Parkinson’s disease is a disorder in which the dopamine system in the brain is damaged. And while most people know that Parkinson’s disease mainly affects movement, not everyone knows the significant impact food can have on dopamine levels. Did you know that certain foods can help improve the symptoms of this disease? That’s right! In today’s article, let’s take a look at dopamine foods for Parkinson’s disease.

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What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement. 

It results from the death of cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter essential for normal motor function. 

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, almost one million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, and the number is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030. This makes the disease the most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States.

Research shows that Parkinson’s may result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors like exposure to toxins. Symptoms typically develop slowly over time, and can include tremors, difficulty with balance and coordination, slowed speech, and difficulty swallowing. 

In advanced cases, people may become wheelchair-bound or unable to do even basic activities such as walking or eating.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but treatments can help reduce the severity of symptoms.

What is Dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for the pleasure and reward factors of the brain. It also helps control movement, motivation, concentration, and other important brain functions.

While low levels of dopamine can cause Parkinson’s disease and other issues too much of it has also been shown to be harmful. Too much dopamine can cause conditions like ADHD, gambling, binge eating, and addiction

That’s why abusing drugs that release dopamine, like cocaine and methamphetamine, can cause changes in dopamine levels in the brain, leading to addiction.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include

1. Tremors

A tremor is an uncontrollable shaking of the hands, arms, legs, or whole body. Tremors may be one of the earliest signs of the disease, and they often increase over time.

2. Rigid muscles

Rigid muscles are another common sign of Parkinson’s disease and can often be seen in people with advanced stages of the condition. These muscles become stiff and difficult to move, which can cause problems with basic functions like walking and working.

Rigid muscles often lead to profound physical disabilities and require long-term treatment to manage.

3. Slowness of movement

The hallmark symptom of Parkinson’s is a slow, shaking movement called bradykinesia.

The movements are slow and laborious, often taking multiple repetitions to complete a simple task. This can be seen in everything from walking to hand movements.

4. Difficulty speaking

Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience problems with their pronunciation and fluency. They may have difficulty articulating certain words or phrases correctly, or they may have difficulty getting the words out in a timely manner. Additionally, these individuals may find it difficult to produce sound waves from their vocal cords.

Research shows that of more than seven million people with Parkinson’s worldwide, 75%-90% will develop a speech and voice problem during their illness.

5. Depression

Depression is a common complication of Parkinson’s disease. In fact, research shows that up to 30% – 40% of people with Parkinson’s experience depression at some point in their illness. The risk of developing depression increases as the severity of PD worsens.

Depression can cause severe disability and may even be life-threatening. Depression often leads to decreased activity, poor sleep quality, weight gain, and low self-esteem.

There are several reasons why people with Parkinson’s disease might develop depression. One reason is that depression can be a symptom of Parkinson’s disease itself. This is because Parkinson’s affects the part of the brain that produces norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin, which regulate energy, mood, appetite, sleep, and motivation.

In addition, depression can also result from the social isolation that often accompanies Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s disease may find it challenging to participate in activities they once enjoyed and may experience feelings of loneliness and despair.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating depression in people with Parkinson’s, but therapy and medication are often effective. 

Therapy may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps patients identify and change negative thinking patterns that can contribute to depression. 

6. Difficulty swallowing

Difficulty swallowing can be a major obstacle for people with Parkinson’s disease as it can make it difficult to eat and drink. With time this may lead to weight loss and malnutrition.

Swallowing problems can also impair patients’ ability to breathe correctly. This may increase the risk for aspiration, which may cause one to be more susceptible to pneumonia, other respiratory illnesses, and even death from respiratory causes.

The difficulty in swallowing can be caused by a number of things, including reduced muscle strength and mobility in the neck and throat area, as well as problems with coordination.

There are several ways that can help improve your Difficulty swallowing. One way is to eat small meals more frequently throughout the day. You may also find it helpful to drink liquids slowly and avoid acidic foods and drinks. If you experience significant Difficulty swallowing, it is important to see a doctor for assessment and treatment.

Dopamine foods for Parkinson’s

While food alone might not cure Parkinson, certain foods have been shown to improve dopamine levels, thus improving the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

1. Velvet beans

Velvet beans, also known as Mucuna pruriens, are a type of legume that naturally contains high levels of L-dopa (levodopa), the precursor molecule to dopamine. 

For this reason, velvet beans have been shown to increase dopamine levels in patients with Parkinson’s, thus helping improve their condition. In fact, velvet beans are a commercial source of L-dopa.

Also, velvet beans are a rich source of other essential nutrients, including vitamins B6 and B12, which have also been shown to improve symptoms of Parkinson’s.

In addition to their therapeutic benefits, velvet beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber and other nutrients that can promote general health and wellbeing.

Velvet Beans shown as Dopamine foods

2. Round beans

A lot of scientific research supports the idea that eating round beans increases dopamine levels in the brain. Some studies suggest that these beans may be one of the most effective ways to increase dopamine levels in people with Parkinson’s disease.

In one study, 11 patients with Parkinson’s disease consumed 1.5 cups (250 grams) of round beans after going for 12 hours without medication. Results showed comparable positive changes in dopamine levels and motor functions as L-dopa drugs.

