More thoughts on the WPC: Diet and Nutrition


One of the best sessions I attended was Microbiome and the Diet in PD. There were many sessions this year that focused on Microbiomes and the theory that alpha-synuclein actually starts its devastating journey in the gut and eventually travels upward to the brain in PD.

The first speaker, Dr. Viviane Labrie, of the Van Andel Institute, addressed this issue. She says that constipation or GI tract problems can occur up to 20 years before motor symptoms. Alpha synuclein aggregates may be stored in the Appendix, and you can actually see it go up the GI tract to the Vagal nerve and into the brain. Studies show that everyone has this aggregate in the Appendix, but there is 3 times more in people with PD.

The second speaker, Dr. Pascal Derkinderen stated that Parkinsons is a GI disorder, with many slides to prove his point.

But the highlight of the program for me was Laurie K Mischley, ND, MPD, Phd, from Bastyr University.   She says that nutritional needs are different for each person. According to Dr. Mischley, diet is what you put in your body, including toxicants. Unfortunately, in addition to other issues,  malnutrition is a huge problem in PD, with a much higher incidence than in the general population

Dr. Mischley’s goal in her ongoing study is to look for things in your diet that influence your progression on the PRO-PD score. The average person starts at about 580 and progresses about 50 points per year. This usually correlates with patient perceived quality of life.  You can find out your PRO-PD score here.

What can you do to improve your outlook with PD? She cited one simple example to illustrate her point: she found that PwPs eating 4 cups of vegetables a day do better than those eating just 2 cups.

If you are 20 years into your disease, you can still change the rate of progression if you change your diet. The earlier you start the more impact a change in diet will have. She says that organic food does significantly decrease the pro-Pd score. Look at the next slide to see which foods will have a negative impact on your progression of PD.

Finally, Dr. Mischley says that social health is a nutrient. Someone who gets out and socializes usually does better. Isolation is a major problem.  Studies have shown that loneliness is single biggest cause of Pd progression.  People with friends do much better on the Pro-PD scale.  Those who are lonely, fail to thrive.

See my photos of the slides below for more information.  Or go to Dr. Mischley’s website to learn about her research.

More tomorrow…..

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Finally, some guidelines for a Parkinson’s Diet

Dr. Laurie Mischley, of Bastyr University,  has been tracking People with Parkinson’s (PwP’s) for several years for her “CAM Care in PD” study.  When I spoke to her at the World Parkinson’s Congress last fall, she explained that this is the only study looking at how people are living with PD now and following them to see who is having a more positive outcome and why.   Data is collected with twice annual surveys sent to the participants.  Multiple models were used to examine the association between diet, lifestyle factors, and PD severity, with Patient Reported Outcome (PRO-PD) scores used as the outcome variable. She just released an abstract published in “Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity” on September 10.

I will not try to summarize the entire report.  You can read it here.  However, I will give you some of the key findings.


The Good:

A plant- and fish-based diet, similar to a Mediterranean diet, is associated with the lowest PD severity score.  Fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, fish, olive oil, wine, coconut oil, fresh herbs, and the use of spices were all associated with statistically significant lower rates of disease progression.

The Bad:

Ice cream, cheese, and yogurt intakes were associated with higher rates of PD progression.


Consumption of canned fruits and vegetables was a strong predictor of PD progression. Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible.

Soda, specifically diet soda, was also associated with a faster rate of PD progression.

A few other things to stay away from include meat and fried foods.

Nutritional supplements:   Only coenzyme Q10 and fish oil were associated with statistically significant reduced rates of PD progression.  The use of Melatonin for sleep produced inconclusive results.  Iron supplements increased PD progression.

And finally, organic foods were associated with a lower rate of progression.

What does this mean for us?  I have basically followed a Mediterranean diet for years, however, I am allergic to fish, so  I often each chicken instead.  I haven’t eaten red meat in years.  I never buy canned fruit and vegetables. My downfall is cheese.  I am not sure I can eliminate that completely from my diet, but I can certainly cut back on it.  I recently substituted almond milk for milk to use with coffee and cereal.  Years ago I switched to Tom’s toothpaste and deodorant to avoid the excess aluminum exposure.  The good news is that the progression of PD has been relatively slow for me.

This study will be continuing and more PwP’s are still being recruited.  If you are interested, contact Dr. Mischley at



For more information on living with Parkinson’s, read   Natural Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease  by Dr. Laurie Mischley


Taming the Sugar Monster

How often have you thought about changing your diet to see if it makes a difference for your Parkinson’s Disease symptoms?  And how long did it take you before you actually made the change?  It is so easy to take pills and supplements, to exercise, go to physical therapy.   The last thing many of us even consider is making a true lifestyle change and committing to a healthier diet.  And actually sticking to it.

When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 8 years ago, I swore that I was going to change my diet.  Of course, that never happened.  We travel a lot, so having the discipline for a healthy diet can be difficult.  However, several months ago, a 4 day long anniversary celebration in Chicago nearly did me in.  Too much food, especially carbs and sweet desserts, along with more drinking than usual (2 glasses of wine a week is a lot for me) hit me hard.  I paid for it for several days and decided that maybe now it was finally the time to make the change.

For the next month, my husband and I decided that sweets were off of our diet.  No more cookies, ice cream and other sweets   That was it for now.  No fancy diets, just good food, with lots of fresh veggies.   We did not eliminate all sources of sugar, just the obvious ones.  We ate fruit for dessert and handfuls of almonds if the munchies hit.  After a few days we didn’t miss the sweets and our snacking decreased.  We both felt better within a week and even dropped a few pounds.

I don’t know if this has helped my symptoms, but I do feel better overall. A month after we started this, we went on a weeklong trip to Ireland with friends.  We found that we were eating fewer sweets in general while on the trip.  Now that we are back home, we need to be more careful once again about what we eat.   Cutting out desserts is a small first step and relatively easy to do.

With all of the recent studies about the gut-brain connection for PD, there has been one consistent finding- sugar feeds the bacteria in the gut which in turn, may increase PD symptoms.  Some even say that there is a connection between Diabetes and PD.  Do an internet search and hundreds of articles will pop up immediately.  One thing most have in common is that PwP’s seem to crave sugar more than before PD.  Most recommend making a major change in your diet to cut back on the sugar.

I know that there are diet recommendations out there specifically for Parkinson’s Disease.   Has anyone tried a specific diet that helped relieve your symptoms or slowed the progression?  I am interested to hear what works for you.