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Diet and Parkinson's Disease

Author
Alicia Betz
November 6, 2023

We all know that it’s vital for our overall health to fuel our bodies with good food. In fact, many people even believe that food can be medicine, helping our bodies heal and prevent disease. While we at Select Justice are not medical professionals, we can offer some advice on how to use diet and nutrition to support your body if you have Parkinson’s disease.

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No single food is going to cure your disease, and there is no magic “Parkinson’s diet.” However, when you focus on improving your diet as a whole, you can help your body function optimally. 

What to eat if you have Parkinson’s disease

One of the most important things to remember whether you have Parkinson’s disease or not is to eat a well-balanced diet designed to fuel your body. Eating a healthy diet helps your body work well, which in turn makes it easier to handle symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, some types of food and nutrients can improve Parkinson’s disease symptoms. 

Foods and nutrients that are beneficial to your health when you have Parkinson’s include: 

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables, especially those that are brightly colored
  • Fruit, especially those that are brightly colored
  • Water
  • Brown rice
  • Vitamin D
  • Nuts
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon 
  • Fiber
  • Turmeric

When you have Parkinson’s disease, you may find it difficult to consume enough food, so prioritizing beneficial foods in your diet is helpful. Aim to regularly include the above foods in your diet. If you aren’t able to each much or if you can’t consume a well-balanced diet, your healthcare providers may recommend vitamins and supplements. 

Many of the foods above contain antioxidants, which are protective to our cells and help with brain function. Others on the list can help ease Parkinson’s symptoms. Water and fiber, for example, can help with constipation, and turmeric may ease muscle cramps.  

Research regarding diet and Parkinson’s disease is still ongoing. One study titled Role of Diet and Nutritional Supplements in Parkinson's Disease Progression found that certain foods were either associated with increased or decreased disease progression. “Foods associated with the reduced rate of PD progression included fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, nonfried fish, olive oil, wine, coconut oil, fresh herbs, and spices,” the study authors noted. 

There is also evidence that following the Mediterranean diet may be beneficial for those with Parkinson’s disease. A randomized control trial published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that “adherence to the Mediterranean diet remarkably increased the dimensions of executive function, language, attention, concentration, and active memory and finally the total score of cognitive assessment in PD patients.” Hallmarks of a Mediterranean diet include nuts, seeds, whole grains, olive oil, vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, and fatty fish. 

When making choices about what you consume every day, add these beneficial foods whenever possible. 

Food to avoid for people with Parkinson’s disease 

While many delicious and sustaining food choices may ease symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, other food should be consumed in moderation. Completely cutting out a type of food or ingredient is often unsustainable and usually unnecessary. Limiting your consumption of food that is less beneficial for your body is ideal. Try to limit the following: 

  • Sugar
  • Processed foods
  • Saturated fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Alcohol 
  • Caffeine

When choosing fruits and vegetables it is especially important that those that are brightly colored. More vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables contain a higher amount of nutrients and vitamins than duller produce products. Generally, the paler or more anemic a piece of produce, the less color or vibrancy it will have and the less nutritious it is.

Reducing the amount of sugar and processed foods in your diet leaves more room for the more beneficial foods listed above. This is particularly important when consuming enough food is difficult to begin with. Other food listed above may worsen Parkinson’s symptoms. For example, alcohol and caffeine can contribute to dehydration and lower blood pressure.

In the Role of Diet and Nutritional Supplements in Parkinson's Disease Progression study mentioned above, the authors found the following foods to increase the rate of Parkinson’s progression: canned fruits and vegetables, diet and nondiet soda, fried foods, beef, ice cream, yogurt, and cheese. 

Struggles with Parkinson’s disease and diet 

It’s beneficial to get nutrients into your body, but it can be difficult for people with Parkinson’s to regularly eat a well-balanced diet for many reasons.

Many of the medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease don’t interact well with food. For example, some need to be taken on an empty stomach while others may not be absorbed well when consumed along with protein. However, protein is an important part of everyone’s diet, including people who have Parkinson’s. This can make it difficult to find a diet and routine that works for you.

Additionally, chewing and swallowing food can become difficult as the disease progresses, sometimes leading to weight loss and malnutrition. Many people with the disease are also loath to drink a lot of water for fear of not making it to the bathroom in time.

To overcome these challenges and fuel your body well, work closely with your healthcare providers. A good team will include a nutritionist or registered dietitian, a neurologist, and your primary care provider. A speech therapist can also be a beneficial part of your care team if you have trouble swallowing. Together, your care team can help you create a routine and diet plan that is both feasible and beneficial. This plan might include supplements if you are struggling to consume enough food.

While those with Parkinson’s face many challenges, focusing on eating a well-balanced diet may help alleviate some symptoms. More studies are needed, but it’s possible that the correct diet may even slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

While all of the causes of Parkinson’s disease are not readily apparent, there are some products and circumstances that are believed to be connected to the development of Parkinson’s. One such product is the herbicide paraquat. If you or a loved one have developed Parkinson’s disease after being exposed to paraquat, you may be entitled to financial compensation. 

At Select Justice, we partner with experienced, compassionate attorneys to get you the best possible outcome to your case. Our partners work on contingency which means that if you don’t win, you don’t pay. Don’t wait. Contact Select Justice today for a free, no-obligation consultation and begin your journey to justice.

Free Case Evaluation

If you believe that you or a loved one were harmed by Paraquat exposure, you may be entitled to compensation.

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