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Diet in the management of Parkinson’s Disease

Perhaps more than in most diseases, the types and timing of the food you eat can affect your experience with Parkinson’s Disease (PD).  There are several concerns.  First, there is the maintenance of good health, one that will keep the rest of your body in the best working order.  Weight loss is commonly seen with PD and a calorie-rich, healthy diet is essential to maintain your ideal body weight. Secondly, many PD patients have some difficulty swallowing.  It is imperative that the foods you take in are of the best consistency (did you know that you choke on thin liquids more than on pureed food?).  Another common symptom PD patients face is constipation, so a diet rich in fiber will help keep you regular. Further, the foods you take in make impact the amount and rate of absorption of your medications that treat your PD symptoms. Finally, and most importantly, studies show that a nutritious diet may slow the progression of PD.


There is no one diet for PD, but most recommend a whole-food, plant -based diet. Such a diet would include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and protein-rich foods. In particular, nuts, olive oil, fish, and eggs would add beneficial fats.


It is balancing act to get in the Carbidopa/levodopa medications in on time and still eat well and frequently.  Carbidopa/Levodopa (often called Sinemet) works best on an empty stomach because of ideal absorption. Eating a protein-rich meal (like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products) around the same time you take Sinemet may lower the amount of drug in the blood, so it works more slowly and less effectively.   But Sinemet often causes nausea and so taking it on an empty stomach may not be the best option for everyone. Eating crackers or applesauce with your meds might be a good compromise.


Because there are so many different factors to juggle, consulting with a dietician who can help you plan menus and shopping list might be a good start.  A swallowing evaluation may help you judge how concerned you need to be about the consistency of your food. A speech pathologist may be able to help.


Confronting the day to day challenges of living with PD and fears for the future is daunting and may cause unrecognized anxiety and depression.  Consider speaking with a mental health specialist-you may be more impacted by the diagnosis than you realize.


BeCare Neuro can help you by monitoring your symptoms, allowing you to follow which medications and timing of medicines help most and what foods lessen the impact of your therapy.

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