Diet & Exercise for Parkinson's Disease
Diet and exercise have an important part to play in controlling some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and helping sufferers to maintain as active a lifestyle as possible.
There is no diet that has been proven to slow down the progression of the disease but sensible eating can help manage some of the symptoms. Diets rich in vegetables and fiber can help ease constipation. And a regular intake of oily fish, which contains Omega 3 - the “wonder ingredient” of the moment - may help to improve levels of concentration.
Antioxidant rich foods, including many fruits and vegetables, may remove harmful chemical substances in the body called free radicals. These substances damage cells and have been mooted as a possible cause of dopamine damage in Parkinson’s disease patients.
It’s important for Parkinson’s sufferers not to have too much protein in their diet. Protein can interfere with the absorption and effectiveness of the widely used drug levodopa so doctors recommend eating only small amounts during the day. Protein intake can be slightly increased in the evening when being active isn’t normally as important.
There’s no end of vitamin and mineral supplements on the market, many of which are touted as miraculous products capable of relieving the symptoms of Parkinson’s. But beware because there’s little clinical evidence to show that any are particularly effective. One exception is Co-enzyme Q10. Taken in relatively high doses it has been shown to lessen the severity of symptoms in some sufferers.
Calcium is always hailed as a wonder supplement to strengthen bones. Certainly it has been shown to improve bone density, which may be an important issue with some people with Parkinson’s who tend to fall over because of the disease.
Generally if you are eating a balanced diet with fresh meat, fish and plenty of fruit and vegetables, there is no need to take supplements. If you’re planning to try a particular diet or take supplements it’s a good idea to check with your doctor first to make sure this won’t interfere with any medication you may be taking. And unless you’ve been advised otherwise, a small amount of alcohol won’t do any harm.
Exercise and Parkinson’s
Exercise is a great stress buster. It helps release the “happy” chemicals in the brain so it can be helpful in relieving depression.
It is totally understandable that for some people with Parkinson’s disease, who may be feeling tired and stiff, exercise is the last thing on their minds. But a properly managed exercise regime, taking into account a person’s physical limitations, can make a world of difference to a sufferer’s energy levels, self-esteem and overall sense of well-being.
Many people with the disease lead very active lives playing tennis or squash, horse riding or ski-ing.
Some sufferers find their muscles and joints can become stiff and rigid so it is important to keep them moving and improve muscle tone and strength.
Walking is one of the best types of exercise as it helps balance, posture and can prevent stiffening. Even people with very restrictive symptoms can sometimes manage to walk several hundred yards and this done a couple of times a day can be very beneficial.
Besides anything else exercise can be a great way of meeting other people and making new friends – joining an exercise group or taking part in a team sport can boost your social life as well as your muscle strength!