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Go with your Gut: Optimising Diet for PD Symptoms

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

Have you ever heard the phrase "trust your gut"? Well, it turns out that there's more truth to it than we might have thought.

Scientists have found that the gut interacts with the brain in intricate ways, causing significant changes in our mood. While it was earlier believed that anxiety and depression can cause constipation, nausea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms, recent studies have shown that an upset gut can in turn result in anxiety and depression as well.



Hippocrates once said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” a sentiment that resonates strongly with our Indian traditions of Ayurveda. While diet alone can't replace medicines, it can certainly complement their effects, thanks to the intricate relationship between our gut and brain.

Several scientists are now exploring the impact of diet on PD symptoms. While no specific diet is a “PD diet”, there are dietary interventions that can address specific bothersome issues.

In general, research suggests that some aspects of a diet can alter the severity of the symptoms and their progression rate. The main suggestions that these studies have provided are as follows-

  • Fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts (walnuts, pistachios, etc.), fresh herbs and spices (turmeric, cumin, coriander, mustard seed, cloves, etc. ), coconut oil, and eggs seem to be associated with reduced symptom severity and reduced rate of progression of PD symptoms. A diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits might be beneficial for all PD patients.

  • Dairy intake, canned fruits and vegetables, and fried food have all been seen to increase the rate of symptom progression in PD, and avoiding these might be beneficial.

  • Carbidopa-levodopa, the most common PD medication, is absorbed in the small intestine. If taken together with a high-protein meal, its effect can be minimized. In order to obtain its maximum benefits, it's recommended that you accompany it with a low-protein meal, and have your protein-rich foods like lentils (dal), kidney beans (rajma), eggs, or meat at other times of the day.

Additionally, certain symptoms can also be managed better with some tweaks in everyday diet, following are some suggestions that have been reported.

  • Constipation- Eating food high in fiber (fruits with peel, vegetables, and legumes) and drinking more fluids can help reduce constipation. Drinking warm fluids in the morning can be specifically beneficial.

  • Gastroparesis (stomach takes a long time to empty its content)- Avoiding large high-fat meals has been recommended.

  • Nausea- Small portions of meals can help avoid feeling full. Ginger candies or ginger tea can help reduce the symptoms as well.

  • Low blood pressure- Eating small meals frequently, increasing fluid intake, and decreasing dehydrating drinks like coffee and alcohol can be helpful.

  • Swallowing problems (coughing, choking or food feeling "stuck") - Dietary changes like softened food or food that stimulates swallowing (carbonated, sour, or seasoned food) can help. Eating slower or eating small bites can also help.

  • Sleep Problems- Melatonin-rich fruits such as pineapple, orange, and banana might be able to help improve sleep problems. However, these should be taken in moderation.

  • Cognitive dysfunction- Acute caffeine consumption helps improve performance in cognitive functions. Its consumption is recommended in the military ration.

  • Gait and Balance- Ensuring adequate protein intake to maintain muscle strength is recommended. Foods rich in B vitamins like whole grains, eggs, and lean meats might also be beneficial.

Some supplements are also said to be beneficial but there is still a lot unknown. Make sure to talk to your doctor before starting the use of any supplement. Supplements can have unnecessary side effects that can be avoided if they are approached with caution.

Although dietary changes can help improve symptoms and symptom progression, it is important to keep in mind that the diet has no “fit-all” rule. In case, changing a certain aspect of your diet aggregates a symptom, it is advisable to revert back to your normal diet and contact a health care professional.

If you are attempting to change your diet, remember to do so in moderation. Like Sant Kabir Das said "Ati ka bhala na bolna, ati ki bhali na chup. Ati ka bhala na barsna, ati ki bhali na dhup." Moderation is the key.

References:

Research Articles-

Other sites to explore-

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