Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder. The first signs are often problems with movement, although many individuals notice that their handwriting may be getting smaller or voice softer many years before their diagnosis. Swallowing is also a key issue for many individuals as well as constipation.
In Parkinson’s Disease, cells in the substantia nigra start to die. This is where dopamine is produced. This particular neurotransmitter helps coordinate bodily muscle movements; when the levels of dopamine are significantly reduced, symptoms start to appear.
No one knows exactly why you develop Parkinson’s Disease, although it is normally a combination of the following factors: genetics, environmental factors (such as physical trauma and toxin exposure), compromised detoxification, inflammation and cellular stress.
Can Nutrition Help Parkinson’s disease?
Absolutely – and this is because nutrition can help support the cellular and physiological pathways that are involved in Parkinson’s Disease.
- For example, dopamine is made from the protein building block – tyrosine- which is an amino acid. The same pathway is also involved in making thyroid hormones. Hence, it is important to ensure you are obtaining sufficient protein in your diet and to assess thyroid function when you have Parkinson’s Disease.
- Nutrient co-factors (vitamins and minerals) are required for every stage of dopamine production. Dopamine is also converted into adrenaline in the body, which helps you manage stress. This conversion is also dependent on certain vitamin and mineral coenzymes copper and vitamin C as well as the enzyme dopamine β hydroxylase.
- As L-dopa is absorbed in the same part of your digestive tract as protein in food, the timing of taking your medication needs to be monitored to maximum absorption and to prevent you from taking too much medication.
As a result, combining industry-leading dietary and nutritional assessment, alongside functional testing, to establish your individual requirements for key nutrients, is an essential part of optimising your health and neurological function. Many individuals are deficient in vital nutrients for cellular health, such as B vitamins required for energy production and neurological functioning. Correcting these deficiencies can help your quality of life and with your symptoms.
What should someone with Parkinson’s disease eat?
As dopamine is made from protein, it is essential to obtain adequate protein from the following foods: fish, eggs, chicken, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Meal ideas for Parkinson’s patients
Below is a suggested diet plan, however, your diet should be tailored to your specific requirements, as there are certain dietary changes that are important to implement step by step, as well as to take into account your specific symptoms, such as constipation or swallowing issues.
Copyright 2021 Lucille Leader and Melody Mackeown
What foods should Parkinson’s patients avoid?
Some individuals benefit greatly from cutting out dairy and gluten, especially where constipation is an issue. As foods containing sugars (e.g. cakes, pastries and white refined carbohydrates such as white bread) can contribute to inflammation in the body and compete for intracellular Vitamin C absorption, they should also be avoided.
Foods to avoid with carbidopa/levodopa
As L-dopa is absorbed in the same part of your digestive tract as protein in food, taking your L-dopa medication (e.g. Sinemet or Madopar) at the same time as eating protein (meat, fish, cheese, beans or nuts) may mean less medication is absorbed.
When this happens, your medication won’t work as well as it could e.g. — it doesn’t kick in as quickly or could wear off more rapidly than it would otherwise.
Hence, it is important to seek advice on how best to time your medication around protein in your diet so that you take the most effective dose for your requirements and to avoid you taking too much medication.
Nutrition Guidelines for Parkinson’s Disease
It is always important to receive tailored and guided advice to get the best results.
Three general and helpful nutrition guidelines include:
- Obtain adequate amounts of protein in your diet: fish, eggs, chicken, nuts, seeds, legumes
- Increasing vegetable intake, as they are good sources of fibre and water (especially, to keep your bowel movements regular) and vitamins and minerals essential for enzymes to work in your body to make as much of your own dopamine as possible
- Eating as much organic food as possible (as this lowers exposure to pesticides and herbicides)
What supplements are good for Parkinson’s?
There are many supplements that support someone with Parkinson’s Disease, such as B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C. It is always best to test and not guess. As the largest functional nutrition clinic in Europe, we can organise this for you in a relaxed and caring environment.
Changing your diet can be challenging but doesn’t have to be, especially if you work alongside an experienced functional nutritionist who can help you.
Working with a functional nutrition practitioner can help:
- Optimise your diet and nutrient status and will take into account any other health challenges you may have.
- Support dopamine production by assessing your diet and ensuring you take sufficient vitamin and mineral co-factors
- Take into account drug-nutrient interactions (and timing of your medication) and help your medication work better for you and to reduce side-effects
- Make referrals to other health care professionals, such as osteopaths and speech therapists, if indicated
The London Clinic of Nutrition is an award-winning nutrition and functional medicine clinic, supporting clients with a range of health conditions and restoring them back to optimal health. We have helped people with many health conditions such as stress and fatigue, autoimmune and neurological disorders, digestive health, fertility, thyroid health, PCOS, weight management and hormone imbalances.
If you would like to speak to a member of the team, the quickest and easiest way is to call us on 020 3332 0030.
Some useful resources include:
- Diet & Nutrition | Parkinson’s Foundation
- Nutritional Support for Parkinson’s Disease | Clinical Education
- Parkinson’s Disease Top Tips to Optimize Function 2018 Revised Edition Paperback by Geoffrey Leader and Lucille Leader (can be bought on Amazon)
- Parkinson’s Disease: How to Optimise ON-OFF Periods during L-dopa Therapy by Geoffrey Leader and Lucille Leader (can be bought on Amazon)
- Nutrition and Lifestyle Interventions for Managing Parkinson’s Disease: A Narrative Review
Author Melody Mackeown
Melody Mackeown is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach with a degree in Psychology and a Masters degree in Nutrition. Melody has a long-standing interest in digestive health, autoimmune conditions, cognitive and neurological health as well as women’s health (including fertility and hormonal disorders). Melody adopts a holistic (mind and body) approach to help clients, to enable them to restore their health to their maximum potential and has seen many people achieve significant improvements in their health and quality of life. She keeps up to date with the latest research and emerging developments in evidence-based nutrition and scientific knowledge, including the latest laboratory testing available for her clients.