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How Diet Can Influence Levodopa

Everyone knows that a healthy well balanced diet is important. But do you know that the food you eat can have a major influence on the effectiveness of Levodopa? Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research around other forms of PD medication so this blog post will focus on Levodopa only. Many people with PD experience fluctuations in their medication effectiveness. This can be caused from lots of different things, one of them being your diet. There are some vitamins/nutrients that can help boost the effectiveness of Levodopa, and others can reduce the effectiveness.

Levodopa and PD

Levodopa and Protein

People with PD are at an increased risk of malnutrition and weight loss compared to those without Parkinson's. Protein can help with the following:

  1. Prevent muscle wasting

  2. Help build strong muscles

  3. Enhance our immune system and wound healing

  4. Help maintain weight and prevent weight loss

  5. Help our bones and skin stay strong

Unfortunately, protein has shown to negatively influence the effectiveness of Levodopa. Protein can influence how much of the medication actually makes it way up to the brain. Those with a high protein diets have been shown to have more bradykinesia and worsening of motor function.

A low protein diet consists of up to 0.8g/kg of body weight/day. A low protein diet has been shown to diminish the severity of motor fluctuations, promoted longer "on" times, and shortened "off" times. However, for older adults it is recommended that you intake 1.5g/kg of body weight/day to help our body stay strong and function well.

Protein redistribution can be a great alternative to a low protein diet. This means you need to better time when you eat your protein. Protein intake mainly at breakfast and lunch has shown to significantly contribute to motor fluctuations. Changing your protein intake to a later meal in the evening can really help. This approach has been shown to improve motor performance and lower disability in those with PD.

Both protein diets have been shown to be effective, so it is up to you and your goals as to which is best for you. Are you actively trying to build strength and muscle? Maybe a low protein diet is not right for you! Are you really struggling with motor fluctuations? Maybe a low protein diet will really help. When choosing the right diet for you, it is important to ask yourself what your goals are and what is more feasible for your lifestyle.

Low protein diets can really negatively impact our mood, concentration, memory, muscle strength, and ability to fight off diseases. This means that we need to be incredibly intentional about everything else we put in our bodies. Eliminating processed foods and sugar is so crucial to make sure that our body stays as healthy and strong as possible. A good rule of thumb is to do all your grocery shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store. The minute you step into those isles, you are getting processed foods.

Foods high in protein
  • One half of a chicken breast (86 grams): 26.7 grams of protein

  • One hundred grams (about 1/2 cup) of cooked lentils: 9.02 grams of protein

  • Legumes include chickpeas: 7.05 grams of protein per 100 grams cooked

  • Black beans: 8.86 grams of protein 100 grams cooked

  • A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of lean beef: 24.6 grams of protein

  • All types of fish are high in protein. Here are two examples:

    • Half a salmon fillet (124 grams): 30.5 grams of protein.

    • A cod fillet (180 grams): 41 grams of protein

protein and levodopa

Levodopa and Coffee

Coffee lovers, this one is for you.

Regular consumption of coffee may help slow the rate of progression of Parkinson's. Evidence here is a bit mixed, but there are some promising results. The key may be in the amount! For example, moderate amounts (1-3 cups a day) has been shown to reduce the presence of levodopa induced dyskinesias.

Caffeine is also thought to help increase the activity of your GI system, helping you digest and pass food quicker, ultimately leading to increased absorption of your medication!

High amount of caffeine can lead to high blood pressure, stomach problems, anxiety, and depression, so please be mindful with how much you are drinking!

It is important to note that caffeine can stay in our system for 7-12 hours, so make sure your coffee intake is in the morning only so it does not effect your sleep!

Levodopa and Fiber

Fiber is used to help us pass stool more easily. There have been a few studies examining the effects of fiber and levodopa and the results are sound. Plantago ovata husk, an herb frequently used as a laxative, has been shown to lower the risk of levodopa side effects, improve coordination, reduce fluctuations in the medication leading to more consistent motor responses, and improve constipation.

Levodopa and Vitamin C

It has been suspected that Vitamin C can be neuroprotective due to its antioxidant properties. In some studies, Vitamin C has been shown to increase the amount of levodopa that enters the blood stream and goes to the brain. However, this was shown to be effective in only those who have difficulty absorbing the drug. Vitamin C is thought to help stimulate bowel movements, which ultimately contribute to increased absorption.

There is so much that can impact your medication effectiveness, but diet is a big one. As always, talk with your doctor about what diet is best for you and meet with a Registered Dietician to formulate the best meal plan for you and your symptoms!



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