Action Plan for Parkinson's Disease
NB. The dietary recommendations below are suitable for most people. The supplement advice should only be followed if you are not taking medication or have sought the advice of an appropriately qualified health professional.
• Optimize your diet and reduce your toxic load
Eat at least seven portions of fruits and (non-starchy) vegetables daily – lightly cooked or raw to provide plenty of antioxidants. Choose a variety of colors and choose organic if possible.
Eat protein with every meal and snack to provide a broad range of amino acids - these are precursors to dopamine and also needed for liver detoxification pathways and to support blood sugar balance. Protein foods include fish, eggs, chicken, meat, pulses (lentils/beans), nuts and seeds. Protein should be taken separately from L-Dopa – if you are taking this medication, its best to seek specific advice from a nutritional therapist with appropriate training and experience of working with people with Parkinson’s.
Eat a diet that will stabilize your blood sugar (known as a Low GL diet). This means avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates, eating at regular intervals, including protein with every meal and snack. Avoid strong stimulants such as coffee, tea and energy drinks and drink mild stimulants such as green tea only occasionally. Keep alcohol to a minimum, for example, one unit per day, three to four times per week. There are a number of books that explain the low-GL diet in detail including the Holford Low GL Diet Bible.
Support a healthy digestive system by relaxing before you eat and chewing your food thoroughly. Probiotic supplements and/or live yogurt support a healthy gut environment and may be recommended, particularly if you have digestive symptoms.
Relaxation techniques may also be supportive to reduce stress – consider Tai-Chi, yoga, meditation, for example.
You may want to consider whether you have any food intolerances which may impact your health. A trial period of exclusion or a food intolerance test may be used. Any major changes to the composition of your diet should be done with appropriate supervision.
• Have a healthy homocysteine level
Homocysteine can be measured by your GP, neurologist or privately (from York Test). A healthy level is 5-7 µmol/l. If yours is above this, you can reduce it by taking a supplement of homocysteine-lowering nutrients. The best formulas contain folic acid, vitamins B12, B6 and B2, zinc, TMG and N-Acetyl-Cysteine. A retest after 12 weeks of supplementation is recommended, as this is usually as long as it takes to reduce a high level.
To maintain a healthy level ensure you are eating plenty whole (as opposed to refined) grains and some protein from an animal source (such as eggs, dairy, fish, meat) each day.
• Up your intake of essential omega 3 fats
This means eating fish at least twice a week, seeds on most days and supplementing omega 3 fish oils. The best fish are mackerel, herring/kipper, sardines, fresh tuna, anchovy, salmon and trout. Large fish such as tuna, swordfish, and marlin are high in mercury and are best not eaten more than twice a month.
The best seeds are flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Flax seeds are so small they are best ground and sprinkled on cereal. Alternatively, use flax seed oil, for example in salad dressings.
A fish oil supplement providing around 1g EPA and 500mg DHA may be useful to boost your levels.
• Let the sunshine in
Vitamin D levels are insufficient in the majority of the population. Your GP or neurologist can order a blood test for you. A healthy level is 75-250nmol/l (30-100ng/l). If your level is low, get some sensible sun exposure, eat plenty of oily fish and/or supplement 2,000iu of vitamin D daily for 12 weeks and then retest.
• Consider supplementing magnesium
Foods high in magnesium are: whole grains, legumes and especially dark green leafy vegetables. Pumpkin seeds and salmon also have magnesium. It is worth supplementing magnesium, particularly if you have some of the other indications of insufficiency. Try 400mg daily. Magnesium works in conjunction with many other nutrients so an all-round multi-vitamin and mineral formula is a good idea if you are not managing a fantastically healthy diet.
If you would like help to support your health with a nutritional approach you should seek help from a nutritional therapist trained and experienced in working with people with Parkinson’s. Click here to find out more.
Dig deeper by reading these books and special reports:
Optimum Nutrition for the Mind - Patrick Holford
Parkinson’s Disease Reducing Symptoms with Nutrition and Drugs. Dr. Geoffrey Leader and Lucille Leader (Denor Press: 2010)
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