Does Diet Matter?

Does Diet Matter?

Written on 03/09/2019

While no specific diet can treat Parkinson's disease or completely relieve its symptoms, it is essential to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet to help keep you healthy and combat the effects of the disease. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich foods, as well as staying hydrated, can help mitigate some symptoms such as fatigue, constipation and low blood pressure. Avoid sodium-laden foods, processed foods, alcohol and too much sugar.

Depending on the medication regimen you are taking, you may need to adjust your diet regarding when you eat what you eat. Timing your meals and paying attention to what you are eating around your medication schedule can help ensure that your medications are absorbed and ward off any unwanted or uncomfortable side effects.

Should You Avoid Any Particular Foods?

Levodopa, a commonly prescribed medication for Parkinson's disease, helps to build proteins in the body to replace those damaged by the disease. It also can compete and interfere with the absorption of proteins. Researchers suggest that eating a diet rich in protein can block levodopa absorption. Skip foods such as meat, fish and cheese around the times you are taking the levodopa and eat more carbohydrates and vegetables to maximize absorption.

Some medications may be taken on an empty stomach 30 minutes to one hour before eating to allow the drug to reach the small intestine and get absorbed efficiently. Unfortunately, some medications for Parkinson's disease can cause nausea and stomach upset, so you may want to take them with a small carbohydrate snack like crackers or oatmeal.

What About Fava Beans?

Fava beans contain levodopa, but in trace amounts. Adding them to your diet won't hurt anything but may not give you the benefit you want.

MAO-B Inhibitors and Food

MAO-B inhibitors, which help to break down dopamine and improve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, also have food considerations. These medications can increase tyramine, which could raise your blood pressure. If you're on MAO-B inhibitors, avoid these foods:

  • Cured or fermented meats or fish
  • Aged cheese
  • Sauerkraut and kimchi
  • Soy sauce
  • Red wine and beer

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