The Parkinson’s diet

Those suffering from Parkinson’s disease should not follow specific dietary patterns, but be careful to limit their intake of animal protein.

A healthy, balanced diet, commensurate with individual caloric and nutritional needs is the indispensable premise for the well-being of anyone at any age, but it becomes even more important in the presence of chronic diseases that impose specific demands on the body.

In the case of Parkinson’s disease, nutrition becomes a real component of therapy and knowing how to structure it appropriately can help improve the effectiveness of pharmacological treatments and reduce some discomfort.

Competing proteins and drugs

Proteins, animal and vegetable, are a valuable macronutrient because the amino acids they contain are necessary for the renewal of cells and tissues, for the production of hormones and for the maintenance of muscle mass. In general, for an adult person the recommendation is to take about 1 g per kg of body weight per day, so about 50-70 grams.

Those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, however, must eat protein foods with some caution because some of the amino acids they contain can interfere with intestinal absorption and the therapeutic action of levodopa, an indispensable active ingredient of anti-Parkinson’s treatment.

To create problems are, in particular, the “aromatic” amino acids (so defined as they are characterized by the presence of a ring-shaped component in their molecule), namely phenylalanine, isoleucine, leucine, tyrosine, tryptophan and valine.

These amino acids are mainly contained in proteins of animal origin, namely red and white meat, fish, eggs and dairy products: all foods that will therefore be consumed in small quantities and replaced as much as possible with vegetable protein sources (in particular, legumes such as peas, lentils and soy), however to be taken in moderation.

It should be noted that, with the exception of tyrosine, all the aromatic amino acids mentioned are “essential”, in the sense that the body needs them, but is not able to produce them independently from other compounds: even in the presence of Parkinson’s disease, therefore, their daily intake through nutrition must be ensured, albeit in reduced doses and preferably concentrating it in the evening meal.

In general, for a person with Parkinson’s it is considered adequate a diet consisting of 12-15% protein, 25-30% fat (preferably vegetable oils), 55-60% carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, cereals, biscuits, etc.). In addition to the quality of the nutrients taken, it is important to pay attention to the quantity, in order to avoid situations of both overweight / obesity and underweight.

Overweight and obesity, favored by the tendency to lower possibility of physical exercise of the person with Parkinson’s disease, should be avoided because they increase cardiovascular risk and make it even more difficult to move and maintain autonomy. Underweight, on the other hand, is harmful because it exposes you to a high risk of organic wasting and loss of muscle and bone mass, particularly unfavorable in old age.

Fibers: better those of fruit

A typical problem of Parkinson’s disease concerns constipation, due in part to the pathology itself and in part to the sedentary tendency that follows. To counteract it, the best strategy is to focus on the intake of liquids in abundance (water, vegetable broths, herbal teas, natural fruit juices, etc.), up to 1.5-2 liters per day, and vegetable fibers, through the regular consumption of 4-6 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

Ideally, fruit should be eaten at breakfast, mid-morning and afternoon snacks and a portion of cooked or raw vegetables (according to preferences and chewing/swallowing possibilities) should always be provided for both lunch and dinner.

Instead, the use of laxatives should be avoided as much as possible, which interfere with the intestinal absorption of levodopa and can create problems in the elderly, particularly prone and sensitive to dehydration and hydroelectrolyte imbalances.

Among the drinks, you can also include tea (little or not at all sweetened) and 1-2 coffees a day; those who are used to drinking wine or beer can continue to do so even after the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, but without exceeding, ideally limiting themselves to 1-2 glasses a day, during meals.

Another useful dietary precaution concerns the consistency of food. Especially in the more advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease, swallowing properly can become a problem. To make the operation easier and avoid annoying “bites sideways” it is advisable to choose soft and moist foods, easy to chew and swallow, and reserve the necessary time and calm for meals.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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