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Stabilize Blood Sugar to Combat Fatigue in Parkinson’s

stabilize-blood-sugar-to-combat-fatigue-in-parkinsons

Stabilize Blood Sugar to Combat Fatigue in Parkinson’s

Many people with Parkinson’s experience severe and sometimes debilitating fatigue. In fact, research shows fatigue is the single most important reason people with Parkinson’s cite when they apply for disability. Eating strategically to keep blood sugar steady throughout the day can help to keep fatigue at bay.

BLOOD SUGAR AND ENERGY LEVELS

Every cell in the human body relies on sugar (glucose) for energy. When blood sugar rises, the body produces a hormone (insulin) to ferry glucose out of the blood stream and into cells. When blood sugar drops, the body secretes different hormones to raise it. In this way, our blood-sugar and hormone levels are in constant flux, ensuring our cells’ access to glucose. But drastic swings in blood sugar levels sap us of energy, leading to lethargy and fatigue.

CARBOHYDRATE QUALITY AND THE GLYCEMIC INDEX

As we continue to learn about the role of nutrition in health, it has become clear that the quality of the nutrients we ingest – not just the amount – matters. While imperfect, the Glycemic Index can be useful for characterizing the nutritional quality of a given carbohydrate.

The Glycemic Index (GI) ranks carbohydrate-containing foods (and beverages) on a scale from 0 to 100 according to their potential to boost blood sugar. High GI foods cause sharp spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Foods with a low GI are generally digested and absorbed more slowly, and therefore cause a gentler rise in blood sugar and insulin. See how different carbohydrates stack up on this Glycemic Index Reference Chart.

High GI foods include starchy vegetables and highly processed carbohydrates (think: sugar-sweetened beverages, chips, white bread) – in short, the ones we already know aren’t beneficial for our health. By contrast, low GI foods tend to be fiber-rich fruits, non-starchy vegetables, legumes and minimally or un-processed whole grains.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE

By making small and deliberate adjustments to your diet, you may be able to stabilize your blood sugar levels and get some of your groove back.

1. Incorporate low glycemic index foods into your diet

Reduce your intake of high GI foods in favor of whole fruits, vegetables, legumes and minimally processed grains. Try substituting brown rice for white, steel-cut oatmeal for instant and beans for potatoes. Or, if you’re having a high GI food – say, cornflakes or instant oatmeal – throw in a handful of berries to reduce its glycemic load.

2. Add protein to meals and snacks

Because protein slows the body’s absorption of carbohydrates, it helps level out blood sugar. Fish, lean meat, beans, eggs and low-fat dairy are all healthy protein sources. To incorporate more protein in your diet, top your salad with a hard-boiled egg or blend a little protein powder into your morning smoothie.

3. Be prepared

Healthy snacks help stabilize blood sugar between meals. Plan ahead to ensure you have access to healthy snacks when you need them. An apple, a handful of nuts or a cup of plain yogurt are all easy to have on hand, and portable for when you’re on the go.

Learn More About How Nutrition Affects Parkinson’s

A diet that’s rich in whole grains, lean protein, and fibrous fruits and vegetables is useful for fighting fatigue and may also reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, all of which help you live well today with Parkinson’s.

How have you found different foods affect your energy levels? Consider logging your diet and making notes about how you feel after eating and between meals. Let your experiences help guide you to make healthy modifications to your diet.

Download our Nutrition Worksheet and presentation slides about Nutrition & Parkinson’s to stay informed. 

2 Comments on “Stabilize Blood Sugar to Combat Fatigue in Parkinson’s

    • Lydia Williams

      October 19, 2017 at 7:12 pm Reply

      Can’t forget to mention to be careful when incorporating protein into a Parkinson’s diet. Timing is everything. When my husband eats protein, he has to make sure it’s in the middle of each 4 hour round of meds (carb/levo). Otherwise, the protein will overtake the meds.

      • Alex Reinhardt

        October 26, 2017 at 2:52 pm Reply

        Thanks for commenting, Lydia. Protein consumption can affect the absorption of carbidopa/levodopa, but not any other Parkinson’s medications. However, you shouldn’t decrease your intake of protein since its essential in building muscle mass and strength. If you notice a delay in the medication delivery, try to develop a schedule of taking carbidopa/levodopa medication at least one hour before or after meals.

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