Parkinson’s: What Role Does Diet Play?

Parkinson’s is considered incurable. However, studies now show that the right diet can prevent the disease and possibly even slow it down.

Parkinson’s disease is a previously incurable disease in which nerve cells in the brain progressively die. More and more studies are now showing that you can reduce your risk of Parkinson’s disease with the right diet – and probably even influence the course of the disease.

Mediterranean cuisine can alleviate the course of Parkinson’s disease

Lots of fresh greens and other healthy ingredients: the cuisine around the Mediterranean not only awakens holiday feelings but is also particularly healthy with lots of vegetables, oils with unsaturated fatty acids, fish, legumes, and little meat. More and more studies suggest that this type of diet can also slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease and even reduce the risk of developing it in the first place.

Parkinson’s disease often begins without symptoms

Parkinson’s disease begins quietly and slowly, lurking in the body for many years before it becomes visible with tremors or frozen facial expressions. Especially in this phase, a healthy diet is of crucial importance. Experts assume that in this early phase it is still possible to have a particularly positive effect on the disease.

Does Parkinson’s start in the gut?

Researchers now assume that Parkinson’s begins with changes in the intestines, at least in some people. One explanation could be that substances migrate from the intestines into the brain and can have a harmful effect there. Even if a lot is still unclear, the exchange of messenger substances between the intestine and the brain is considered safe. They can migrate from the intestines to the brain via the blood or nerve tracts. This is known as the gut-brain axis.

Parkinson’s patients often have intestinal problems

So far it is known that the intestines of Parkinson’s patients are changed. Many sufferers complain of digestive problems such as severe constipation years before the typical symptoms appear.

Studies also show that the composition of the microbiome, i.e. the community of intestinal bacteria, is changed in people with Parkinson’s disease. Normally, the beneficial inhabitants of the gut turn our food into nutrients, but there are also gut bacteria that can make you ill if the balance is upset. In people with Parkinson’s disease, for example, bacteria that make the intestinal wall permeable often predominate. Inflammatory substances can then enter the blood.

Parkinson’s therapy: Food protects nerve cells

One possible treatment approach is to bring the gut back into balance as early as possible with a specific diet, thus reprogramming the gut microbiome to a certain extent. In addition, many of those affected have a nutrient deficiency, especially vitamin D, folic acid and vitamin B12 should be checked.

Studies show that certain foods can protect nerve cells.

Are good:

  • vegetables
  • full grain
  • Polyphenols (from olive oil, green tea, and red berries)

Bad is:

  • ready meals
  • saturated fats
  • too much sugar

Those who do not want to do without meat should at least rely on white meat, i.e. poultry instead of beef or pork.

Interactions of diet and medication

But not only what you eat is important. Timing is also important because some Parkinson’s medications must not be taken with certain foods. Anyone who takes the standard drug for Parkinson’s disease, L-dopa, must not do so together with protein-containing food, because then the drug has a worse effect. Therefore, those affected should always take a break before and after taking the tablets.

Does intermittent fasting help against Parkinson’s disease?

A study is currently examining whether the intestinal microbiome can be normalized by so-called intermittent fasting. For a week, the participants only eat vegetable broth, after which they take long breaks between meals for a year. Many participants report temporary relief from symptoms and a better quality of life. The final result of the study is still pending.

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