What Foods Should be Avoided with Parkinson's?

While there is no special “Parkinson’s diet”, doctors do know that well-balanced nutrition and the timing of meals can help manage some of the most common Parkinson's disease (PD) symptoms. The challenge is that when it comes to eating and PD, what works for one person may not work for another. Further, dietary tricks that work in the early stages of the disease may not be effective in later stages.

However, there are some basic guidelines for foods to avoid with Parkinson’s.

Foods to avoid when constipated

Constipation is a common problem for people with Parkinson’s disease, often due to decreased gastric motility, a slowing of the natural movement of food from the stomach into the intestines.1,3

Foods that may make constipation worse include low-fiber choices such as:

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  • white rice
  • white bread
  • semolina pasta
  • highly processed foods, such as frozen pizza and fast food
  • bananas
  • persimmons
  • red meat, such as beef, hot dogs, bacon, or sausage

Beverages to avoid include anything with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, or sodas. Alcohol is not recommended because it dehydrates your body, which can make constipation worse.

By eating more fruits with the peel on, vegetables, beans, and whole grains can help you reach the recommended 30-35 grams of dietary fiber per day.2

Foods to avoid when nauseous

Nausea is a common side effect of some Parkinson's medications, namely Levodopa medications, such as Sinemet®, carbidopa/levodopa extended-release capsules (Rytary®) or carbidopa/levodopa/entacapone (Stalevo®). These medicines are best absorbed by the body when taken on an empty stomach, but that tends to make nausea worse.

Doctors often recommend taking these drugs either a half hour before a meal or an hour or more after eating. This helps balance the need to reduce nausea by making sure the drug is metabolized at an optimal level. Some people also find that it helps to eat a few crackers or a piece of bread before taking their drugs.

Staying hydrated

Drinking plenty of water each day can help with constipation and can also help the body break down and absorb PD medications. Staying hydrated also helps manage blood pressure. Hydration is another reason it’s important to avoid caffeinated beverages, hot liquids, and alcohol, which all encourage dehydration and low blood pressure, which also can be an issue in PD.

Other tips about foods to avoid with Parkinson's

Finding a balance with protein

Finding the right balance of how much protein to eat can be difficult for people with PD. You need protein as part of a balanced diet, but too much protein can interfere with the absorption of commonly prescribed drugs such as Levodopa (Sinemet), especially in the later stages of the disease.

Some doctors recommend concentrating your intake of meat, fish, and cheese to dinnertime and focusing on eating carbohydrates and vegetables during the day. Others may find that it works better to divide their protein evenly among smaller meals throughout the day.1,2,3

Limiting fermented foods

People who take MAO-B inhibitors (rasagiline or selegiline) should be careful of how much they eat of foods high in tyramine. MAO-B inhibitors increase tyramine, and the combination could elevate blood pressure. Foods in this category include:

  • Cured, fermented or air-dried meats and fish
  • Aged cheeses
  • Fermented cabbage such as sauerkraut and kimchi
  • Soybean products, including soy sauce and edamame
  • Red wine and tap beer1

Because the nutritional advice for what to eat, or avoid, with Parkinson’s can be so contradictory and confusing, it’s wise to consult your doctor or a dietitian who specializes in helping those with PD. The goal is to manage your symptoms while finding the right combination of foods that give you nourishment, enjoyment, and help you manage your symptoms.

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