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Daniela Dayoub of DFitLife is a health coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist. This month we asked if she would be willing to share some nutritional knowledge. Proper nutrition is vital for all, and this month Daniela focuses on diets tailored to the specific needs of Parkinson’s disease sufferers. Our hope is that this will provide a reference for individuals living with Parkinson’s, as well as caretakers and family members.
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is the second-most prevalent neurodegenerative disease. While we know that genetic and environmental factors both play a role in the development and progression of the disease, there are some nutritional considerations that come into play as well:
Many of the challenging symptoms related to PD can be at least aided by making sure hydration is optimized. Constipation, painful muscle cramping, and low blood pressure are all worsened when there is dehydration. Drinking mineral water, or even using a few grains of quality sea salt (not iodized) in water is a simple way to make sure fluid is getting into the cells, and not simply acting as a diuretic.
If taking Levodopa to manage PD symptoms, it is advisable to save higher protein meals for later in the day. Since Levodopa is itself a protein building block, it will compete with other dietary proteins. Therefore, taking on an empty stomach is advisable, and if eating, focus on higher fruit and vegetable consumption until later in the day. Additionally, iron will inhibit absorption of the drug, which is another reason to leave protein-rich meals to later in the day. Fava beans are often touted as a good legume for those with PD because they naturally contain levodopa. However, the amount and quality of this chemical is not consistent or sufficient to be used as a treatment alternative.
The Mediterranean Diet
In general, the Mediterranean Diet, which is a healthy alternative for most people, is a good basis for anyone with PD or concerned with developing PD. The Mediterranean Diet is high in fruits and vegetables, has lots of healthy/fatty fish, uses quality olive oils, robust use of spices and is devoid of processed foods. This is neither a low-fat, nor low-carb diet per se, but one focusing on nutrient-dense natural foods.
This diet is also high in antioxidants, which are key to managing inflammation and free-radical damage associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Most all studies on PD and nutrition point to the protective effects of plants. Plants high in phytochemicals, called flavonoids, are the most protective. These include things like berries, cacao, dark green leafy vegetables, and richly colored fruits and veggies of all sorts.
Avoid Excessive Dairy
Some studies suggest that dairy foods, in particular, seem to actually increase the likelihood of developing PD in both men and women. The mechanism by which this works, is that high dairy intake is often correlated with low serum uric acid levels. Low urate/uric acid is inversely correlated with the risk of PD and disease duration. However, there is not clear data on which types of dairy put one at risk.
Exposure to pesticides may be an additional risk factor for PD. For this reason, eating a mostly organic diet (theoretically lower in pesticides) would be advisable if budget allows. This is another reason that dairy is thought to be linked with PD. Many dairy products have a bioaccumulation of pesticides and neurotoxins.
Build Strong Bones
Low vitamin D levels are often associated with PD. This, with the increased risk of falling, is a good reason to eat a diet that supports strong bones. This includes pastured eggs (including the yolks), mushrooms of all sorts, varied fruits and vegetables, and sufficient protein from unprocessed sources (like fresh fish, pastured meats, and legumes). If reasonable, getting weight bearing exercise will also aid in strengthening the bones. Decreasing fall risk by engaging in balance-training, and increasing proprioception is also advisable. It might be best for anyone with PD to do so under professional supervision.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.