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Which Foods Are Good & Which Foods Should Be Avoided with Parkinson's?

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD), you may have questions about dietary changes. You may want to know what foods are good to eat or what foods should be avoided with Parkinson's. You may wonder if certain foods interact with PD medications. Doctors and scientists have some dietary recommendations for people with PD.

Which foods are good for Parkinson's?

For people with and without PD, it is very important to get a balanced diet. You should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and limit your sugar intake.1,2 You may want to eat food rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants may protect cells from damage.1,2 Foods that are rich in vitamin C, E, A and beta-carotene all fall in this category.

  • Constipation: Many people with PD suffer from constipation. Foods that have plenty of fiber can help ease constipation symptoms. Whole fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains all are foods that are good sources of fiber. Drinking more fluids (especially water) may also help maintain regularity.1
  • Blood pressure: You should talk to your doctor about your blood pressure. If it is high, you should avoid foods that have a lot of sodium in them. If your blood pressure is low, you may want to eat more sodium-rich foods. It is important to talk to your doctor before you change your sodium intake. Make sure your kidneys are working well before you increase your sodium intake. Too much salt can hurt kidneys that are functioning poorly.1,2
  • Swallowing problems: If you are having problems swallowing, you should let your doctor know. Foods that are sour, seasoned, or carbonated may help you to make more saliva. This may help you swallow better. You may need to eat softer foods or take smaller bites. Some people benefit from smaller, more frequent meals.1,2
  • Muscle cramping: If you are having a problem with muscle cramping, you may benefit from drinking tonic water. Tonic water contains quinine which can help with cramping. Some people say that pickle juice or vinegar can help their cramping. Make sure you are drinking enough water. Staying hydrated helps to reduce muscle cramps.1

Which foods should be avoided with Parkinson's?

People with PD may have problems with their sense of balance. Alcohol may further impair balance. It is important for people with PD to make smart decisions about drinking alcohol.3 People with mild PD may be able to drink small amounts of alcohol in a social setting. People with more severe PD should be cautious about their alcohol intake.

  • Protein: People with PD who take levodopa may want to limit their protein intake. Protein can bind to levodopa. This may make the medication not work like it is supposed to. Some people find that eating protein in the evening can help with this. Some people never have issues with levodopa and protein. They don’t have to adjust their diet.1,3
  • Iron supplements: People taking levodopa may want to avoid iron supplements. Iron can interact with levodopa. This may lead to not getting enough medication. If you need to take iron for another condition, you should talk to your doctor.3
  • Tyramine: Tyramine is a part of an amino acid. It can interfere with a class of medications called MAO-B inhibitors when taken in large amounts. This interaction can cause severe high blood pressure. It is unusual for any food to have high levels of tyramine. If you take an MAO-B inhibitor, you should talk to your doctor about limiting your intake of aged cheeses, cured meats, and beer on tap.1,3

Talk to your doctor

You should always talk to your doctor before you make any drastic dietary changes. Diet may affect PD, but it may also affect other conditions. You should talk to all your specialists to see if a diet change is a correct step.

Most doctors agree that eating more fruits and vegetables, eating less fat and sugar, and avoiding processed foods is a healthy choice.1,2 Doctors will encourage you to keep a healthy weight that is not too heavy or thin. They can also refer you to a registered dietician who can help you make the best choices for your specific health needs.

Has changing your dietary habits helped your Parkinson's symptoms?

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