Parkinson's disease (PD) is a chronic neurological disease that is generally treated with medications and surgery. Exercise and nutrition are important. Diet plays a complicated role that needs to be understood in the context of the disease.
PD is common but its cause is unknown. Over a million people in the United States suffer from PD. Ninety percent of them are over the age of 50. PD could be partly hereditary or caused by toxins (poisons) found in foods or the environment. A 1996 study published in "Neurology" by Wiebke Hellenbrand, M.D., et al., suggested that eating raw meat might cause or worsen PD. There is no cure, but most cases of PD worsen gradually so that patients lead fairly normal lives for a long time.
How PD Works
More is known about how PD works than what causes it. The key is dopamine, a chemical that controls the movement of the muscles. The brain cells that make dopamine gradually die, causing the patient to lose muscle control.
Symptoms are varied and may include:
· Shaking or tremors when the patient tries to be still
· Severe rigidity, inability to move, stooping posture and shuffling walk
· Difficulty swallowing and constipation
· Depression is more common in PD patients than in the general population according to Abraham Lieberman, M.D., writing in "Acta Neurologica" in 2005.
Symptoms can change over a period of years or vary within the space of a day.
· Levodopa (or L-dopa) is the premiere PD medication. It replaces the missing dopamine but loses its effectiveness over time.
· Carbidopa is usually taken with levodopa to minimize levodopa's side effects.
· Bromocriptine (Parlodel) along with related drugs called dopamine agonists also lose their effectiveness over time.
· Artane and Cogentin, which are called anticholinergics, reduce tremors.
· Brain surgery, including deep brain stimulation
· Physical and speech therapy
Eating with PD
If you have been diagnosed with PD, you can eat almost anything that a person who doesn't have PD can eat, but the disease and the medications you take for it can make you too tired or uncomfortable to eat.
Also, treating one problem can sometimes make another one worse. If you are constipated, hot soup may be good for you, but if you are also nauseous, the aroma of the soup could make you more nauseous. Dry crackers are easier to eat if you are nauseous, but don't make a habit of eating dry food if you are constipated. Some medications prescribed for PD, such as Artane and Cogentin, make dry mouth and constipation worse. Some foods, especially coffee, tea and alcohol, block the effectiveness of medications and should be limited or eliminated.
Foods to Limit
Avoid or limit the following foods if they do not agree with you or your medications.
· Caffeine and alcohol can block your drugs, dry you out and leave you empty.
· Orange and grapefruit juice can make you nauseous.
· Greasy, fried foods such as french fries also promote nausea.
· Raw fish or meat might actually cause PD and could cause nausea.
· Dairy products are ok in small doses but cause constipation.
· Salt and sugar are ok in moderation. Salt can dry you out.
· Low-fiber foods such as bananas, applesauce, pasta, breakfast cereals (hot and cold), eggs and pancakes can promote constipation.
· Colas, corn and potato chips, candy and other empty snack foods won't keep your energy up.
Special Caution: Too much protein will keep levodopa from working properly. Don't eat protein less than an hour before taking levodopa.
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