Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that is primarily recognized by motor symptoms including tremor, rigidity, and slowness of movement. But the disease also strikes with non-motor symptoms like cognitive deficits and mood problems.
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there is medication available that can treat the symptoms. In addition to medication, lifestyle changes like exercise and diet may help to improve symptoms of the disease.
Although there is no special diet that can stop Parkinson’s disease progression or reduce its symptoms, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can certainly help to manage some of the complications associated with the disease.
There are some foods that when consumed may help to relieve specific symptoms like constipation. But then there are other types of food that may have the opposite effects.
This article discusses those kinds of food.
What to Eat?
Antioxidants rich foods
Antioxidants are proteins or enzymes produced by the body to fight against oxidative stress, which is strongly associated with Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s disease are generally required to consume more antioxidants as they are more sensitive to the oxidative stress insult.
Antioxidants are found in fruits (apples, berries, and grapes), vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes. Frequently eating these foods can help to boost the antioxidant levels in the brain.
Some experts also suggest the use of antioxidant supplements. However, research in this direction is very limited. Nutrition supplements coenzyme Q10, fish oil, and vitamin D have been linked to reduce disease progression (1). Therefore, using these supplements may not cause any harm. But it is better to discuss it with your doctor before using these supplements.
Protein containing foods
Protein is an essential part of our food. It is important for muscle growth and strength of the body. Foods like fish, meat, eggs, nuts, and beans are good sources of protein. Parkinson’s disease patients should strive to meet their protein needs from eating these foods.
However, high protein intake may interfere with the efficacy of certain drugs, for example, levodopa. Therefore, some neurologists’ advise patients, who are on levodopa, to consume a low-protein diet. In fact, few clinical studies support the idea of using a low-protein diet in Parkinson’s disease.
One study found that a low-dietary protein regimen improves the effectiveness of levodopa and controls motor fluctuation in patients with Parkinson’s disease (2).
Similarly, another study of 38 patients with Parkinson’s disease showed that a low-protein diet caused improvement in the motor symptoms of patients (3).
Constipation is a common problem in Parkinson’s disease. Most patients experience this problem before the onset of motor symptoms. As the disease progressed, constipation becomes severe that cause discomfort to patient’s daily life (4).
Research shows that eating fiber-rich foods may help to control constipation in Parkinson’s disease. Fibers are plant-based carbohydrates that are present in fruits (oranges, apples, strawberries), vegetables, cereals, and pulses.
Dietary intake of fibers caused the stool to absorb more water. This makes it bigger and softer and allows passing easily through the intestine and removed quickly from the body (5).
Omega-3 is the polyunsaturated form of fatty acids that has numerous health benefits. It can be found in oily fish/seafood, vegetable oil, nuts, milk, eggs, and leafy vegetables.
Parkinson’s disease patients are usually advised to include omega-3 in their diet. Its consumption is especially important for those patients who have dementia, which is a secondary symptom in Parkinson’s disease. Research shows that omega 3 helps to improve cognition, reduce neuroinflammation, and influence neuronal function. Because of these beneficial effects, some considered it a treatment for dementia.
Omega-3 consumption may also help to slow down Parkinson’s disease progression. This was shown in a research study performed in mice (6). In this study, mice were divided into two groups. One group of mice were fed with an omega-3 rich diet and the other with an ordinary diet. Both were then subsequently exposed to a neurotoxin MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine), which caused the same effects in the brain like Parkinson’s disease. It was found that the mice fed with an omega-3 rich diet showed better protection against the toxic effects of MPTP than the mice with an ordinary diet.
Although no therapeutic effects of omega-3 on symptoms in Parkinson’s patients have been reported, some epidemiological studies suggest that dietary intake of omega-3 is associated with a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s disease (7 8).
What not to Eat?
Parkinson’s disease patients are strongly advised to stay away from processed foods. These types of food contain a high amount of refined grains, a load of added sugar and salt, and trans fats. Example include cookies, burger, pies, donuts, and french fries.
Research suggests that eating processed foods may further exacerbate the symptoms. Most of them contain artificial chemicals or preservatives, which promote the production of free radicals in the body. When produced in excess, these radicals caused oxidative stress, (9) which plays an important role in Parkinson’s disease progression.
What to Drink?
Drinking plenty of water is important for everyone, but it is even more important for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Research suggests that drinking not enough water is one of the prime reasons for constipation in Parkinson’s disease. A study conducted in patients with Parkinson’s disease in Japan showed that decreased water intake from early life was strongly linked to constipation in patients (R). Therefore, Parkinson’s disease patients are frequently advised to increase their daily intake of water.
Some anecdotal reports claim that drinking at least 8-ounce glasses of water per day may help to improve the mood and concentration and decrease the feeling of anxiety and fatigue in Parkinson’s disease patients.
There has been an ongoing debate among researchers about the use of coffee in Parkinson’s disease. Most epidemiological studies showed coffee (caffeinated) as a protective agent against Parkinson’s disease (10 11). In fact, few clinical trials found that daily consumption of coffee may improve some of the motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease (12 13). Because of these beneficial effects, some researchers encourage patients to use moderate amounts of coffee.
What not to Drink?
People with Parkinson’s disease should avoid drinking sugar-sweetened beverages by all means. These products can negatively affect disease symptoms. Especially, diet soda could be very toxic. Research shows that the intake of diet soda increases the progression of the disease (14).
Moderate consumption of alcohol shouldn’t cause any harm but the high amount may possibly actuate adverse effects. Its consumption may interfere with prescribed drugs and further aggravate the disease condition.
Some epidemiological studies found a link between low to moderate alcohol drinking and reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. However, the presence of several methodological weakness raised a question on the credibility of these studies (15).
Moreover, there is no definitive research evidence showing that alcohol consumption helps to improve symptoms or stop the disease progression after it has been diagnosed. Therefore, neurologists’ usually advise patients to avoid excessive alcohol intake.
Disclaimer: The information shared here should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions presented here are not intended to treat any health conditions. For your specific medical problem, consult with your health care provider.