Fight Parkinson's with vitamin D

Parkinson's is more than just the telltale shakes and tremors that mark the disease. It's a condition that can wreck you mentally as much as it does physically -- leading to depression, cognitive decline and even dementia.

But there's one nutrient that can help ease or even prevent all those problems at once -- and it's simple, safe, inexpensive and easy to find.

Hopefully, you're taking it right now -- whether you have Parkinson's, or just hope to avoid it -- because it's one of the most essential nutrients of all: Vitamin D.

One new study of nearly 300 Parkinson's patients finds that higher D levels can cut the risk of depression and improve overall thinking abilities, perhaps helping to prevent cognitive decline.

Higher D levels can even help ease the tremors, shakes and other physical problems that come with the disease, according to the study published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease.

The link isn't surprising to me. While many people may consider vitamin D to be an essential bone-building nutrient (and it is), it's also critical to the brain and can protect against depression and cognitive problems even in people without Parkinson's.

Most healthy people are deficient in D. Parkinson's patients, unfortunately, are often even more deficient -- because many of them can't or don't get outside because of their physical problems.

And when you don't get outside, your body doesn't get the sun exposure it needs to produce the sunshine vitamin.

But sun exposure isn't the only way to get vitamin D. With the risk of sunburn and skin cancer, it's not even the best way.

Take a supplement instead.

I recommend an absolute minimum of 2,000 IUs per day for most people, but patients battling chronic disease such as Parkinson's will often need double that amount or more.

A holistic medical doctor can test your levels and help figure out how much you need and the best way to get it.

While you're there, be sure to get tested for other possible conditions that could cause, mimic or worsen Parkinson's disease -- including undiagnosed fungal infections and exposure to toxins (especially metals).

In many cases, treating these conditions can ease the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

For complete testing and treatment in Southern California, make an appointment to see me at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine, just outside San Diego. Not in the area? I'm also available by phone. Call 855-DOC-MARK to learn more.

And if you don't have Parkinson's, keep reading for a simple step you can take to slash your risk.