This past weekend I visited with a friend who has Parkinson’s disease (PD). We were talking about some of the taste changes she was experiencing. I was so inspired by her willingness to try new foods and food pairings in order to continue to enjoy food and mealtime. If you would like to learn more about flavor, check out one of my past posts here. Our conversation, also reminded me that I should share more about the relationship of food to some of the common PD meds and share a great video about PD and exercise.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the loss of brain cells that control movement. Clinical features of PD are often given the acronym TRAP (tremors, rigidity, akinesia or loss of motor function, and postural instability). Unfortunately, PD gets worse with age. Not only does Parkinson’s affect our coordination during daily activities like meals, but it can also result in a loss of taste & smell as well as swallowing difficulties. 1,2 But don’t feel trapped! Here are some helpful tips to manage Parkinson’s:
* Make sure to eat a well-balanced diet, high in fiber and fluids to prevent constipation and lots of calcium, which helps transmit nerve impulses in the brain. Examples of foods high in fiber would be: bran, whole wheat, or whole grain items, dried fruit, fruit with peels, broccoli, beans, etc. Foods with a lot of calcium include: cheese, tofu, almonds, green leafy vegetables, yogurt, milk, and other dairy products.
* If you are taking L-dopa, do not take your multivitamin or consume fava beans, aspartame (artificial sweetener in soft drinks, some chewing gums, or non-fat diet foods) or a lot of protein with L-dopa, as these can negatively interfere with L-dopa’s targeted effects. Instead, make your evening meals higher in protein than your morning meals.
* Liquid supplementation of CoQ10 may slow the progression of Parkinson’s. 60-1200 milligrams (mg)/day in divided doses is recommended. CoQ10 is best absorbed when taken with a meal that contains fat and perhaps during the evening hours. Make sure though to talk to your physician before taking these supplements, especially if you are on Warfarin, blood pressure medications, or thyroid or antiviral drugs. 3
* Avoid supplements containing greater than 100% of the daily value for pyridoxine, iron, and/or magnesium. 4
Check out this neatly organized handout for further information on managing Parkinson’s and some helpful nutrition tips:
Also, check out this video on how exercise can help with Parkinson’s:
A special thanks goes to my co-author, Lauren Elder.