Parkinson's disease is a devastating diagnosis, because while the illness is treatable, it is not curable. Parkinson's disease is marked by progressive degradation of the nervous system, which results in symptoms including tremors, muscle stiffness, slow movements, impaired balance and changes in speech. Dopamine, a chemical produced in your brain, may have promise for treating already diagnosed Parkinson's disease, and it may also help prevent it, although it has not been studied widely. Adding certain foods to your diet may increase your levels of dopamine, thus protecting your brain from changes that can lead to Parkinson's disease. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet, and do not stop taking any medicines your doctor has advised for health problems.
Not only are beans loaded with fiber and low in fat, they also contain protein, a nutrient essential for high brain levels of dopamine. Beans contain a protein-based amino acid called tyrosine, which boosts the amount of dopamine in your brain. According to Joel C. Robertson and Tom Monte, authors of "Natural Prozac: Learning to Release Your Body's Own Anti-Depressants," 3 oz. to 4 oz. of protein is enough to significantly increase your dopamine levels and improve your brain activity. Keeping your dopamine levels high may help your brain better stave off neurological changes that can lead to Parkinson's disease.
Nuts are an additional source of protein, but they also contain a substance called phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is associated with a significant increase in dopamine levels, and eating a handful a day may help you keep your levels high enough to help prevent brain disorders that can lead to Parkinson's disease. Phenylalanine works like the tyrosine in beans by encouraging your brain to make more dopamine, notes Dan Silverman in his book, "Brain After Chemo." Any type of nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans and peanuts, will help you get more phenylalanine. The Parkinson's Disease Foundation also recommends nuts as a healthy food for Parkinson's patients, putting it on its "won't hurt and might help" list.
Eating a banana is a healthy way to add a hefty dose of potassium to your diet, but bananas also raise your dopamine levels. Adding a banana to your daily diet will help your brain produce more dopamine, which can help keep it healthy and able to resist changes that can turn into a Parkinson's diagnosis. The Parkinson's Disease Foundation recommends adding fruits to your Parkinson's diet, and a banana is a dopamine producing choice, Thomas S. C. Li adds in his book, "Vegetables and Fruits; Nutrition and Therapeutic Values." Eat a banana with your morning cereal or add one to your lunchbox for two simple ways to include them in your daily diet.
A serving of sunflower seeds supplies you with some vitamin E, fiber and protein, but sunflower seeds also contain a substance called tryptophan, which increases your brain levels of dopamine and may help prevent Parkinson's disease, although this has not been studied widely. The Parkinson's Disease Foundation puts seeds and nuts in its "won't hurt and might help" category, saying they will be helpful for health in other ways. A handful of sunflower seeds included in your daily diet is a simple way to encourage your brain to produce more dopamine. Sprinkle some on a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal, or bake them into your favorite bread or muffin recipes.
- "Natural Prozac: Learning to Release Your Body's Own Anti-Depressants"; Joel C. Robertson and Tom Monte; 1998
- "Your Brain After Chemo"; Dan Silverman; 2009
- "Vegetables and Fruits; Nutrition and Therapeutic Values"; Thomas S. C. Li; 2008
- Parkinson's Disease Foundation; Nutrition and Parkinson's Disease: What Matters Most?; Karol Traviss