Parkinson’s disease may first cause tremors in one of your hands. Over time, the central nervous system disease progresses, causing slowed mobility and stiffness as nerve cells in your brain begin to break down and diminish. It affects women and men equally, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), typically after age 60. While no known cure exists, medications and a healthy diet may help reduce your symptoms, prevent potential complications and improve your quality of life.
Flaxseed, Walnuts and Canola Oil
Flaxseed, walnuts and canola oil are top plant-derived sources of omega-3 fatty acids — essential fats that play an important role in brain function. Although research is limited and inconclusive, according to a report published in the November 2007 issue of the journal, Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, there is reason to hope that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent or reduce the negative effects of disorders affecting the brain, including Parkinson’s disease. Consume ground flaxseed over whole seed for optimum absorption. Whole flaxseed, however, may help reduce constipation, which is common among people with Parkinson’s disease. Eat ground flaxseed and walnuts on their own or as nutritious additions to yogurt, cereals and baked goods. Canola oil provides a heart-healthy alternative to less healthy fat sources, such as butter, margarine and shortening.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are top sources of antioxidants, which are nutrients that boost your body’s ability to defend itself against infections and disease. Although additional research is needed, according to the UMMC, increasing your intake of antioxidants vitamins C and E may help lower your need for Parkinson’s disease medications. Fruits and vegetables particularly high in vitamin C include red and green bell peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, tomatoes, leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and winter squash. Avocados, blackberries, guava, mango, papaya, Swiss chard, pumpkin, parsnips and potatoes provide ample vitamin E.
Parkinson’s disease often coexists with osteoporosis, a condition characterized by brittle, fracture-prone bones. Because Parkinson’s disease alone increases your risk for painful falls and injuries, consuming sufficient amounts of the bone-strengthening nutrients calcium and vitamin D is vital, according to Karol Traviss, dietitian for the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Most often choose dairy-based calcium sources, which your body may utilize more efficiently than soy or other nondairy sources. Valuable options include low-fat milk, yogurt, kefir and cottage cheese.
Coffee and Caffeine
Coffee and caffeine may help prevent loss of the brain chemical dopamine, which tends to deteriorate with the incidence of Parkinson’s disease. For this reason, the UMMC recommends consuming coffee and other caffeine sources, including black and green teas, chocolate and decaffeinated coffee, which contains trace amounts of the stimulant. Because excessive caffeine intake can increase tremors, sleep problems and calcium loss, stick to modest amounts. If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, discuss proper intake with your doctor.