What a person ingests can have a dramatic impact upon the person's health for better or for worse. Ayurvedics, TCM, and naturopaths believe that diet is critical to disease prevention and health promotion. Most holistic practitioners would prescribe a specific diet based upon the individual's particular body type and imbalance and their specific training. A review of the many Eastern diet approaches is well beyond the scope of this chapter. It is therefore recommended that persons with PD seek out a licensed nutritionist either Western or Eastern trained to help develop a proper diet. Though there is no specific diet proven to prevent or slow the progression of PD, some general guidelines (5,11) to consider are as follows:
1. minimize alcohol intake,
2. avoid high sugar containing foods (desserts, candy, soft drinks),
3. avoid artificial sweeteners (i.e., aspartame),
4. reduce processed foods with added chemicals/preservatives,
5. avoid well water and consider purified or filtered water,
6. avoid foods sprayed with pesticides (nonorganic fruits, vegetables, coffee),
7. lower dairy products, especially nonorganic milk,
8. eat a high fiber diet,
9. eat foods rich in antioxidants, 10. eat good fats.
Reduction of high sugar or a low glycemic diet is something to consider. Many holistic practitioners believe a diet that avoids high levels of blood sugar is critical to reduce inflammation and balance the endocrine system for optimal health and disease prevention. Foods rich in carbohydrates can be evaluated by their glycemic index. A low glycemic index is preferred as it is less likely to cause a high blood sugar level. White rice, pasta and breads, desserts, and candy are some foods known to have high glycemic indexes. Eating carbohydrates in combination with equal amounts of fiber and good fat is also recommended.
Maximizing digestion of food is important as the gastrointestinal system may be slowed in PD. Constipation, abdominal bloating, and nausea may result from PD or as side effects from the conventional medications used to treat PD. One can improve digestion by eating smaller, more frequent meals, adequately chewing to break food down into smaller more digestible pieces, drinking 64 ounces of water or liquid, and eating high amounts of fiber (25—30 g) on a daily basis. Foods rich in fiber are nonprocessed fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. In addition, supplements to aid in digestion by breaking down protein include pepsin, betaine hydrochloride, and bromelain. Ingestion of probiotics (acidophilus), found in capsule form and in yogurt and miso, helps promote healthy gut bacteria and minimize intestinal inflammation and malabsorption.
Eating good fats and avoiding bad fats should be part of any healthy diet. The best fats are the omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish and often referred to as fish oil. The best food sources of these fats are salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. Wild ocean fish have a higher content of the omega-3 fatty acids than farm-raised fish; some fish such as swordfish, mackerel, and shark, despite having high good fat content, should be avoided due to high toxin ratings. Fish oil can also be taken in supplement forms often called omega-3 fatty acids. Additional sources of healthy fats are found in olive oil, avocados, fish, and nuts. Foods to avoid are those labeled as irans-monosaturated and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, such as many margarines, crackers, cookies, processed snacks (pretzels, potato chips), shortening, cooking oils, and fast foods.
Foods rich in antioxidants should be part of a daily diet. These include most fresh fruits and vegetables. Blueberries receive the highest antioxidant score with basic science studies showing reduced age-related changes in brain cells and cognitive function in rats treated with a blueberry-supplemented diet (12). Another study reported middle-aged rats treated with blueberry extract to have improved brain transplant cell survival and growth in the hippocampus (13). Cyanohydrox-ybutene may increase glutathione and can be found in broccoli, cauliflower, brus-sel sprouts, and cabbage. Other detoxifying and DNA-supporting extracts include luteolin found in basil, parsley, celery, and artichokes, ellagic acid found in raspberries and strawberries, sulphorophane and glucosinolates found in broccoli, and polyphenol in green tea. Foods rich in the antioxidant vitamin E include nuts, wheat germ, spinach, and green leafy vegetables and those rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits. Though there are no clinical studies to support a particular diet for the treatment of PD, the potential impact of diet on PD has led the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Center for Complementary Medicine to fund future research to examine whether antioxidants, folate, coffee, fats, alcohol, and dairy products can have a positive impact on the symptoms and/or progression of PD.
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