NutriSense Blog
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Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 

June 8, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense

The human body has an intricate immune system designed to protect the body from harmful agents like bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, certain conditions can cause the immune system to attack its own body tissues, which leads to autoimmune disorders.

About eighty autoimmune diseases have been identified in humans to date, typically divided into “organ-specific” disorders and “non-organ-specific” disorders, which affect multiple parts of the body. 

Parkinson’s disease, which affects nearly one million Americans and 10 million people worldwide, is typically classified as a brain disorder, though new research suggests autoimmunity may play a role in the development of the disease. Though more research is still needed, many studies have begun classifying Parkinson’s as an autoimmune disease.

So what exactly is Parkinson’s disease, what causes it, and what treatment options are available, if any? Let’s take a closer look at this condition and explore whether it can affect things like blood sugar levels.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Close up of book text saying Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder in which a person’s motor features become damaged, causing mobility issues, resting trembling, muscle rigidity, and reduced muscle control. This movement disorder appears when the nerve cells stop producing dopamine, a neurotransmitter used by the nervous system to send messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. Some experts believe the condition can develop due to problems in how the body uses a protein called alpha-synuclein. Parkinson’s disease is also sometimes attributed to the damage to the nerve cells that produce another important chemical substance called norepinephrine, which is involved in blood circulation. Some specific proteins become damaged in time, and they start forming clumps that build up in the brain cells that produce dopamine, leading to cell death and causing a slow cognitive decline. You cannot bring cells back to life, so an early diagnosis of the disease can prevent cell damage and other complications.

Unfortunately, once Parkinson’s disease takes effect, there is no cure for reversing the degeneration of neurons. While some studies consider genetics a cause of Parkinson’s, others speculate that it can occur due to prolonged exposure to environmental factors. However, we still need more research on this topic.

Parkinson’s is generally more prevalent among men. Of course, the disease affects quality of life and is challenging to deal with for those who have it. But it also affects families and caregivers because patients may become dependent on the people around them as their disease progresses.

What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

Person experiencing hand tremors, a symptom of Parkinson's Disease

Imagine what it would feel like if you couldn’t hold a fork, a glass of water, or a pen anymore due to extreme trembling. The first stages of Parkinson’s are easily recognizable, beginning with slight tremors on one side of the body, a soft voice, a slow blink rate, loss of sense of smell, slow movements, and balance difficulties.

These are followed by subtle signs that affect daily living, such as a slight voice tremor, lip and jaw tremor, fixed facial expressions, and even tongue tremor, making it hard for the patients to speak properly. Usually, these symptoms appear when at least fifty percent of the neurons are lost, so the early stages of the disorder are harder to be recognized and have already begun affecting the patient’s quality of life.

Some of the most common Parkinson’s disease symptoms are:

  • Resting tremors
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
  • Involuntary movements
  • Cognitive changes
  • Numbness
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Speech changes
  • Impaired posture
  • Writing changes
  • Balance problems

The late stages of the disease come with many health complications, such as gait freezing (when the feet are unable to walk) or even falling, dementia, delusions, or hallucinations. Patients in the last stage of Parkinson’s are also susceptible to pneumonia, which can be deadly.

How to Detect Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease can be hard to detect as no specific tests are associated with its diagnosis, and risk factors are generally unknown. The most precise method currently used to diagnose this condition is the patient’s medical history and a neurological examination searching for clinical criteria of the disease.

Clinicians will review the patient’s history and analyze present symptoms to rule out other possible diagnoses. Genetic factors and family members who may have been previously affected by this condition can also make it easier to determine if the patient has a higher chance of developing Parkinson’s.

Blood Tests and Imaging

Blood tests and additional testing may help with diagnosis as they can identify elevated cholesterol levels and environmental toxins like carbon disulfide, herbicides, and pesticides present in the bloodstream.

If a patient shows symptoms consistent with Parkinson’s, their doctor may also order imaging tests such as MRI to search for neurological abnormalities and rule out other possible conditions. Head traumas, inflammation, and genetic mutations are also factors that can lead to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. 

How to Treat Parkinson’s

Two older individuals holding hands

Treatment of Parkinson’s disease can vary as Parkinson’s currently does not have a known cure. The current treatment options available aim to slow the disease’s progression and improve the patient’s functional capacity for as long as possible.

Levodopa

Healthcare professionals often recommend levodopa, a naturally occurring amino acid first introduced in the 1960s, metabolized to dopamine in the brain. 

