Parkinson’s Disease – Reducing Symptoms With Diet and Supplements

Doing the best to remain strong and healthy is essential for everyone, especially for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Making certain lifestyle changes can help patients accomplish two important goals: control their symptoms better and slow the disease’s progression.

Every year, 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. The causes and triggers that activate it are yet unknown, and the condition is still incurable. Symptoms include muscle spasms, tremors, and muscle soreness.

Eating plenty of food like fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, lean protein, and whole grains, and staying hydrated are primary means for staying energized and healthy. Otherwise, you may experience one of symptoms which will lower the quality of life. These symptoms may include:

1. Constipation – Many patients with Parkinson’s disease experience constipation due to a slowdown of their digestive functioning. At its best, constipation is an annoyance, but at worst, the patient’s intestines can become severely impacted leading to a blockage in the intestines or a narrowing of the colon. The best way to combat constipation is to adopt a high fiber diet rich in whole grains, whole fruits (not fruit juices), raw or steamed vegetables, legumes, and natural whole-grain bread and cereals. Whole grain bread made from sprouted grains are even better for dealing with constipation.

2. Dehydration – Medications for Parkinson’s disease often cause dehydration. It can also leave you more tired, confused, weak, and cause kidney problems. The best thing to do is to ensure you drink enough water or unsweetened herbal teas throughout the day.

3. Medication issues – The most common drug for Parkinson’s disease, Levodopa, is absorbed in the patient’s small intestine. The absorption can be disrupted if the medication is taken shortly after eating a high-protein meal. [1] The best thing to do to maximize the medication’s effects is to eat high-protein foods further away from the time when the medication is taken.

4. Muscle cramping – In Parkinson’s, these cramps can be very painful and distressing. Eating food rich with turmerics, drinking sufficient water, or consuming magnesium citrate supplements with vitamin B6 can be very helpful.

Food for Parkinson’s

1. Foods rich in natural plant-based compounds – Antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, can prevent, delay, or alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by suppressing or reducing neuroinflammation, and oxidative stress, and free radical formation, while reducing the extent of neurodegeneration. Thereby, these natural compounds increase cognitive functions, brain health, and general wellbeing [9] These natural compounds are high in foods such as nuts, blueberries, eggplants, blackberries, goji berries, tomatoes, peppers, elderberries, spinach, kale, and certain spices.

2. Fava Beans – People with Parkinson’s are encouraged to consume fava beans because they contain levodopa, the same ingredient found in most drugs used to treat this disease. However, fava beans should be avoided by people who have the genetic disorder glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, as eating these beans may lead to hemolytic anemia.

3. Omega-3s – Since neuroinflammation plays a role in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease leading to neurodegeneration and neuronal cell death, omega-3 fatty acids are very beneficial. They reduce free radical damage and decrease the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, foods rich with Omega-3 fatty acids can offer great protection from disease progression as well as prevent typical secondary symptoms such as dementia and confusion. Patients should eat walnuts, green leafy vegetables, chia, and flax seeds as well as soy and kidney beans. [2]

4. Melatonin –  Also has antioxidant properties. Melatonin is found in tart cherries, oats, walnuts and bananas.

5. Curcumin – is an excellent free radical scavenger and an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective chemical. It is found in the turmeric spice.

Foods To Avoid

Foods high in saturated fat and dairy products should be avoided, since they have been linked to a risk of developing Parkinson’s. [4] These products negatively impact the oxidation levels in the brain, making symptoms persistent or worse. This effect is stronger in men than women.

Other Supplements to Consider for Parkinson’s

Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant offering neuroprotection through the modulation of mitochondrial activity in brain cells.

Vitamin D has been shown to be protective against Parkinson’s and its progression, so lots of fresh air and sunshine can help with the symptoms [5] Supplementing with vitamin D3 inhibits oxidative stress, reduces free radical formation, and decreases neurotoxicity. Vitamin D also reduces endothelial dysfunction which can offer neuroprotection in patients with Parkinson’s.

Other beneficial vitamins include:

  • The B family of vitamins, especially vitamin B3, niacin, reduces oxidative stress.
  • Also, vitamin C, an antioxidant, prevents lipid peroxidation and is also useful in regenerating other antioxidants.
  • And vitamin E reduces free radical activity and toxicity levels. 

Take Away

The treatment of Parkinson’s with a healthy diet, rich in anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective nutrients will potentially reduce the symptoms of the disease and prevent further neurodegeneration.

This is especially true with persistent commitment over a long period of time for taking supplements and consuming a supportive diet.

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Dr. Galit Goldfarb

References:

[1] Marouen Ben Guebila, Ines Thiele. Model-based dietary optimization for late-stage, levodopa-treated, Parkinson’s disease patients. NPJ Syst Biol Appl. 2016 Jun 16;2:16013. doi: 10.1038/npjsba.2016.13. eCollection 2016.

[2] Tommy Cederholm. Fish consumption and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for prevention or treatment of cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in older adults – any news? Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2017 Mar;20(2):104-109. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000350.

[9] Olasehinde T., Oyeleye S.I., Ogunsuyi O.B., Ogunruku O. Functional Foods in the Management of Neurodegenerative Diseases. In: Oboh G., editor. Functional Foods: Unlocking the Medicine in Foods. Graceland Prints; Memphis, TN, USA: 2017. pp. 72–81.

[3] Natalia Palacios, Sc.D., Xiang Gao, M.D., Ph.D., Marjorie L. McCullough, Sc.D., Michael A. Schwarzschild, M.D., Ph.D., Roma Shah, M.S., Susan Gapstur, PhD, and Alberto Ascherio, M.D., Dr.P.H. Caffeine and risk of Parkinson disease in a large cohort of men and women. Mov Disord. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 Sep 1. Published in final edited form as: Mov Disord. 2012 Sep 1; 27(10): 1276–1282. Published online 2012 Aug 27. doi: 10.1002/mds.25076.

[4] Honglei Chen, Eilis O’Reilly, Marjorie L. McCullough, Carmen Rodriguez, Michael A. Schwarzschild, Eugenia E. Calle, Michael J. Thun, and Alberto Ascherio. Dairy products and risk of Parkinson’s disease. Am J Epidemiol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2008 Feb 6. Published in final edited form as: Am J Epidemiol. 2007 May 1; 165(9): 998–1006. Published online 2007 Jan 31. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwk089.

[5] Lisanne M. Rimmelzwaan, Natasja M. van Schoor, Paul Lips, Henk W. Berendse, and Elisabeth M.W. Eekhoff. Systematic Review of the Relationship between Vitamin D and Parkinson’s Disease. J Parkinsons Dis. 2016; 6(1): 29–37. Published online 2016 Mar 30. Prepublished online 2016 Jan 9. doi: 10.3233/JPD-150615.

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