Foods or vitamins that help with Parkinson's?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Can you recommend any foods or vitamins or herbs that might help with Parkinson's? Either to help his physical symptoms -- tremors, stiffness -- or to help with his mood?

Expert Answer

Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet.

In the early stages of Parkinson's disease there is no special diet, per say, that is recommended or required. In the later stages it is often helpful to work with an RD, Nutritionist if the side effects of medication, such as constipation, loss of appetite, dry mouth or nausea, become an issue. Having said that, given what scientists are discovering about the role of certain antioxidants in lowering the risk of this disease and others that impact cognitive health, it appears that there are foods worth attention. An observational study that is to be presented this month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology looked at particular foods containing anti-oxidant plant compounds known as anthocyanins "“ examples include berries and apples. Men and women who consumed a diet rich in anthocyanins were reported to have had a 22% lower risk of Parkinson's disease.
There is in fact, a great deal of ongoing research that examines the role of diet in slowing the progression of this debilitating disease. It is known that the dopamine producing cells (dopamine is the neurotransmitter that declines with Parkinson's disease) are particularly susceptible to free radical damage or oxidative stress and conventional wisdom would have us believe that eating a diet high in anti-oxidants should help to maintain cell integrity/function and afford a level of protection against damage. Further, animal studies suggest that compounds found in green tea, blueberries, spinach, and strawberries are helpful in slowing age related declines in brain and motor function. Essential fatty acids have been found to be beneficial for neurocognitive health in general, particularly DHA. This long chain fatty acid comprises about 20% of the grey matter in the brain and may be obtained either through a high grade fish oil supplement or cold water wild salmon. The brain needs a regular supply of these fats to function optimally. In general a colorful, healthy anti-inflammatory plant based diet that provides a steady supply of nutrients is necessary for the proper functioning of the brain and the rest of the body. Below please find a recipe for a "Green Smoothie" that we developed here at Duke Integrative Medicine. It incorporates many powerful plant compounds including anthocyanins.

Green Smoothie

This is a wonderful mini meal/snack. It is best for the fruit to be frozen. Simply blend together the following "“ you may want to add water/ice for consistency. I recommend using a straw to drink.

* 2 kale leaves/handful of beet greens (raw)
* Handful of spinach (raw)
* Handful of frozen mango
* 3/4 cup of frozen blueberries/ mixed berries/cherries
* ½ banana                                     
    * ½ scoop whey or other protein powder 
* 2 tbsp. ground flax seed