Times of Oman
Nov 28, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 06:38 AM GMT
Parkinson's disease and eating right
August 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Photo - Shutterstock

Scientific breakthroughs, along with many celebrities have made Parkinson's disease (PD) frequent front page news. Yet the experts aren't sure why people get this muscle weakening conditions. It is possible you may inherit it or environmental chemicals might cause it. But somehow the brain cells that control your muscles break down and you begin to lose control of your movements.

Parkinson's disease  comes on slowly. In the beginning, you might feel anxious and have trouble sleeping. Trembling hands, stiff muscles and slow movement are likely to follow — you may shuffle your feet when you walk and have trouble keeping your balance.

Nonetheless, most of the people with this problem continues to lead a very productive life.

More than 91 per cent of those who have it live at home with their families. That says a lot when we consider it mostly occurs in older folks. But Parkinson's disease can strike younger people as well.
There is no cure yet but there are effective medications to help control the symptoms and your diet can influence how well the medicine works. More importantly, the foods you eat may help you avoid getting it in the first place.

What you eat and drink is important
1) It was found in a study of older people in a suburb of Rotterdam in the Netherlands that if you eat a lot of foods containing vitamin E you are less likely to get Parkinson's disease.  How this vitamin protects you from Parkinson's is not very clear yet.

The experts think it may be that, as an antioxidant, it helps prevent the breakdown of nerve cells that affect movement.

You can get this vitamin E protection by eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables like apricots, avocados, mangoes, kale and sweet potatoes. Include bran, rice, wheat germ, almonds, and peanut butter and sunflower seeds in your diet as well.

Getting most of your vitamin E from these plant foods rather than animal sources is a doubly good idea because eating a lot of animal fat can increase your chances of getting Parkinson's disease. Substitute plant protein like beans and nuts for some of the meat in your diet and when you do eat meats, stick to the lean cuts. Vegetable oil is another good source of vitamin E. Use olive and canola —  two of the healthiest oils – on salads and in other uncooked dishes.

2) Jump start your morning with a cup of  coffee and you may help protect yourself from Parkinson's disease. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a link between regular coffee drinkers and Parkinson's disease. The researchers who did this study believe it's most likely the caffeine, not some other ingredient, that gives coffee lovers this edge but further researches are awaited before you start increasing your coffee intake.

3) Constipation is a common problem for people with Parkinson's disease but by eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, you can help your bowels work smoothly. For additional fibre, munch on seeds and whole grain breads and cereals, or stir some unprocessed bran into casseroles and salads. Just be sure to drink plenty of water.  The universal notion for prevention of diseases and being healthy remains the same for all therapeutic conditions i.e. a well-balanced and healthy diet which includes plenty of fresh food and water along with regular physical activity. Few guidelines for healthy eating:

• Eat a variety of foods with the inclusion of foods from all the food groups in a balanced amount.
• Choose a high fibre, low fat diet which gives you protection against a myriad of diseases.
• Give equal importance to a regular exercise everyday.
• Drink plenty of water every day.
• Maintain healthy body weight.
• Reduce your sugar and salt intake.

 Monika Seth/Nutritionist and diet consultant specialising in weight loss at Al Raffah Hospital

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