Living with Parkinson’s disease

Living with Parkinson’s disease

  • Feb. 4, 2018 1:30 a.m.

Lucy Wyndham

Special to The Morning Star

This month, The Parkinson’s Society of British Columbia has launched The Thought Project Online. This project is raising money for those affected by the disease, and is also changing attitudes for the better. The Thought Project is about having a positive outlook, and also about sharing experiences.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological degenerative disease that stops the nerve cells in the brain from producing dopamine. This damages the brain gradually over time and has symptoms such as tremors, memory loss, muscle tension and difficulties with sleep. There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but changing your lifestyle and diet can make the symptoms easier to deal with. Even though one in every 500 individuals in Canada have the condition — as stated by UCB Canada — people manage to maintain an excellent quality of life.

Cutting down sodium intake

If you are living with Parkinson’s disease, it is important that you keep your intake of salt (sodium) to a minimum, as it can affect circulation and blood pressure. Just a small reduction can help reduce blood pressure (hypertension). The maximum recommended sodium intake is 1,500 mg a day. One of the biggest culprits for added salt are snacks — packaged food has a high sodium content. When you are buying food, make sure that you read the labels, so that you can be educated about the ingredients that they contain. Low-sodium cooking is easy — instead of salt, you can use natural spices to flavour food.

Eating low-fat produce

Reducing your intake of fat helps hypertension. Your diet should be low in cholesterol — this waxy substance helps make vitamin D and hormones, but too much of it in your blood can cause damage and give you high blood pressure. Foods low in fat generally contain less cholesterol and can help improve your circulation. Steer clear of eating food that is deep-fried, too, as this can clog the digestive system. There are plenty of restaurants in B.C. that are actively participating in the healthy eating campaign. Even if you are eating out, you can still have a good diet.

Don’t eat too much protein

Having a balanced, great-quality diet is important to maintain optimal health. Therefore, when it comes to nutrition, it is important not to eat too much protein, if you’re living with Parkinson’s. This isn’t because it is bad for you, but because of many of the common Parkinson’s medications, such as Levodopa. The drug was trialled in Canada earlier this year, and had great success; however, too much protein can inhibit the absorption of the medicine, meaning that the drug will not be as effective.

Up your fiber intake

One of the more common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is constipation. Increasing your intake of fiber can really help. There are two sorts of fiber: soluble, which includes oats, lentils, peas, beans, barley, fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber comes from cereal grains and whole grains. Neither sort of fiber are absorbable into the bloodstream, but they do aid the digestion of food by making stools bigger and making them softer. This eases constipation and makes it easier to go to the bathroom. Many fibers are high in antioxidants which can help to heal cells in the body.

Dealing with nausea

Nausea is a common symptom, but can also be a side effect of the medication. Eating smaller meals more frequently can help with this, and also having smaller mouthfuls. Many of the medications should be taken on an empty stomach in order to speed up absorption and make them more effective. Snacking on small amounts of carbohydrates during the day, crackers or a little pasta, can help settle the stomach.

Eating balanced meals and plenty of fruit and vegetables will provide you with the vitamins and minerals you need to function. A few small changes in diet can help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s and help give you more energy.

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