Living with Parkinson’s disease can be a challenge, but there are many ways to manage Parkinson’s and live well. The following strategies can help you deal with your disease and live your best life.
Nutrition and Diet
While each person has unique nutritional needs, most people living with Parkinson’s should eat a balanced diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy products; and protein-rich foods such as meat. beans and eggs.
Your diet can have an impact on your medication regimen as well. Adjusting the timing and content of meals may allow certain medications to work better, but you may also need to avoid specific foods to prevent side effects of some medications.
Designing your diet for optimum health can help to assuage common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including:
Constipation–Drink plenty of water (six to eight glasses a day). Drinking warm liquids can stimulate bowel movements. Fiber-rich foods such as brown rice, whole-grain bread, fruit, vegetables and legumes can also help constipation.
Low blood pressure—A symptom of Parkinson’s and side effect of some medications, low blood pressure can make you feel weak and dizzy. Increasing fluid and salt intake can lift blood pressure, but it’s essential to talk with your doctor if you have heart or kidney problems. Eating small, frequent meals can also help fluctuations in blood pressure and blood sugar.
Muscle cramps–Some people with Parkinson’s experience painful muscle cramps, especially at night. Eating turmeric, which is found in yellow mustard, or drinking tonic water, which contains quinine, may help. Drinking plenty of liquids to maintain adequate hydration can also prevent muscle cramps.
Swallowing problems—You may have symptoms such as coughing, choking or a sensation of food feeling “stuck.” A speech therapist can prescribe individualized dietary modifications and adaptive strategies, which may include items with increased “sensory input” like seasoned, cold, sour or carbonated foods and drinks. Changing the consistency of certain foods and beverages can also help. Sitting up straight, eating slowly and taking small bites can also make eating and drinking easier.
Fatigue and insomnia—Avoid sugar, alcohol and caffeine before bed. They can cause sleep problems and lead to fatigue during the day.
Bone thinning–Vitamin D helps maintain bone health, and is found in most milk and dairy products. You may want to ask your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement.
Brain health— DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid, is found in walnuts and other nuts. DHA has been shown to protect brain health, improve cognitive performance, and slow age-related cognitive decline. Other foods that may have anti-inflammatory effects in the brain include salmon, tuna, berries, and dark leafy green vegetables.
A study led by Dr.Lisa Shulman at the University of Maryland, showed that low-intensity exercise improves walking in people with Parkinson’s. Activities such as yoga, tai chi, swimming and walking can help to keep you limber and improve balance and motor coordination. Some people living with Parkinson’ find that boxing, biking and dance are effective as well. Talk with your physician before starting any exercise regimen.
Combating Depression and Anxiety
Underlying changes in brain chemistry and circuitry that are caused by Parkinson’s may contribute to depression and anxiety. Talk to your doctor or therapist about how you’re feeling and become involved in advocacy, clinical trials, and support groups Parkinson’s disease. Connecting with others and participating in a community can be beneficial to both your mental and physical health.
This is by no means an exhaustive list about how to live well with Parkinson’s disease. For more strategies and support, check out The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s and the American Parkinson Disease Association.