Diet and Nutrition

While there is no one specific diet for Parkinson’s, what you eat and when can affect your medications and symptoms. This updated guide on Diet and Parkinson’s from our partners at The Michael J. Fox Foundation explores these topics as well as research on popular regimens (such as the ketogenic and Mediterranean diets) and Parkinson’s. 

Is there a special diet for people with Parkinson's disease? 

Nutrition is particularly important in Parkinson’s (PD) for many reasons; the disorder itself often slows transition through the gut and affecting absorption of medications and nutrients. Patients with PD may have other medical conditions that further put them at risk of malnutrition. Poor nutrition can worsen other conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, which in turn can worsen function in PD. In addition, good nutrition promotes overall brain health and may
have some protective benefit with regard to conditions such as strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.

As is true for many aspects of Parkinson’s disease, each person is a little different. You may need to experiment to see what is most effective for you. Generally speaking, taking your levodopa 20-30 minutes prior to eating, or an hour after the completion of a meal, increases its efficacy because your stomach is empty and the drug reaches the first part of the intestine where it is absorbed in a faster manner. However, some medications can cause nausea and a small snack with the medication may be necessary.

Different food causes the stomach to empty at different rates, which means that the time taken for levodopa to get from the stomach to the part of the gut where it is absorbed will vary as well.
Another factor leading to unpredictable motor fluctuations is that the effect of the medication on symptoms may not correspond to the amount of levodopa in the bloodstream. This is because of the competitive effect of amino acids (found in protein) which are also in the blood.

Protein consumption and Parkinson's disease

It is also important to know that because levodopa is an amino acid, it competes for absorption with other proteins: Eating a very proteinic meal would reduce the likelihood of efficiently absorbing levodopa. That’s why it is better to eat carbohydrates and vegetables at lunch and leave meat, cheese and fish for nighttime. Good news: The dopamine-agonists (pramipexol and ropinirole, for example) do not need this dietetic adjustment! Finally, those who take the MAO-B inhibitors (rasagiline or selegiline) should eat with moderation (but not eliminate) foods that contain high concentrations of tyramine such as air-dried and fermented meats or fish, aged cheeses, most soybean products, yeast extracts, red wine, beer, and sauerkraut.

How can I adjust my diet to maintain my bowel regularity?

Constipation might be a taboo subject, but it is fairly common in Parkinson’s disease. Once again, it can be different for each person, so you may need to try several things. In addition to a well-balanced diet, try increasing your fiber intake. A couple of teaspoons of flax seed eaten with foods that contain probiotics (like yogurt) can be helpful in maintaining regularity. If you experience persistent constipation, consult your specialist for help.

What about alcoholic beverages with meals?

It is best to consult your specialist about drinking alcoholic beverages. Alcohol may interfere with some of the medications, or make you sleepier, but each patient reacts differently.

Read more articles on the importance of diet in Parkinson’s