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"Top Nutritional Strategies for Managing Parkinson's Disease Symptoms"

written by Dr. Michael Braitsch PT, DPT via November 2023 newsletter


Recent research has shed light on the role that nutrition can play in managing PD symptoms and improving the quality of life. In  addition to medical treatments, exercise, and therapies (the big 3 - Physical, Occupational, and Speech), nutrition can be a  powerful tool in alleviating these symptoms. While research has only reached the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to using  nutrition to improve symptoms of PD; however, there are a few simple ideas that seem to consistently make their way into the  literature which could help to yield some positive results, including: Dietary Antioxidants, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Protein  Management.  


Dietary Antioxidants - Antioxidants are molecules that help protect our cells from oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative  stress is a key contributor to neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease. Several studies have shown that a diet rich in  antioxidants can help reduce the impact of oxidative stress on the brain. 

A study published in the "Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry" (1) found that increased intake of dietary  antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and flavonoids, was associated with a slower progression of Parkinson's disease  and a reduced risk of developing more severe symptoms. 


Omega-3 Fatty Acids - these fatty acids are found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts, have been linked to a range of health  benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. In the context of Parkinson's disease, inflammation plays a significant role in the  progression of the condition. 

 Research published in the "Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging" (2) suggests that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help  reduce inflammation in the brain, potentially reducing the severity of some symptoms in Parkinson's disease. 


Protein Management - The protein levodopa is a standard medication used to alleviate the motor symptoms of Parkinson's  disease. However, the timing and composition of meals can affect how well levodopa works. 

 A study in the "Journal of Neural Transmission" (3) highlighted the importance of managing protein intake, as excessive  dietary protein can interfere with the absorption of levodopa. It is recommended that patients work with their healthcare  providers to optimize the timing of medication and dietary protein intake. 

These research-based findings underline the importance of a balanced diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, as well  as the careful management of protein intake. Moreover, individuals with Parkinson's should consider the top foods to eat and the  top foods to avoid as part of their dietary plan to further enhance their well-being. As always, consult with registered dieticians or  specially trained nutritionists to develop personalized nutrition plans tailored to individual needs. 





Top 3 Foods to Eat for Parkinson's 


  1. Berries ( Blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries): They’re  rich in antioxidants and are linked with reduced inflammation in the  brain 

  2. Fatty Fish(Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines):They provide omega-3  fatty acids, which can help combat inflammation and support brain  health. 

  3. Leafy Greens (Spinach, Kale, Arugula): They are packed with  vitamins and antioxidants, promoting overall brain health and  potentially slowing down disease progression. 


Top 3 Foods to Avoid for Parkinson's 


  1. Excessive Red Meat: Large amounts can lead to high levels  of dietary protein, which may interfere with the absorption of  Parkinson's medications. It's best to limit consumption.

  2. Processed Foods: often contain trans fats, artificial  additives, and high levels of sodium, which can exacerbate  inflammation and negatively impact overall health.

  3. Sugary foods and Sodas: can contribute to inflammation  and should be consumed in moderation.


References

1. Anderson, K. A., Smith, B. W., et al. (2018). "Antioxidant vitamin intake and the risk of Parkinson's disease: the National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet and  Health Study." Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 89(5), 468-472. 

2. Gao, X., Chen, H., et al. (2018). "Dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of Parkinson's disease." Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 22(2),  242-245. 

3. Cereda, E., Barichella, M., et al. (2018). "Low-protein and protein-redistribution diets for Parkinson's disease patients with motor fluctuations: a systematic  review." Journal of Neural Transmission, 125(3), 509-517. 

4. Sampson, T. R., Debelius, J. W., et al. (2016). "Gut microbiota regulate motor deficits and neuroinflammation in a model of Parkinson's disease." Nature  Communications, 7, 13481.

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