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By June Brown

Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease every year. Parkinson’s is a disease characterized by nerve damage in the brain, with common symptoms including tremors, loss of balance, and restlessness. Although Parkinson’s can’t be cured, there are many options for treatment to reduce symptoms, including exercise. There are also many things a patient can do to stay strong and improve their general well being, such as following a healthy diet.

Although people with Parkinson’s might want to reach for all the nutritious foods they can to boost their health, it’s important not to choose foods that can interfere with their medication or exacerbate symptoms of the disease. 

Avoid Protein When Taking Levodopa 

Levodopa is the most common drug for Parkinson’s disease. It’s essentially a protein that gets transferred into dopamine in the body. Dopamine is a brain chemical that’s not at sufficient levels in the brains of people with Parkinson’s. More dopamine can decrease symptoms of the disease. However, since Levodopa is a protein, patients should avoid eating too much protein in their food as this can prevent the drug’s absorption. 

Foods To Treat Health Issues That Parkinson’s Creates 

There are some common health issues that Parkinson’s sufferers experience, such as constipation. Parkinson’s can cause deterioration of the nerves in the GI tract, causing stools to move slowly, resulting in constipation. Boosting water and fiber intake is therefore important to keep one regular. Great fiber sources include fruits, vegetables, and cereals. Here are other health problems that could be experienced, and how to deal with them: 

  • Low blood pressure. This is a Parkinson’s symptom, but also a side-effect of some medicines. It’s important to boost salt and water intake to increase blood pressure, but this shouldn’t be done without first consulting a doctor. Eating small, healthy meals throughout the day is another tip to keep blood pressure at a healthy level.
  • Nausea. Some people with Parkinson’s disease have difficulty swallowing or chewing. Medications can exacerbate the situation, causing nausea or uneasiness. It’s important to follow some food tips to decrease Parkinson’s symptoms that can make eating a nightmare. Drinking liquids between bites of food helps to prevent the sensation that food is stuck in the throat. Avoiding fried foods can prevent nausea, while not mixing hot and cold foods in the same meal will prevent stomach upset as well as nausea.
  • Depression. This can be a side-effect of medication, but it’s also a symptom of Parkinson’s disease itself. In a placebo-controlled pilot study of omega-3 supplementation for Parkinson’s disease, it was found that depression was decreased in Parkinson’s patients when they were given an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Great omega-3 food sources include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. By ensuring these feature in one’s regular diet, feelings of depression can be kept at bay. 

By staying in tune with one's body and choosing the right foods to ease symptoms, people with Parkinson's disease can feel better physically and have more energy on a daily basis. 

Diet always plays an important role in the management of disease, including Parkinson’s. By following a healthy eating plan, being mindful of medications, and choosing foods that fight symptoms, people with Parkinson’s can better manage the disease and maintain a higher quality of life. 

At Saint Simeon's, we are proud to be the first senior community in Oklahoma to offer Parkinson's care. Our dining services, provided by Morrison Community Living, is happy to provide dietary options that are conducive to helping our Residents better manage Parkinson's disease.

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