Foods that Can Help Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Every year, approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and more than 25,000 Michiganders are currently living with the neurodegenerative disorder.

Parkinson’s disease affects the brain’s ability to control movement. It can make it difficult to swallow, which may result in losing weight and suffering from malnutrition.

However, there are some dietary changes people with Parkinson’s can make to get optimal nutrition and even reduce some symptoms. Here are some key dietary categories to keep in mind.

Avoid food fads, added sugar and alcohol

It is very important for those affected by the disease to avoid popular fad diets and eat foods from all food groups to maintain proper nutrition. Limiting added sugar and alcohol intake is also advised. Consuming lots of sugar doesn’t offer many nutrients and can lead to tooth decay. Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories and can increase the chance of falls.

Increase antioxidants

Doctors recommend eating foods that are high in antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress. Antioxidants can help your body defend itself from free radicals (possibly harmful molecules) that could cause damage in your body if they accumulate. Some foods to indulge in include:

  • Tree nuts
  • Blackberries, blueberries, goji berries, cranberries, elderberries, prunes, raspberries, strawberries, apples, cherries, plums
  • Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, artichokes
  • Spinach, kale
  • Potatoes
  • Red beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans

Eat healthy fats

To prevent some of the secondary complications of Parkinson’s, many doctors recommend consuming plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are thought to improve cognitive function. They can also help prevent depression and anxiety, two risks associated with Parkinson’s. Some foods that provide omega-3s are:

  • Salmon, sardines, mackerel
  • Flaxseeds (choose ground flaxseed for your body to gain the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Avocado
  • Brussels sprouts

Stay hydrated

Avoiding dehydration is important because it can lead to dizziness and lack of coordination. Those symptoms and their consequences can be dangerous for people with Parkinson’s, already at an increased risk for falls. Therefore, maintaining and keeping up with hydration is crucial.

Drinking at least six glasses of water each day will help you digest your foods properly. In general, strive to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day or strive for about 64 ounces per day along with fruits and vegetables.

If drinking water leads to spending more time in the bathroom than you’d like, you can substitute water with foods that have a high-liquid content. Examples of these include fruits like watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, and berries – they are all made up of more than 90 percent water.

Supplement for strength

Another major and common concern for people with Parkinson’s is bone thinning. Along with finding exercise you can safely do to build bone density, some helpful supplements to keep your bones strong are calcium, vitamins D and K. In addition to supplements, there are plenty of foods packed with both vitamins. For vitamin D, incorporate foods like beef, chicken and fatty fish and even better, enjoy some time outside, where your body can naturally produce vitamin D in your body. Or, if you enjoy seafood, include salmon, shrimp and mackerel. And with vitamin K, try eating kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other dark, leafy greens.

Talk to your doctor about food and medication interactions

It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about additional foods you should avoid due to potential interactions with medications you might be prescribed. It’s also important to talk to your doctor before starting any additional supplementation for the same reason. Some foods and supplements can interfere with medication, making this conversation an important one to have to ensure your medication is working effectively to manage your symptoms.

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Photo credit: ansonmiao

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