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Protein and Parkinson's Medications

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Updated May 11, 2009

Protein and Parkinson's Medications

Proteins can sometimes block the absorption of levodopa.

MSEN/HAAP Media

A problem that emerges in middle stages of Parkinson's disease (and sometimes even in early stages) is absorption of levodopa medication. If you eat a diet high in protein, the protein can sometimes compete with levodopa or prevent adequate amounts of levodopa from passing from the small intestine into the bloodstream.

When that happens, some people find they have trouble with motor fluctuations. One study found that those with PD who consumed significantly more vegetable proteins and carbohydrates had more severe motor symptoms than those on lower protein diets.

But you just can’t eliminate protein from your diet. It is an essential nutrient. So what do you do? The solution is to avoid high protein intake when you take your medication but make sure you eat enough protein later, as it is essential to any healthy diet. Some people call this the protein redistribution diet. Instead of eating large amounts of protein during the day when you take your medication, you eat your protein in the evening.

One warning however: If you experience dyskinesias, these protein redistribution requirements may not apply. You may need to speak to your doctor about your diet because slowing absorption of your meds may actually be helpful. That is why continuous release forms of levodopa are sometimes given.

Sources:

Marczewska A, De Notaris R, Sieri S, Barichella M, Fusconi E, Pezzoli G. Protein intake in Parkinsonian patients using the EPIC food frequency questionnaire. Movement Disorder. 2006 Aug;21(8):1229-31.

Weiner, W. J., Shulman, L.M. and Lang, A. E. (2007). Parkinsons Disease, Second Edition, A Complete guide for patients and families. Johns Hopkins Press Book, Baltimore.

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