Food is a powerful and underrated medicine. Eating the right foods can even help manage Alzheimer’s, so one might wonder what other conditions or diseases a diet can help. Even if our diet can’t cure something, we can certainly still reap the benefits.
When considering an independent or assisted-living home, it’s important to find out how willing they are to work with you and your loved one on things like diet. By asking questions, you’re ensuring the chosen home is dedicated to providing its residents with the best care for their needs. This includes things like diet or other specialized needs that are different from the average resident.
What Is Parkinson’s disease?
To understand how or if a plant-based diet can help with Parkinson’s disease, we first need to know what the condition is and how it affects our bodies.
Scientists don’t have concrete studies that reveal what causes Parkinson’s, and there is currently no cure for it. However, we do know that it begins in the basal ganglia. This small part of our brain is responsible for movement.
When we are struck by Parkinson’s, the nerves in this part of the brain become impaired or die. This results in the characteristic mobility issues of someone with this devastating disease.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s
Four primary symptoms usually accompany this disease:
- Quaking in a person’s head and jaw, or their extremities (leg, arms, hands, and feet)
- Stiff muscles and uncontrollable, long-term contractions
- Slow movement
- Lack of balance or coordination
Typically, these symptoms will also lead to other symptoms over time. People with Parkinson’s may also suffer from:
- Emotional issues like depression or irritability
- Difficulty with everyday things like chewing, swallowing, speaking, and eventually even breathing
- Bathroom issues such as constipation or urinary problems
Can a Plant-Based Diet Help Parkinson’s?
We know that nothing can cure the disease. However, there are certainly ways that we can combat the symptoms and other problems that hitch a ride with the disease. A nutritious, plant-based diet can absolutely help.
Problems Associated With Parkinson’s
There are several issues associated with the disease that a plant-based diet can help manage:
- Medication Effectiveness Fluctuations
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Cognitive Decline or Changes
- Bone Health
- Extreme Weight Loss
Medication Effectiveness Fluctuations
Certain medications used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s are known to be sensitive to diet. For example, levodopa is commonly prescribed, but it’s less effective if someone consumes a high-protein diet. This ineffectiveness will cause fluctuations in an individual’s symptom treatment.
Because of the positive effect that a plant-based diet has on blood pressure, it will help treat orthostatic hypotension, which is basically sustained low blood pressure. Other ways that you can help with this are:
- Avoiding large meals but including more salt in them
- Consuming less alcohol
- Increasing your water intake
When it comes to constipation, there are typically two things your body needs more of—water and fiber. So, increasing your water intake is a great first step. And with a plant-based diet, you will usually get a lot of healthy fiber naturally.
Cognitive Decline or Changes
People with Parkinson’s often experience cognitive problems. Boston University School of Medicine discovered that a plant-based diet avoiding foods high in saturated fats and animal byproducts improves their chances of minimizing cognitive decline, among other things.
Many people with Parkinson’s have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. In addition to increasing the risk for depression or other cognitive issues, this also contributes to weakened bones. A vitamin-rich plant-based diet certainly helps with increasing your vitamin D.
However, because of how our bodies absorb this particular vitamin, your doctor may give you a supplement to boost your intake.
Extreme Weight Loss
It’s common for Parkinson’s to cause loss of smell. In turn, this affects how food tastes, and quite often, people will become malnourished or lose an unhealthy amount of weight because they don’t want to eat.
A plant-based diet (when done right) can provide some exciting and rich flavors through herbs and spices that even a dull sense of taste may be able to pick up.
Considerations With a Plant Based-Diet
Many scientists have gotten on board with plant-based eating as a healthy way to eat. However, you lose several essential vitamins and minerals in your diet by cutting out meat and other animal byproducts.
These losses are available in plant-based diets, but they are sometimes not in the types of things most people normally eat. So, if you’re making the switch to plant-based eating, it’s important that you discuss the change with a doctor or nutritionist to ensure that you are still getting everything you need.
Depending on food availability, a doctor may prescribe certain supplements to help compensate for the loss from ditching meat and animal products.
Have More Questions About a Plant-Based Diet and Parkinson’s?
If you have questions about how Fox Trail Senior Living in Montville can accommodate your dietary needs or wants, reach out to our office today. The knowledgeable staff will be happy to answer any questions you have.