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Parkinson's Disease and Nutrition

Topic Overview

Most people with Parkinson's disease can eat the same healthy, balanced diet recommended for anyone. This includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, legumes, poultry, fish, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.

Early in the disease, it might be helpful to take pills with food to help with nausea, which may be caused by some medicines. Later in the disease, taking the medicines at least one hour before meals (and at least two hours after meals) may help them work better.

Protein may interfere with the absorption of levodopa and make the effects of the medicine less predictable. It may be helpful to spread your protein intake evenly throughout the day or to consume most of your daily protein requirements in the evening, rather than during the daytime, so that you have a more predictable absorption of and response to levodopa during the day when you are more active.

Follow your doctor's specific recommendations on diet and medicine. Eating a low-protein diet should be done only with the help of a dietitian or doctor.

Symptoms of Parkinson's disease and side effects of medicines used to treat the disease can change your appetite and ability to eat. Factors that can affect nutrition include mood, dementia, chewing and swallowing problems, tremors, immobility, and inactivity. It is important to find ways to eat a nutritious diet despite these things.

Parkinson's disease affects the movement of intestinal muscles, which contributes to constipation in many people. Many medicines used to treat the disease may make constipation worse. To reduce constipation:

  • Include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains in your diet each day. These foods are high in fiber.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water.
  • Get some exercise every day, if possible.
  • Take a fiber supplement, such as Citrucel or Metamucil, every day if needed. Start with a small dose and very slowly increase the dose over a month or more. Your doctor may suggest you use a medicine such as polyethylene glycol (for example, Miralax) to help with constipation.
  • Schedule time each day for a bowel movement. Having a daily routine may help. Take your time and do not strain when having a bowel movement.

Use enemas or laxatives only under the guidance or recommendation of your doctor.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
G. Frederick Wooten, MD - Neurology
Last Revised December 5, 2012

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