The Parkinson Alliance Blog

Parkinson’s & Nutrition

By Margaret Tuchman, President of The Parkinson Alliance and a person with Parkinson’s who also had DBS surgery.

Nutrition-Cover

We recently asked persons with Parkinson’s (PWP) to take our survey entitled, Nutrition in Parkinson’s Disease: A Closer Look from the Patient’s Perspective.  Our goal was to find out what PWP think about how nutrition affects their PD and what, if anything, they do about their daily nutrition. Nearly 1,500 PWP participated in the survey and many also submitted comments. The survey report is now available, and it clearly shows that the vast majority of PWP believe that diet and nutrition are important in managing their PD symptoms.

“My husband has eaten healthy all of his adult life. I think it makes a real difference in the slow progression of his PD. … Doctors need to refer PD patients to Registered Dietitians as soon as they are diagnosed and have regular check-ins every year or so. Screening for malnutrition and medication interactions is especially important. Registered Dietitians are very underutilized in the care of people with PD.”

Interesting to note, however, is that almost half of the survey participants perceive themselves as not eating healthy most of the time.  Additionally, very few PWP have been educated about nutrition or recommended to follow a specific diet.  One participant commented, “I desperately need help with my daily meals. I went to a nutritionist who gave me general recommendations; i.e., eat more fish, nuts. … But I need some simple, practical, and everyday recommendations.”  While I responded directly to this individual, I also want to share that information here.  Kathryn Holden, MS, RD, is a Gerontological Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian who also helped design our survey and review our manuscript.  She wrote a book called Nutrition Matters. The 72 page book is available as a free download from the National Parkinson Foundation website here. It includes recipes, like blackberry peach cooler and skillet breakfast solo, suggested meal and snack plans, and other very useful information.

The survey also addresses vitamins and supplements. For example, our survey reports that taking the spice turmeric and drinking tonic water can help to ease muscle cramping. Another participant told us that her doctor attributed her pain and frequent falls to her Parkinson’s. However, because she was persistent in asking questions and had more testing, she eventually learned that she had low potassium and vitamin B levels.  She wrote, “Since addressing that with supplements, my life changed. … Supplements made a difference.”

While not every PWP believes a nutritious diet will have any affect on PD, the evidence and comments we received state otherwise. “When I eat healthy, I feel so much better and my symptoms are so much better.”

There is a bidirectional relationship between nutrition in Parkinson’s. Nutrition can impact the metabolism of medications used to treat PD, and PD symptoms and/or medications can impact your nutrition and dietary habits. Our survey report provides information on how to get a holistic and united approach to addressing your individual nutritional needs as it relates to your Parkinson’s. I encourage you to download and read it. Talk to your doctors and caregivers about this matter.  While good nutrition cannot cure PD, it can help towards a better quality of life.

Download the free PDF from our DBS4PD.org website here.

4 Responses to “Parkinson’s & Nutrition”

  1. N. McClain says:

    I completely agree with nutrition and supplements being a key to health while dealing with Parkinson’s. I know when I tend to go off the clean healthy food towards less nutritious snacks and meals that I am headed down a rabbit hole, so to speak. Supplements also replace medications which carry side effects. I appreciate the suggestions.

  2. Bob Jeans says:

    I have had PD for over 20 years. Without all the vitamins and good foods, I would not be functioning. I am very careful what I eat and thanks to Dr David Perlmutter, I use glutathione daily and lots of other nutritional products. I just got through finishing our home business taxes, thanks to our laptop, exercise regularly. I have found the side effects of the PD drugs can be helped with nutrition rather than more drugs. Swallowing and balance are pretty bad because of the advanced PD, but my health is good, my mind clear, and my wife and I are happy. We choose to be happy rather than depressed.

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