Living With Early Onset Parkinson's — Diet & Exercise
A healthy diet can help people living with Parkinson's disease achieve or maintain normal body weight, increase our energy level, boost our immune system, decrease risk factors for certain conditions or illnesses, and reduce constipation.
Parkinson's disease and diet should be considered together. It can be particularly helpful for people with early onset Parkinson's disease to pay close attention to issues of diet and nutrition to living with Parkinson's. That's because poor nutritional status can result in, and contribute to, many of the common complaints associated with Parkinson's disease. For example, difficulties with swallowing can prevent people with Parkinson's disease from getting adequate nourishment, which can lead to a worsening of motor symptoms and increased weakness resulting in falls.
People with PD may also find that certain medications, or medication side effects, have an impact on their diet or nutrition. Any time you are prescribed a new medication, it is a good idea to ask your physician about any dietary restrictions and whether it is best to take the medication with or without food. This is particularly important with Parkinson's disease medications because certain food groups as well as the timing of meals can interfere with how quickly or fully your body is able to absorb the medication
There is no set diet for people with Parkinson's, as everyone's nutritional needs are different. If you have concerns about diet or nutrition, or simply want some assistance developing the healthiest diet given your particular lifestyle and circumstances, you may want to consult a "dietician" or "nutritionist." These terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Registered dietitians are regulated and must meet certain educational and professional requirements before they are able to use the title. Anyone can call himself or herself a nutritionist, even if he or she has no special education or certification in the field. Visit www.eatright.org to find a registered nutrition professional near you. Also check with your physician, as he or she may know someone who specializes in nutritional issues related to Parkinson's disease.
For people living with Parkinson's disease, exercise may be one of the most powerful tools to fight some symptoms and to slow the disease's degenerative nature.
In addition to maintaining overall physical and emotional health and well being, exercise tends to minimize some of the primary and secondary symptoms of early onset Parkinson's. Though exercise is not a cure, it can help people living with Parkinson's disease maintain muscle tone and function, remain flexible, and improve overall mobility.
While the precise role exercise plays in delaying the progression of the disease is still being researched, studies consistently report that those with PD who exercise regularly tend to do better than those who do not. When it comes to exercise, being younger has its advantages. Younger people are usually stronger and better able to maintain a regular exercise program over time.
Many young people with PD have found that they are able to combine their exercise with grass roots fundraising efforts. From the well-known walk-a-thons held across the country to the young men and women who have walked marathons to raise funds, finding sponsors who will cheer you on every step or mile can help you remain committed to an exercise plan.
Of course, marathons aren't for everyone! Choose the type of exercise that works for you. Whether you are walking around the block, riding a bicycle, swimming, or taking Pilates, tai chi, or yoga classes, any form of physical exercise that keeps you strong, increases your endurance, balance, or flexibility can help you manage your PD. Always check with your physician before you begin a new exercise program.