Living with Parkinson's

Nutrition

What We Eat Matters

Good nutrition is an essential aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Although there is no specific diet designed for Parkinson’s disease, there are helpful guidelines, and the Mediterranean diet is generally accepted to be the most beneficial for overall good health. This way of eating emphasizes plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains and includes smaller amounts of lean protein like chicken or fish. Certain foods can help with some of the non-motor symptoms of PD such as constipation and fatigue. Making healthy food choices is an important component in the management of Parkinson’s disease. 

Key elements of a healthy diet:

  • Consuming adequate amounts of fiber rich foods.
  • Choosing foods high in calcium and vitamin D.
  • Incorporating colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Staying hydrated.
  • Adding of healthy fats.
  • Keeping food flavorful and interesting by adding herbs and spices.

Timing of Parkinson's medication with food

Medication taken with food will take longer to get into your system as your body is digesting your meal. Protein in particular can compete with the absorption of the common Parkinson’s medication, levodopa. Generally, it is recommended that people take their PD medications 1/2 to 1 hour before a meal, or 2 hours after. Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule, and there may be other factors to consider. Talk with a member of your medical team for guidelines specific to your situation and medication regimen.

Swallowing issues

Swallowing difficulties and even occasional choking on food can be symptoms that present as Parkinson’s disease progresses. A swallowing assessment will likely be the first step taken to determine your need for treatment or lifestyle modifications. Issues with swallowing may lead to recommended changes in diet. Specific changes will vary but may include adjustments to the temperature and texture of food and beverages. Further adjustments could be suggested such as specialized utensils, corrective positioning during meals or a simple change in environment.

Seeking help from a professional

Any changes in your diet (including the additional of prescribed or over the counter supplements) should be discussed with your medical team. A Registered Dietitian can be enlisted to assist you with healthy food alternatives and safe dietary modifications. A Speech Language Pathologist can help to evaluate any swallowing issues and work with you on dietary or positioning modifications to ensure safe and enjoyable mealtimes.

You can ask your neurologist or primary care physician for a referral for either of these professionals. If you need help finding a qualified resource in your community be sure to call PRO for guidance.

Socialization and Fun!

Ideally, eating should be enjoyable and a source of pleasure and social connection. For some, food and diet presents as a source of stress, as it can be difficult to make changes to our diets and overwhelming to know what may help most. By making any changes with the support and consultation of your loved ones and healthcare team, mealtime can continue to be both enjoyable and beneficial to your ongoing health with PD. 

Want to Learn More?

Printed material and other resources

The lending library at PRO has several books to help if you want to learn more about the role of diet in living a healthy lifestyle. We even have a few cookbooks to help with inspiration for people who need a modified or soft diet. Library materials may be borrowed by stopping in to our main office in Beaverton, or through the mail.

Want to Learn More?

Printed material and other resources

The lending library at PRO has several books to help if you want to learn more about the role of diet in living a healthy lifestyle. We even have a few cookbooks to help with inspiration for people who need a modified or soft diet. Library materials may be borrowed by stopping in to our main office in Beaverton, or through the mail.