We all know eating a healthy, balanced diet is good for general health and wellbeing. But where does diet come into play when it comes to Parkinson’s disease?
Diet is one potential factor that may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s or slow its progression. Maintaining appropriate nutrition might also help to avoid hospitalisation, by preventing health issues like constipation and infections. These are the most prevalent reasons for a Parkinson’s patient to be admitted to hospital.
There is no specific diet someone with PD should follow, however it is recommended that to maintain overall good health most people should eat a variety of whole grains, dairy products, protein-rich foods such as meat and beans, and foods full of healthy fats such as nuts, fish and eggs.
It’s also important to incorporate lots of fruit and vegetables as they are high in antioxidants, which are important for overall brain health.
The right foods can also optimize medications, keep bones strong, fight constipation and weight loss and maintain general health and fitness. Having a good diet can enhance a person’s overall health, ability to cope, prevent certain physical and psychological consequences of Parkinson’s, improve sleep, and, most importantly, contribute to a higher quality of life.
PD symptoms such as tremor or stiffness may make eating challenging – try putting dishes on a rubber mat to stop them from slipping. People with PD may also eat less and lose weight because of difficulty swallowing or nausea from medication. The person with Parkinson’s may forget to eat and drink, no longer feel hungry, or be unable to prepare and cook food.
Encourage them to eat and drink by:
- Cutting the food in bite size pieces before you put the plate in front of them
- Serve smaller portions initially so they don’t feel over faced – more can always be offered
- Make food available whenever they want to eat
- Avoid certain foods which may be hard to chew and swallow, such as tough, chewy meats
Finally, staying hydrated is vital. But if drinking loads of water leads to urinary urgency, try feeding a person with PD foods with a high water content in place of beverages such as grapefruit, watermelon, strawberries, celery or butternut squash.