Diet for Parkinson’s Patients – What to Eat and When?

Although there is no specific diet for Parkinson’s patients, researchers think that eating a healthy and well-balanced meal can relieve certain problems associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Here, we present the 4 types of food that Parkinson’s patients need to include in their meals. We also discuss when to eat these foods and how to avoid eating certain foods that affect the efficacy of medications used in Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, we give some advice on the use of food supplements and some extra tips to keep your healthy diet on track. 


Diet for Parkinson’s patients

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the loss of a specialized group of brain cells that are involved in body movement. The typical symptoms include tremor, slowness, muscle rigidity, and balance problems. Besides these motor symptoms, a patient also develops non-motor problems like constipation, dementia, low blood pressure, and sleep disorders.

Although medication is the most effective way of dealing with Parkinson’s disease, diet, and other healthy lifestyle changes can also make a big difference. Even though there is no specific diet for Parkinson’s patients, they should always consider eating a healthy and well-balanced meal. This will help to relieve certain problems associated with the disease like constipation, dementia, low mood, weight loss, sleep problem, and body strength weakness. Researchers think that eating the right food at the right time can enhance the medication effects and so could help to improve the symptoms of the disease and the overall quality of life of a patient.

Here, we present the 4 types of food that every Parkinson’s patient should include in their diet.

1.  High-Fiber Foods

The main benefit of eating fiber-rich foods is to control constipation, which is a common problem in Parkinson’s disease. Most patients experience constipation before the onset of typical Parkinson’s symptoms. As the disease progresses, this problem becomes more severe and causes discomfort in the patient’s daily life.

Following are the examples of foods that are rich in fiber:

  • Fresh fruits (oranges, apples, strawberries)
  • Vegetables
  • Whole-grain bread and cereals
  • Pulses

2. High- Antioxidants Foods

Parkinson’s patients have generally lower levels of antioxidants in their brains. And for this reason, they should consume more antioxidants than normal. Keeping the amount of antioxidant levels in balance helps to reduce inflammation and protects the brain cells from dying.

Foods that are high in antioxidants include:

  • Fruits (apples, berries, and grapes)
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts (walnuts, cashews)
  • Fish (salmon and tuna)
  • Grains and legumes

3. Protein-Containing Foods

Parkinson’s patients need protein to increase their body strength. Researchers support the idea of using a low-protein diet in Parkinson’s disease. They think that a low-dietary protein regimen improves the effectiveness of drugs used in Parkinson’s and better controls the motor fluctuations in patients.  

Parkinson’s patients can get their protein needs from the following foods:

  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Beans

4. High-Omega 3 Foods

Parkinson’s patients should include omega 3 in their diet. Its consumption is especially recommended for those patients who experience dementia, which is a secondary symptom of Parkinson’s disease.

Animal study suggests that Omega 3 intake may help to slow down Parkinson’s progression. The study, which was published in the journal of FASEB, involved two groups of mice: one with an omega 3 rich diet and the other with an ordinary diet. Both were subsequently exposed to a neurotoxin, which caused the same changes 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 neurotoxin than the mice with an ordinary diet.

Following are the foods that are high in omega 3:

  • Oily fish/seafood
  • Lentils and beans
  • Vegetable oil
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Milk and eggs

How About Drinks?

When it comes to healthy drinking, there is no alternative to water. Drinking plenty of water is important for all Parkinson’s patients, but it is even more important for those who frequently experience constipation. Water makes the stool bigger and softer and allows passing it easily through the intestine and removes it quickly from the body.

Besides constipation, drinking enough water can also have positive effects on the mood. Drinking at least 8-ounce glasses of water per day may help to improve the mood and decrease the feeling of anxiety and fatigue in Parkinson’s patients.

What About Other Drinks?

Parkinson’s patients should avoid drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. These products can negatively affect disease symptoms. Especially, diet soda could be very toxic. 