In addition to promoting dopamine production, round beans are also high in other nutrients, such as magnesium and folate. These nutrients have been shown to support overall nerve health and functioning. Magnesium is especially important for muscle control and energy production, while folate helps to form DNA and keep cells healthy. Together, these nutrients provide powerful support for cognitive function and general wellbeing.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that has been used in India for thousands of years. It is a member of the ginger family and has been shown to have many health benefits. Recently, researchers have found that turmeric may also help improve symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease.

The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to restore dopamine and tyrosine levels. Tyrosine is an amino acid responsible for producing various brain chemicals, including dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

4. Leafy green vegetables

Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale are dense in nutrients, including folate and vitamin B6. These nutrients help increase dopamine levels in the brain, which is why they’re so beneficial for cognitive function and mood. In addition, these veggies are also high in antioxidants, which help protect against age-related damage.

5. Seeds

Seeds are a good source of L-tyrosine, also known as tyrosine, an amino acid that is broken down to produce dopamine. 

That means consuming foods high in tyrosine can greatly boost dopamine levels in patients with Parkinson’s and improve their symptoms.

Pumpkin seeds and chia seeds are among the best to include in your diet. Additionally, seeds are a good source of antioxidants and other nutrients that may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases. 

groups of seeds, shown as Dopamine foods

6. Berries: blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, blackberries, and elderberries

Berries can indeed increase dopamine levels. This is due to the fact that they contain phytochemicals and antioxidants that have been shown to increase the production of dopamine in the brain. Additionally, the antioxidants present in berries help protect against damage from free radicals, which can lead to a decrease in dopamine levels.

7. Banana

Banana is a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin levels, and amino acid l-tyrosine, which is converted into dopamine in the brain. Bananas are also rich in vitamin B6, another important nutrient for boosting dopamine.

Vitamin B6 is a vital nutrient in the production of various neurotransmitters, including serotonin, GABA, dopamine, and noradrenaline. It can help decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Bananas are also high in magnesium and vitamin C. Magnesium is important for nerve function and helps to keep cells functioning properly. Vitamin C helps to neutralize free radicals and can protect cells from damage. Together, these nutrients may help improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by promoting neuron health and protecting against damage caused by free radicals.

8. Nuts: pecans, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and brazil nuts

Nuts like hazelnuts and walnuts are good sources of vitamin B6, which, as seen above, increases dopamine production in the brain. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which modulate dopamine concentrations in the brain.

Also, nuts are a good source of folate, which also boosts dopamine release.

Besides vitamin B6 and omega-3 fatty acids, nuts provide significant amounts of magnesium, manganese, niacin, vitamin E, and zinc, all of which promote good health and wellbeing.

A handful of nuts can provide as much as half the recommended daily intake for many of these nutrients.

9. Nightshade vegetables: eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers

There is mounting evidence that eating nightshade vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, can improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Nightshades are a group of plants that include eggplant, potatoes, and chili peppers. They have been shown to contain dietary nicotine, which may slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

These vegetables may also reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in the brain, which are thought to be responsible for some of the motor symptoms of this condition.

10. Oregano oil

Oregano oil is a popular remedy for a variety of health problems, including Parkinson’s disease.

A 2006 study found that people with Parkinson’s disease who used oregano oil supplements significantly reduced their ability to experience muscle stiffness and tremors. Some people also report improvements in mood, sleep, and quality of life.

Oregano oil can also help reduce inflammation in the brain, which may be a contributing factor in the development of Parkinson’s disease.

11. Apple

There is growing evidence that eating apples can help manage Parkinson’s disease. In a study published in the journal Neurology, people with early-stage Parkinson’s who ate two or more apples a day for six months saw their symptoms decrease. The participants also had better motor function and less rigidity than those who didn’t eat apples.

However, the study was small, so more research is needed to confirm these findings. But if you have Parkinson’s, eating apples may improve your quality of life.

12. Onions and chives

Onions and chives are great vegetables rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. This can fight inflammation in the brain and prevent oxidative damage from free radicals, which can help maintain nerve health as well as improve Parkinson’s symptoms.

13. Purple cabbage

Purple cabbage can improve Parkinson’s disease symptoms by decreasing inflammation and improving nerve function. This benefit may be due to the compound anthocyanin found in purple cabbage. 

Anthocyanin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can help boost nerve function and improve neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Foods to avoid

There are some foods that should be avoided as they can aggravate Parkinson’s Disease. These include:

  • Processed foods
  • Foods high in saturated fats
  • Too much protein
  • Sugary foods and drinks
  • Too much alcohol
  • Too much iron can lower the absorption of PD medication  

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Final Thoughts

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain and nervous system. 

As dopamine levels become depleted, patients experience symptoms such as muscle rigidity, slow movement, difficulty swallowing, and problems with coordination. 

There are many different treatments available for Parkinson’s patients, but one of the most important things one can do to improve their quality of life is to restore dopamine levels through diet. 

Eating foods like nuts, leafy greens, seeds, and some fruits may be beneficial. Likewise, some foods like processed foods, those high in sugar and saturated fats, or too much consumption of alcohol can make the symptoms worse. So always eliminate them from the diet

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