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Feeling slow on Turkey Day

Tuesday November 20, 2012

OHSU BLog - It’s 3 p.m. You have just gorged yourself on Thanksgiving turkey. How are your Parkinson’s symptoms? Feeling more slowed down? Noticing more tremor? Feeling stiffer? It may be more then the tryptophan (in the turkey) that’s affecting you.

Large neutral amino acids that are present in protein rich foods (like turkey) can compete with the transportation of levodopa from the stomach to the blood and from the blood to the brain. Levodopa is the primary medication used in more severe Parkinson’s disease. In the brain it is converted to dopamine which is the primary neurochemical that is deficient in persons with Parkinson’s.

If you have Parkinson’s and feel your medications work well and your symptoms are well controlled after meals, you probably don’t need to be concerned. But if you notice after meals, especially those that are protein heavy, that your medications do not seem to work as well, you may want to adjust your diet.

The most common way to do this is to shift protein-rich foods such as beef, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and legumes to evening meals. Morning and afternoon meals should consist of grains (breads, pasta, rice), vegetables, and fruits. This should help to make your Parkinson’s symptoms (tremors, stiffness, slowness) better in the morning and afternoons. You may feel a bit slower or notice more tremors in the evening, but often this is a less active time of day anyway.

You may want to eat your Thanksgiving meal a bit later this year or skip the turkey if you have an early meal. You may also want to indulge — slowing down a bit to watch football may not be such a bad fate.

Amie Peterson, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Neurology
OHSU Parkinson Center of Oregon
OHSU Brain Institute

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