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How can I take advantage of better nutrition to improve my Parkinson’s condition?

5 March 2020

To celebrate Nutrition Month, Parkinson Québec is launching a series of articles on this important subject that can influence the progression of the disease. The advice provided in this article is based on the most recent research. However, don’t try to change your eating habits all at once. You may become discouraged and possibly interfere with your medication treatment. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist first.


1. Coloured vegetables and fruit


The colouring of fruits and vegetables is associated with the presence of coloured pigments, flavonoids. It is an important source of antioxidants from the diet.

In Parkinson’s disease, dopaminergic neurons gradually die. This cellular mortality is partly explained by oxidative stress.
What is it all about? It’s a process similar to rust gradually eating away at a piece of iron soaked in water.

So, if you want to protect the neurons, you don’t use rust inhibitors but you take antioxidants. Those contained in our food are excellent. The more colourful the food is, the more beneficial it is in slowing down cell degeneration. So add portions of coloured fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and seeds to your diet. On the other hand, red wine also contains a lot of antioxidants. No more than one glass a day, however!

Strangely enough, this protective effect of antioxidants is more pronounced in men than in women, perhaps because women are already protected by their hormones.


2.  Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet

Inflammation of dopaminergic neurons is another cause of death of these cells. The intestines are very sensitive to inflammation and their inflammatory response can lead to an inflammatory response also in the brain. Changes in your eating habits can therefore have an impact on the inflammation in your intestines and therefore your brain.

So adopt an anti-inflammatory diet for your intestines and protect your brain. All foods that help rebuild the intestinal flora (the bacteria that live in our intestines), make the intestinal barrier impermeable (what is in the intestine stays in the intestine and does not circulate to the nerves), and decrease our body’s inflammatory response have a positive influence on the onset of symptoms and the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

The Mediterranean diet is particularly indicated for people living with Parkinson’s disease. The intake of unsaturated fatty acids (such as those found in fatty fish, such as mackerel or salmon) is also appropriate.


3.  Pay attention to your consumption of dairy products

The consumption of dairy products does not seem to accelerate the progression of Parkinson’s disease. However, it is noted that people who consume more than three servings of skim or partially skimmed dairy products are at greater risk of developing the disease.

If you like dairy products, prefer non skimmed products or try fermented products such as kefir. Probiotics in fermented products contribute to the health of the bacteria that live in our digestive system. Recent studies indicate that Parkinson’s disease may be related to a change in the type of bacteria present in the intestine.

In any case, dairy products can cause constipation, a common problem for people living with Parkinson’s disease.


4.  Prefer fresh or frozen products

Observational studies have shown that in people who consume fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil, red wine, coconut oil, and spices, Parkinson’s disease progresses at a slower rate. However, in those who eat manufactured goods (cans, ready meals), fried foods, beef, ice cream, and cheese, the progression of the disease is accelerated..


5.  Avoid sweetened soft drinks (diet or not)

These drinks contain artificial sweeteners (products that have a sweetening power), such as aspartame. Once in the intestine, this product competes with Levodopa, which delays the time of action of your medicine (the time between taking it and when the medicine takes effect). It also appears that in the presence of aspartame, dopamine neurons are less able to release dopamine.

Therefore, it is better to drink water. If you like sparkling water and you take it with your medication, it speeds up gastric emptying and therefore allows your medication to reach your intestine more quickly. This reduces the time it takes for the medication to take effect and increases your active time.


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