Moderate consumption of caffeine and alcohol shouldn’t cause any harm but their high amount may possibly actuate adverse effects in patients. Few clinical trials have reported that daily consumption of coffee (caffeinated) may improve some of Parkinson’s symptoms. Therefore, researchers often encourage the use of moderate amounts of coffee in Parkinson’s disease.

When to Eat?

Eating time is crucial because it helps Parkinson’s patients to manage their conditions more effectively. While most patients know when to eat, they often get confused about what to include in their specific meals.

Here, we simplify it for Parkinson’s patients:

BREAKFAST

  • Try to have your breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up.
  • Include foods that are high in fibers and antioxidants.
  • Try to avoid high-protein foods (like eggs) in your breakfast if you need to take your medicine in the morning.

LUNCH

  • It’s good to have your lunch before 1 pm.
  • Eat foods that are high in fibers and omega-3 in your lunch.
  • Do not hold off your lunch till 3 pm.

DINNER

  • Best to have your dinner before 7 pm.
  • Eat protein-containing foods (fish and meat) during the dinner
  • Avoid eating close to bedtime.
  • Do not drink coffee, tea, or alcohol at dinner as it can interfere with the quality of sleep.

IN-BETWEEN MEALS

Parkinson’s patients should also enjoy snacking between meals. They should eat healthy snack foods that are high in antioxidants, e.g. nuts, fruit slices, and eggs. Whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese or yogurt could also be good options. It’s also important to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.  

Impact of Diet on Parkinson’s Medications

Taking certain foods may interfere with the efficacy of drugs used in Parkinson’s disease. This is especially true for high-protein foods. Their consumption may affect the body’s ability to absorb levodopa, which is the most prescribed drug in Parkinson’s disease. It’s therefore good to take levodopa 30 – 60 minutes before eating the high-protein foods.

However, for some patients it causes nausea, and taking levodopa on an empty stomach might not be a good idea. In that case, taking levodopa with a small snack can enhance the absorption of the drug in the blood.

How About Using Supplements in Parkinson’s Disease?

Some patients prefer using food supplements. Nutrition supplements like coenzyme Q10fish oil, and vitamin D have been linked to reducing disease progression and some studies suggest that taking these supplements may benefit the patients. However, research in this direction is still limited and we can’t advise you to take any supplements at this stage. We recommend you discuss it with your healthcare provider first before considering any supplements.

Extra Tips for Healthy Diet

Here’re the 4 extra tips that help Parkinson’s patients to keep their healthy diet on track.

1. Consider LSVT Therapy

Parkinson’s patients have swallowing problems that don’t allow them to eat adequately. As a result, they lose their hunger and stop eating.

LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) is the most effective way of dealing with swallowing problems. This therapy was originally designed to address the speech problem in Parkinson’s disease. Later, it was observed that this could also help to improve the swallowing ability of patients.

For more details, please check out our blog post about LSVT therapy for Parkinson’s patients.

2. Do Regular Exercise

Parkinson’s patients may feel less hunger and because of that, they tend to lose body weight. This problem can be effectively dealt with by performing regular exercise.

There are many different types of exercise that Parkinson’s patients could perform to improve their eating behavior. Please visit our recent post about the health benefits of exercise in Parkinson’s disease for more detail.

3. Use Assistive Devices

Tremor in Parkinson’s disease limits the patient’s ability to eat and drink. They often spill their food and drink when using normal utensils and cups. And because of this problem, some patients lose their appetite and stop eating.

Adaptive utensils and cups make it easier to eat and drink, and so the patients are more likely to stay well-nourished.  There are plenty of adaptive aids available on the market at reasonable prices. If you find it difficult to choose the right aids, check our recommended list of best utensil sets and drinking cup for more detail.

4. Visit Your Doctor More Often

The last and the most important advice we could give is to see your doctor often. Talk to your doctor about your conditions and figure out whether you need to make some changes in your diet to improve your symptoms.


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. 

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