The Joy of Comfort Foods in Parkinson’s Disease
We’ve all heard that eating a nutritious diet full of green leafy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can promote good health and even help to prevent illnesses like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. But sometimes we may crave a juicy burger with all the fixings or the sugar rush from a delicious dessert. We all have our favorite comfort foods.
I tease my sister Bev, who is 84 and has stage 3 Parkinson’s disease (PD), that she is a “sweetnik.” You can always find an assortment of baked goods on her kitchen counter, from apple turnovers to cookies and pie.
Being Italian and the current matriarch of our family, she says, “Well, I always want to have something on hand in case someone stops over for coffee.”
“Sure, you do,” I reply knowingly.
In addition to having a sweet tooth, Bev enjoys many comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes, applesauce, and hot dogs.
As the Borough of Manhattan Community College noted, people may crave comfort foods because they make us feel more in control and relaxed, and can bring back nostalgic memories. Eating foods that are high in carbohydrates or sugar can increase serotonin levels, which helps to reduce stress.
In a 2014 article published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers explored the link between food and mood. They found that being in a positive mood causes a person to focus more on long-term goals such as health, which often results in healthier food choices. Negative moods, on the other hand, drive people to focus on more immediate goals like mood management, and to choose more indulgent foods.
Comfort foods may be especially important for the well-being of people with PD or other chronic diseases, as depression and anxiety are common in these populations. Enjoying an occasional treat may also help Parkinson’s patients to reduce stress levels and better cope with the effects of the disease.
Bev’s choice of soft comfort foods like applesauce is also related to her chewing and swallowing difficulties. Bev has dentures, but she also experiences dry mouth and decreased strength in her jaw, tongue, and facial muscles due to PD.
Although there is no specific diet for Parkinson’s, eating and avoiding certain foods may help alleviate some symptoms and medication side effects. For example, consuming more fiber and clear liquids can ease constipation, a common issue for people with PD. If you have low blood pressure, occasionally splurging on salty snacks may be helpful.
Parkinson’s News Today provides additional suggestions for optimizing your diet, but it’s always important to consult your medical team about which foods are best for you.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.