Almost any disease state can be worsened or improved by nutrition. The food we eat literally becomes us; from its raw materials we build our blood, tissues, organs and systems of the body. As Parkinson’s (PD) is considered to be a neurodegenerative inflammatory disease, diet and nutritional supplements have the potential to reduce inflammation, support detoxification, heal the gut, calm the immune system to reduce PD symptoms and promote overall health and well-being.
3 Primary Factors Contributing to Development
Environmental toxins (pesticides, herbicides, industrial waste, heavy metals), gut dysbiosis which is an imbalance of the bacteria and flora in the gut and intestinal permeability. Also called leaky gut, intestinal permeability occurs when the tight junctions between your intestines and bloodstream leak and let larger proteins, or bacteria through, causing inflammation. It is important to understand that up to 80% of the immune system is in the gut. Even more importantly, the gut and brain are intimately connected; there is a constant flow of communication. Any issues going on with the gut can affect the health of the brain and vice versa.
Ideal Diet for Parkinsons?
There is not one perfect diet for everyone with Parkinson’s, as it develops at different times for different reasons in each person. Individual foods do not necessarily behave the same way in each of us. A personalized diet is always best, however, there are general evidence based recommendations:
- A whole foods, Mediterranean-type anti-inflammatory diet that includes fruits, vegetables, wild fish, poultry, some red meat, some whole grains & nuts. This may decrease progression of PD by 13% or more.
- Avoid seed oils. Corn, safflower, soy, canola, are rancid, hydrogenated oils that contribute to inflammation. Use extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, with small amounts of butter or ghee.
- Toxic burden (think pesticides) plays a role, therefore, fruits and vegetables should be organic as much as possible. Eating them in season and buying organic for the foods eaten most often helps to keep cost down. If possible, home grown is ideal.
- Constipation. Less dopamine may means longer colon transit time and occurs with 50-80% of people early on. Be sure to get sufficient hydration and fiber from fruits & vegetables including kiwi, apples, figs, prunes, berries, radishes, nuts and leafy greens.
- Address gut dysbiosis. Gut health is a direct reflection of nutrition and lifestyle. By working to improve digestion you may address the root causes of illness and improve symptoms. Avoiding highly processed foods, sugar, sugar substitutes and unfiltered water will lower the inflammatory load.
- Supplementation.* There is evidence for several supplements including glutathione (master antioxidant that helps the body detoxify), vitamin C, B vitamins, curcumin, green tea extract, melatonin, coenzyme Q10, probiotics and CBD extract.
7. Sunlight and circadian rhythm. Getting outdoor light: in the morning within an hour of sunrise, 15 mins during the day, and watching the sunset will help contribute to better sleep patterns, lower stress levels, increase production of hormones needed for better gut, brain and overall health.
*NOTE: There are natural treatments and diet protocols that may help with symptoms and/or assist in getting to the root cause of illness. Toxin exposure leads to the destruction of neurons that control motor function and cause Parkinson’s. Therefore, detoxification therapies are often used as a way to help the body rid itself of these substances. Sauna, supplementation, colon therapies, gluten-free diets are just some of the methods used. Always consult with your practitioner before embarking on such protocols.
Nutrition & Lifestyle recommendations for Parkinson’s: A narrative review. J. Mov. Dis., May, 2020.
The emerging role of nutrition in Parkinson’s disease. Front Aging Neurosci, 2014.
Further Information & Resources:
- Success with the Wahl’s protocol & Parkinson’s: https://terrywahls.com/tag/parkinsons/
- Links between gut health & Parkinson’s: https://www.caltech.edu/about/news/parkinsons-disease-linked-microbiome-53109
- The Bredesen and Brain Tune Up Program by Ken Sharlin, MD, based on the work and book, The End of Alzheimer’s, by Dale Bredesen: https://functionalmedicine.doctor/alzheimers-disease-advanced-treatment/bredesen-protocol/
To consult with our Integrative Dietitian Nutritionist, Jena S. Griffith, to personalize a diet for you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.