So, how do you pick the best diet for Parkinson’s disease? Start with two basic ideas:
- Eat whole foods. There is a strong association between pesticide and herbicide use and risk for Parkinson’s disease. Whether you choose animal or plant foods, select those that are raised as naturally as possible: meat and dairy from grass-fed cows; meat and eggs from pastured poultry; organically-grown whole grains, fresh vegetables, and fruits.
These nourish and maintain the body’s brain, bones, and organs. They may be more expensive, but consider the cost of disease, which is much greater.
- Avoid foods that have been made from refined or highly-processed ingredients, such as refined flour and sugar, canned meats and soups, frozen ready-to-eat meals. Over time, these rob the body of health, strength, and thinking ability, and lead to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other diseases.
Who are the healthiest people and what do they eat?
Next, consider the diets of the longest-lived populations in the world. According to National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner, who wrote influential diet and nutrition book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest1 , the places where people live the longest, and the foods that make up their diet, are:
Staple foods: potatoes, wild greens, goat’s milk, honey, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, fruit, wine, and small amounts of fish.
Staple foods: tofu, sweet potatoes, seaweed, turmeric, sake, bitter melons, garlic, brown rice, green tea, shitake mushrooms, and small amounts of fish.
Staple foods: goat’s and sheep’s milk and cheese, durum wheat, barley, fennel, fava beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, olive oil, almonds, milk thistle tea, and red wine.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Staple foods: beans, rice, corn, squash, yams, green vegetables, papayas, bananas and other fruits, cheese, eggs, and small amounts of meat.
Loma Linda, California
Staple foods: avocados, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, soy milk, grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. They drink only water; some choose to eat small amounts of meat and fish.
But what about you?
Choose a plan that appeals to you and try it for a few months. Keep a daily journal and write down what you ate, at what time, how you felt afterwards – whether your Parkinson’s symptoms are affected, and in what way.
This will tell you whether the diet choice is a good one for you personally and meets your individual needs as a person with Parkinson’s disease.
If you have gastroparesis – a digestive problem that’s a non-motor system of Parkinson’s – you may find that a diet lower in fat helps your medications take effect more quickly.
If you suffer from constipation, a diet that includes plenty of prebiotic foods and fibre is ideal. Yet, you might have both gastroparesis and constipation and still find that a paleo diet improves your Parkinson’s symptoms and that you can cut back on your medications.
You are the best judge
Your doctor only sees you for a few minutes every few months. Diet gurus will probably never meet you at all. You, on the other hand, live in your body 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
No one knows you better than you, yourself. That makes you best person to discover and take control of the optimal eating plan for you.
Kathrynne Holden, former National Parkinson Foundation dietician (UK)
Visit her website, nutritionucanlivewith.com, for more Parkinson’s-related nutrition information
Buettner, Dan, The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, National Geographic Books, 2008