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The symptoms of Parkinson's disease, including shaking and difficulty swallowing, can affect a person's appetite and ability to eat and use cutlery. However, it is important to still try and eat a healthy well-balanced diet to give the body the nutrition it needs.

There is no special Parkinson's diet, but here are some tips for eating well with Parkinson's disease.

Always discuss significant changes to diet with the Parkinson's care team and ask a GP for a referral to a dietitian for individual advice.

The basics

  • Eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of different foods, including lean protein, wholegrains and at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.  Ask your doctor if you should take a daily vitamin supplement.
  • Maintain your weight through a correct balance of exercise and food. Ask your doctor what your ideal weight should be and how many calories you should consume per day.
  • Eat plenty of high-fibre foods such as vegetables, peas, beans, pulses (lentils and chick peas), wholegrain breakfast cereals, granary or wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and fresh fruit.
  • Don't eat too many foods that contain a lot of saturated fat.
  • Limit sugary foods like sweets and chocolate or sugary soft drinks.
  • Ask your doctor if you should reduce the amount of salt in your diet.
  • Drink about 8-10 cups or 6-8 mugs (2 litres) of liquid per day.  Water, cordial (squash), tea, coffee, and lower sugar yoghurt drinks are all suitable.  One small (150ml) glass of fruit juice a day is also fine. 
  • Sufficient fibre and fluids are especially important if you are struggling with constipation. 
  • Ask your doctor about drinking alcoholic beverages. Alcohol may interfere with some of your medications.

Medication and food interactions

For some patients levodopa may cause nausea. Nausea is an uneasiness of the stomach that often accompanies the urge to vomit, but doesn't always lead to vomiting. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of levodopa and carbidopa, or carbidopa by itself. If nausea is a continual problem, your doctor may be able to prescribe another medication to relieve these symptoms. There are also tips listed below that can help relieve nausea.

Ask your doctor if you should also change your daily protein intake. In rare cases a diet high in protein limits the effectiveness of levodopa.

Controlling nausea

There are several ways to control or relieve nausea including:

  • Sip drinks slowly between meals rather than with meals. You may find cold fluids taken though a straw easier to tolerate.  Ginger flavoured drinks may help to relieve nausea.
  • Eating dry starchy foods such as cream crackers, plain biscuits or unbuttered toast can help.
  • Avoid fried, greasy or very sweet-tasting foods. Savoury foods are usually easier to tolerate.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
  • Eat foods that are cold or at room temperature to avoid getting nauseous from the smell of hot or warm foods.
  • Rest after eating but avoid lying down. Sit in an upright position keeping your head elevated. Activity and bending may make nausea worse and may lead to vomiting.
  • If you feel nauseous when you wake up in the morning, eat some crackers before getting out of bed.
  • Try to eat when you feel less nauseous.

If these techniques do not seem to ease your queasy stomach, seek medical advice.

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