There is no specific diet for Parkinson’s disease. However, when you eat a nutritious, healthy diet, your body performs better. Good food gives you more energy, and helps ensure that your medications, exercise and other aspects of your Parkinson’s treatment plan work optimally. Also, maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of symptom management.
There are a few ways in which diet and nutrition can have a positive (or negative) impact on people with Parkinson’s disease. Foods which are rich in antioxidants are strongly recommended to improve overall brain health. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and dark chocolate (chocolate with a high percentage of cacao), are foods which have abundant antioxidants. You can also find them in beverages like red wine, tea and coffee.
On the other hand, dairy has been linked to Parkinson’s risk, so it may be best to avoid or cut back on dairy products. If so, consider increasing your vitamin D, which helps keep your bones strong. Aside from milk, it can be found in fatty fish, egg yolks, and your body can even absorb it from sunshine - so consider going for a brisk walk outdoors when you can.
People with Parkinson’s have some specific health challenges that can be impacted by their diet. For example, constipation can be a problem. To address it, be sure to add high-fiber foods like whole fruits and veggies, whole grains, and cooked dried beans and legumes. Staying hydrated is another way to avoid constipation. For some people, warm liquids can stimulate bowel movements. Swallowing can be difficult for some people, so it might be helpful to include lots of soft foods. Try taking smaller bites at a slower pace. Seasoned, sour and carbonated foods and beverages can sometimes stimulate the swallowing reflex.
Another common diet problem is being too tired to eat, especially later in the day. Make sure you keep foods which are easy to prepare on hand, as well as nutritious snacks. It can also help to eat your main meal earlier in the day, when your energy level is higher. Exercise can also help stimulate hunger.
Muscle cramps are another symptom of Parkinson’s which can be affected by diet. As with other issues, staying hydrated will help. In addition, consuming turmeric (found in yellow mustard and some curries), or drinking tonic water, salt water, vinegar or pickle juice can help prevent or relieve muscle cramps.
Interactions with Parkinson’s medications can also be a diet consideration. Levidopa is recommended to be taken on an empty stomach, however, it can also cause nausea. Some medications can make you thirsty. Talk with your doctor about how you can time your meals, and what you eat, so that your medications can be as effective as possible.