the role of the gut flora has been shown in studies to have an influence on PD. Prebiotics and probiotics modulate the gut microbiota, positively influencing PD pathology. These interventions may have neuroprotective effects and improve motor symptoms.12
  • Vitamin B12: Low levels of vitamin B12 have been associated with an increased risk of PD. Supplementation may help maintain optimal levels and support nerve health.14
  • Polyphenols: Various polyphenols found in fruits, vegetables, and certain beverages, such as green tea, have demonstrated neuroprotective effects in experimental models of PD. Human studies are ongoing to determine their potential benefits.15

Latest areas of scientific research

Genetic factors:

Researchers have identified specific genetic mutations, such as mutations in the LRRK2, PARKIN, and PINK1 genes, that increase the risk of developing PD. Understanding these genetic factors can perhaps aid in early detection and the creation of personalised treatment approaches though the therapeutic manipulation of diet, lifestyle, and metabolism. Functional medicine and complementary medicine practitioners are uniquely placed to help with work on genetics/epigenetics.

Gut-brain connection:

Strong emerging evidence confirms a link between the gut and PD. Studies have found alterations in the gut microbiome of individuals with PD, indicating a role of the gut-brain axis in the development of the disease.10,11 This area of research holds promise for novel therapeutic interventions.1


Inflammation in the brain, known as neuroinflammation, is implicated in the progression of PD. Researchers are investigating anti-inflammatory strategies and their potential to slow down disease progression. Managing insulin resistance and the therapeutic application of a ketogenic diet has shown great promise in reducing inflammatory markers like homocysteine and IL6.

Exercise and physical activity:

Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive impact of regular exercise on motor symptoms, functional abilities, and overall quality of life in individuals with PD. Physical activity has been shown to promote neuroplasticity and enhance dopamine production. Great care must be taken to guard against falls when exercising.2

About Max

I have worked as a naturopathic practitioner for over thirty-eight years, practicing in the United Kingdom and Australia.  I have published two internationally acclaimed diet and lifestyle books, treated thousands of patients in my London-based clinic, advised leading global businesses on employee health and hosted health focused spa retreats across Europe and North Africa. I am currently working in conjunction with some of the best Parkinson’s doctors in the world, as we support patients to experience a happier, better and stronger journey with the disease.

For more information, you can contact me on:

Max Tomlinson N.D.
Parkinson’s Clinic
Mob: 07887 801 568
Email: max@macudopa.com


  1. Zhu M, Liu X, Ye Y, Yan X, Cheng Y, Zhao L, Chen F, Ling Z. Gut Microbiota: A Novel Therapeutic Target for Parkinson’s Disease. Front Immunol. 2022 Jun 24;13:937555. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.937555. PMID: 35812394; PMCID: PMC9263276.
  2. Bhalsing KS, Abbas MM, Tan LCS. Role of Physical Activity in Parkinson’s Disease. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2018 Oct-Dec;21(4):242-249. doi: 10.4103/aian.AIAN_169_18. PMID: 30532351; PMCID: PMC6238554.
  3. Bisaglia M. Mediterranean Diet and Parkinson’s Disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Dec 20;24(1):42. doi: 10.3390/ijms24010042. PMID: 36613486; PMCID: PMC9820428.
  4. Pietrzak D, Kasperek K, Rękawek P, Piątkowska-Chmiel I. The Therapeutic Role of Ketogenic Diet in Neurological Disorders. Nutrients. 2022 May 6;14(9):1952. doi: 10.3390/nu14091952. PMID: 35565918; PMCID: PMC9102882.
  5. Calder PC. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes. Nutrients. 2010 Mar;2(3):355-374. doi: 10.3390/nu2030355. Epub 2010 Mar 18. PMID: 22254027; PMCID: PMC3257651.
  6. Shults CW, Oakes D, Kieburtz K, Beal MF, Haas R, Plumb S, Juncos JL, Nutt J, Shoulson I, Carter J, Kompoliti K, Perlmutter JS, Reich S, Stern M, Watts RL, Kurlan R, Molho E, Harrison M, Lew M; Parkinson Study Group. Effects of coenzyme Q10 in early Parkinson disease: evidence of slowing of the functional decline. Arch Neurol. 2002 Oct;59(10):1541-50. doi: 10.1001/archneur.59.10.1541. PMID: 12374491.
  7. Park HA, Ellis AC. Dietary Antioxidants and Parkinson’s Disease. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020 Jul 1;9(7):570. doi: 10.3390/antiox9070570. PMID: 32630250; PMCID: PMC7402163.
  8. Calder PC. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes. Nutrients. 2010 Mar;2(3):355-374. doi: 10.3390/nu2030355. Epub 2010 Mar 18. PMID: 22254027; PMCID: PMC3257651.
  9. Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012 Apr;3(2):118-26. doi: 10.4103/0976-500X.95506. PMID: 22629085; PMCID: PMC3356951.
  10. Zhu M, Liu X, Ye Y, Yan X, Cheng Y, Zhao L, Chen F, Ling Z. Gut Microbiota: A Novel Therapeutic Target for Parkinson’s Disease. Front Immunol. 2022 Jun 24;13:937555. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.937555. PMID: 35812394; PMCID: PMC9263276.
  11. Suganya K, Koo BS. Gut-Brain Axis: Role of Gut Microbiota on Neurological Disorders and How Probiotics/Prebiotics Beneficially Modulate Microbial and Immune Pathways to Improve Brain Functions. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Oct 13;21(20):7551. doi: 10.3390/ijms21207551. PMID: 33066156; PMCID: PMC7589356.
  12. Zhu M, Liu X, Ye Y, Yan X, Cheng Y, Zhao L, Chen F, Ling Z. Gut Microbiota: A Novel Therapeutic Target for Parkinson’s Disease. Front Immunol. 2022 Jun 24;13:937555. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.937555. PMID: 35812394; PMCID: PMC9263276.
  13. Hernández-Camacho JD, Bernier M, López-Lluch G, Navas P. Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation in Aging and Disease. Front Physiol. 2018 Feb 5;9:44. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00044. PMID: 29459830; PMCID: PMC5807419.
  14. Christine CW, Auinger P, Joslin A, Yelpaala Y, Green R; Parkinson Study Group-DATATOP Investigators. Vitamin B12 and Homocysteine Levels Predict Different Outcomes in Early Parkinson’s Disease. Mov Disord. 2018 May;33(5):762-770. doi: 10.1002/mds.27301. Epub 2018 Mar 6. PMID: 29508904.
  15. Pandey KB, Rizvi SI. Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2009 Nov-Dec;2(5):270-8. doi: 10.4161/oxim.2.5.9498. PMID: 20716914; PMCID: PMC2835915.

A huge thank you to Max for this blog. If you have questions regarding the topics that have been raised, or any other health matters, please do contact our team of Nutritional Therapists.

01684 310099

You might also like this blog: Epinutrients: an exciting new approach to nutrition and wellness

Last updated on 1st November 2023 by cytoffice


6 thoughts on “Navigating Parkinson’s Disease – a conversation about a more natural approach

  1. Thank you for this article. I am a kinesiologist and see a patient twice a week. I will use the nutrition above which may be helpful to assist her healing.

  2. Another fascinating and informative article highlighting the huge impact that good nutrition has on our health. We have the ability to slow down, alleviate or even in some cases stop symptoms occurring through intelligent nutrition.

  3. Excellent article! So many areas to work on that can have a positive benefit for a condition that can appear so very depressing.
    Thank you to Max and Cytoplan for sharing.

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