We hear a lot these days the phrase "Food As Medicine". But did you know it is quite literally true for Parkinson's Disease? There is an exotic bean called mucuna puriens which has naturally high levels of levadopa - the main active ingredient in the mainstay drugs for Parkinson's! Many people use this food substance successfully to help control the symptoms, either instead of or as an adjunct to the medication. Because it is contained in a natural "matrix", some PwP find it has less side effects compared to the man-made chemical matrices of the medication. But mucuna puriens is of a class of beans and is not the only one! People with Parkinson's may be less familiar with the concept that the good old broad bean - a common or garden variety in the UK - is also high in levadopa and has also been used effectively for Parkinson's, as this article in the Pharmaceutical Journal explains.
I have been trialing eating broad beans, not very scientifically and a bit haphazardly, but I do note some benefits. Something else not many people tend to know, is that broad beans actually make a very tasty snack alternative to crisps/potato chips or peanuts! Fried and salted, broad beans can come in a handy snack form - especially important for people with Parkinson's as these snack beans can be placed in a convenient place and accessed without requiring preparation.
If you do try something like this in the way of broad beans please do feedback how you get on and let us know if you note any benefits yourself, but one caveat - the journal article mentioned above also indicates that some people can have a bad allergic reaction to broad beans.
I cannot stress these concepts enough for PwP: food is absolutely critical to symptoms, good and bad. Food interacts strongly with the medications too. It simply is not enough to rely on drugs, and if you have periods where the "drugs aren't working" it is vital to look to your diet.
On the Food-As-Medicine side, here is a diary entry I wrote on September 21st 2016:
"I've been feeling quite symptomatic of late. I usually do a regular "Special Parkinson's Grocery Shop" with Ocado of a favourites list I've iteratively designed. I had neglected this of late and had been getting by on bits and bobs from offline Supermarkets. My latest delivery from Ocado came day before yesterday. The transformation in my symptoms is so clear and massive that it is like day and night. In fact, I went from being quite rigid with very little "on" time to massive dyskinesia [over-medication] overnight. Just goes to show what David Spry and I harp on about how impactful food choices are. Haven't narrowed down what the main food which has done it yet, but it would seem to be at least one of:
- banana chips fried in coconut oil;
- highest quality raw coconut water;
- jarlsberg cheese with peppery gluten free biscuits;
- cashew nuts,
- fish oil omega 3 high dose capsules
The feeling is of my whole body being energized".
And on the negative side, here is an entry from August 12th 2016:
"Paying the price for indulging - wasn't being careful with what I eat at my parents - ate things contaminated by gluten and chemical additives - and it impacted dreadfully. This proves beyond doubt to me that when it comes to PD, getting food right is just important as getting the drug regime right - or more so. All that stiffness, rigidity, pain, mental anguish, depression, anxiety like I used to have in the old days, before watching my diet came flooding back. No matter how many drugs I took, these after-effects of the wrong food had profound effect on me for days.
I hope people with chronic conditions will learn from my mistakes - the right food is the best medicine, but for us suffers with our physical and mental weaknesses and sensitivities and imbalances, the wrong food may just as well be poison. I hope healthcare workers and medical practitioners will also sit up and take notice. Simply doling out drugs is not good enough and is morally wrong - we must start integrating dietary advice and the best information about the impacts of food and drink for sufferers. The evidence is out there about the vital importance of food choices and it can and should no longer be ignored. Perhaps what I said to my parents might help everyone understand why:
"How awful it must be for those people with Parkinson's who haven't yet been informed about the importance of food choices - because this physical and mental pain is unbearable - and I only ate a small amount of inappropriate morsels once. What of those who are unwittingly eating the wrong food daily? They must be in agony without even realizing the harm is self-inflicted"...
... and then I remembered and embodied those agonies which I myself endured across all those years before Deb Helfrich gave me a life line... and I wept for my own lost years... and I wept for everyone with this cruel disease who are today still living their half lives simply due to the failings of a broken Healthcare system."