The best diet for Parkinson's disease is similar to the best diet for most people, which includes eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, preferring fish and dairy protein to meat, and eating whole grain foods. No specific diet has consistently been recommended for those with Parkinson's disease. That said, people with Parkinson's disease may benefit from some dietary changes.
Parkinson's disease is caused by increasing damage to the brains cells that produce dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that is necessary for making smooth, controlled movements, among other things. The decrease in dopamine results the most familiar symptoms of Parkinson's disease, including tremors and a shuffling gait. The dopamine deficit at the root of Parkinson's disease cannot be treated by diet alone. Eating healthy foods, though, along with beneficial fats from nuts and legumes, will supply adequate nutrition.
The risk of developing Parkinson's disease has been linked to insufficient vitamin D intake. Raising vitamin D intake in a diet for Parkinson's disease probably won't have a therapeutic effect, but it may make bones healthier. People with Parkinson's disease seem to be at more risk for osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weaker and more prone to breaking. Vitamin D can be obtained in supplements containing 400-1,000 international units (IUs) of this vitamin. Good food sources of Vitamin D include milk and fatty fish like salmon and sardines.
People with Parkinson's are often prescribed l-dopa, a prescription drug that can raise dopamine levels in the brain. One strategy in a diet for Parkinson's disease includes eating very little protein at breakfast and lunch, and getting most dietary protein at dinner. This strategy seems to increase the effectiveness of the l-dopa drug. As with other broad dietary changes, this should be done in consultation with a qualified dietitian to ensure the diet provides enough protein as well as overall nutrition.
Those with Parkinson's disease can become constipated more easily than the general population. Drinking plenty of water and eating more fiber are good strategies for a diet for Parkinson's disease, especially one aimed at relieving constipation. Fiber intake can be raised by eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, or by taking a fiber supplement.
Some supplements, including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, have been studied or recommended as additions to a diet for Parkinson's disease. It is important to consult a doctor before taking any new supplements, as they may interfere with medications. Some supplementary vitamins have been found to directly interfere with certain medications often used to treat Parkinson's disease. Such problems are less common when nutrition comes from a healthy diet.