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Having watched my father live with Parkinson’s Disease for my entire life, first with Parkinson’s symptoms (he developed a tremor in his 30’s) and then in his 60’s with full blown Parkinson’s until his death at 87, I can tell you I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Incidentally, I realize what my dad suffered from for most of his adult life was termed Parkinsonism (which is defined by certain neurological disorders that cause movement challenges similar to those manifested in full blown Parkinson’s disease).
The challenges are many and include not only the tremor and instability in gait, but also the dementia that very often accompanies the disease. My dad had delusions with his disease that included believing he still had to get to work long after he had retired.
This would accompany agitation and upset that he get there on time, especially when he was in the hospital. Another time when he was home, he was upset because he believed strange men were “in his yard cutting down the trees” that had actually been gone for many years. I tried to reason with him, but finally left the room for a few minutes, then came back and told him I made them go away and the trees were saved. That made him calm down. There were other instances, but you get the picture.
I have a friend whose brother was recently diagnosed with the disease. Paul had been an avid golfer, semi-pro in fact, and had spent many hours on the courses that use so much pesticide to keep the courses lush and green. My dad had grown up on a farm, and who knows what pesticides had been used on the crops they raised. I strongly suspect diet and environmental toxins in general are contributing to the ever increasing incidence of Parkinson’s as well as other neurological diseases that are on the rise. Be careful to avoid exposure to pesticides as that has been established as a risk factor for developing Parkinson’s.
I was surprised to learn the go-to medication for Parkinson’s is the same as it was for my dad many years ago. Sinemet (levodopa) was the staple prescription drug for regulating the tremors. The motor symptoms exhibited with Parkinson’s are caused by a lack of dopamine. Administering levodopa elevates this level. I remember it was very tricky, though, because just the right amount helped; too little or too much and the tremors would return with a vengeance. The need for a constantly adjusted dosage was an ongoing challenge he lived with every day.
Parkinson’s medications, as all drugs do, come with a variety of side effects. Constipation is a frequent symptom of the drug and/or the disease, so drinking enough water and getting enough fiber is critical to help control this. Your best fiber intake is the fiber you get from eating fresh whole fruits and vegetables, so don’t peel them and enjoy often.
If you are taking Sinemet, be aware it is a protein building block, so it competes with other proteins for absorption. This means it is in your best interest to eat fruits and vegetables during the day if you take your Sinemet early and save your protein intake for dinnertime. That way your medication isn’t in competition with the roast beef sandwich you’re enjoying at lunch time.
Prevention is always the best route. I encourage you to make every effort at the very least to gradually switch the foods you eat to a more anti-inflammatory diet. This means less sugar, fewer processed foods, less eating out and fewer trips to the fast food haunts.
If you begin by focusing on color, that’s a great start. Green leafy vegetables and colorful fruits, especially berries are high in anti-oxidants. Berries are delicious, and you can incorporate them in so many ways. For instance, I encourage people to skip the orange or grapefruit juice for breakfast and instead have a some fresh berries. If you must have an orange, and don’t misunderstand me, it’s a great source of vitamin C, slice up a fresh one. That way you’re getting fiber and vitamins you would miss with the juice, and the fiber will slow down the processing of the sugar in the juice to new fat cells (something we all want to avoid).
For dinner, make dessert a small dessert bowl of berries or a plate of grape and cherries that kids can take, put on their plates, and enjoy a bit of healthy sweetness at the end of their meal. You can make healthy eating fun for them.
If you’d like more information from a patient’s perspective with a positive spin, I encourage you to check out this book. The author’s description of his mother’s symptoms rang very true and made me recall some events I had forgotten (or repressed) about my dad’s disease.
This article was originally published on my site at http://thinstronghealthy.com/growing-up-with-food/
Helping You Achieve Major Wellness in Your Life!
Cheryl A Major, CWC
Cheryl A Major lives in Westford and is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. Her TV show, Thin Strong Healthy, airs on WestfordCat and is an offshoot of her blog http://ThinStrongHealthy.com Cheryl offers ongoing information and personal health coaching to help you feel better and be healthier. Follow Cheryl on Twitter @CherylAMajor. She is also a full time residential Realtor with Coldwell Banker with more than 25 years experience.
Questions? Email Cheryl at [email protected] and be sure to put Health Question in the subject line. Your question and its answer will be included in a future article
P.S. Check out all the free recipes for great tasting healthy eating in the Recipe Section at http://ThinStrongHealthy.com