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Functional medicine 101

Parkinson's disease is a complex neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of individuals worldwide. While traditional medicine primarily focuses on symptom management, the functional medicine approach offers a holistic and patient-centered strategy to address the underlying causes and potentially slow down the progression of the disease. This approach combines dietary modifications, targeted lab testing, and nutritional supplements to improve overall health and well-being for Parkinson's patients.

Dietary Interventions:

A functional medicine approach to Parkinson's begins with dietary modifications that can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, common contributors to the disease. Research suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, can be beneficial. This diet provides essential nutrients like antioxidants (vitamins C and E) and omega-3 fatty acids that protect brain cells and decrease neuroinflammation.

Reducing or eliminating processed foods and refined sugars is crucial, as they can exacerbate inflammation and negatively impact gut health, which is increasingly linked to Parkinson's. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, ginger, and green tea can further support a healthy nervous system.

Lab Testing:

Functional medicine utilises comprehensive lab testing to assess various aspects of health that may be contributing to Parkinson's. This includes measuring markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, and nutrient deficiencies.

Specific tests may include:

1. Inflammatory Markers: High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and homocysteine levels can reveal systemic inflammation, which often accompanies neurodegenerative diseases.

2. Oxidative Stress Markers: Testing for oxidative stress markers like lipid peroxides and 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine can highlight the extent of damage to cells.

3. Nutrient Panels: Assessing nutrient status, especially for vitamins and minerals like B vitamins (B6, B9, B12), vitamin D, and magnesium, is critical. Deficiencies in these nutrients can impair nervous system function.

4. Gut Health: The gut-brain connection is gaining recognition in Parkinson's research. Comprehensive stool testing can reveal imbalances in the gut microbiome, which may contribute to disease progression.

Nutritional Supplements:

Based on lab results and individual needs, functional medicine practitioners may recommend specific nutritional supplements to support Parkinson's patients. These can include:

1. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): An antioxidant that can reduce oxidative stress and support mitochondrial function.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These can help reduce inflammation and protect brain cells.

3. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC): A precursor to the antioxidant glutathione, which has neuroprotective properties.

4. Curcumin: The active compound in turmeric, which exhibits anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

5. B-Vitamins: Supplementation, especially B6, B9 (folate), and B12, can help address nutrient deficiencies that often accompany Parkinson's.

6. Probiotics: To improve gut health, supporting the gut-brain axis.

Incorporating these supplements alongside dietary changes can help improve the overall quality of life for Parkinson's patients.

While the functional medicine approach to Parkinson's holds promise, it's essential to consult with a healthcare provider who specialises in this field. They can tailor a personalised plan based on lab results and the patient's specific needs, ultimately working towards optimizing overall health, potentially slowing the disease progression, and improving the patient's quality of life. It's important to remember that functional medicine is an integrative approach and will complement, not replace, conventional medical treatment.

Max Tomlinson N.D is our functional medicine specialist and is available for free 15 minute call. Visit our site to book a session -

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