Levodopa may help control the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and is often used in combination with DOPA decarboxylase inhibitors that can increase its effectiveness over time. 

While it is still considered the most effective option, long-term use can lead to different health complications such as motor fluctuations and dyskinesias. 

Patients treated with levodopa can also experience side effects such as nausea and lightheadedness.

Dopamine Agonists

Dopaminergic medication is an excellent second treatment option, as it improves the dopamine levels in the body. Unlike levodopa, dopamine agonists mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain rather than converting it into the chemical themselves. 

Side effects of dopamine agonists can include hallucinations, sleepiness, and compulsive out-of-character behaviors, so this treatment option might not be suitable for people who have experienced psychosis or depression.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Other treatment options can sometimes include deep brain stimulation, which functions through a device implanted in the brain to deliver electrical currents. Its effects are similar to those of levodopa and generally are effective for Parkinson’s patients as well as people who have epilepsy.

Supportive Therapy Options

Apart from medicinal treatment, other forms of therapy can help improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Doing regular physical exercise can improve motor skills and muscle strength, slowing down the rigidity process. 

Taking regular walks or engaging in dance therapy is especially recommended for patients with an early diagnosis. Speech therapy and voice treatment can also improve volume and diction.

Facts About Parkinson’s Disease

Older man using walking assistance device
  • Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.
  • Apart from motor symptoms that affect individuals with Parkinson’s, non-motor symptoms include depression, constipation, genitourinary problems, and sleep problems.
  • Drug-induced Parkinsonism is a condition that mimics the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and is typically induced by antipsychotic medication. While Parkinson’s currently does not have a cure, symptoms of drug-induced parkinsonism subside within three months of cessation of treatment.
  • Early-onset Parkinson’s, or when symptoms set in before age 50, affects about four percent of Americans diagnosed with the condition and has been linked to specific genes in the individual, making it more likely to develop.
  • Parkinson’s symptoms can sometimes be confused with Essential Tremor (ET), which causes uncontrollable shaking. ET is eighty times more common than Parkinson’s, and though some scientists believe it to be linked to the future development of Parkinson’s, more studies are still required.

The Connection Between Blood Sugar Levels and Parkinson’s Disease

Person using finger prick method to test glucose levels

High blood sugar levels can lead to type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness in which the body becomes resistant to insulin. Insulin is a vital hormone responsible for transporting glucose from the blood to the cells to provide energy to the body. If the body becomes resistant to insulin, glucose stays in the blood for a longer time, causing many health complications.

Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes have been found to share many common pathophysiological mechanisms

New research suggests a possible link between nerve cell degeneration, which can lead to diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Insulin resistance is present in both individuals with diabetes and those with Parkinson’s, so improving our blood glucose levels by reducing the glucose intake may help reduce the risks of both diseases. 

Diet Guidelines for Parkinson’s Disease 

A table of whole foods including walnuts, peppers, chickpeas, berries, Himalayan salt, apples, greens, tomatoes, potatoes, and peas

Eating a healthy and nutritious diet is one of the best habits you can introduce into your lifestyle to prevent disease. The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends a balanced diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy, and protein-rich foods to stay on top of your health and get plenty of exercise. However, everyone is different, and it’s important to test your body’s unique response.

For individuals already diagnosed with Parkinson’s, professionals recommend staying hydrated, limiting sugar and caffeine intake, and increasing fiber intake to aid digestion. 

Some studies have also found evidence supporting the use of omega-3, probiotics, and vitamin B and vitamin D supplements to aid in managing this condition.

When considering supplementation, always talk with a credentialed health provider, however a good place to start is by boosting your vitamins and minerals through food. Try adding fatty fish to your diet to boost omega-3, eating yogurt or fermented foods for extra probiotics, and things like good quality animal proteins, leafy greens, and eggs for sources of vitamin B.

Understand Your Health with NutriSense

Parkinson’s disease is a serious neurological disorder that can cause many health complications and affect your quality of life. It's important to monitor yourself for potential signs of its onset if you have a family history of the condition to best treat the disease.

NutriSense allows you to work with credentialed dietitians and nutritionists who can guide you and provide valuable information about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

As a member of the NutriSense CGM program, you’ll be able to monitor your body’s response to food and access your body’s data and response to food and other factors in real-time with the help of CGM devices that can track your glucose levels. 

Take control of your health and learn how monitoring your glucose and overall nutrition can help you prevent disease and feel better with NutriSense.

Click here to listen to the podcast.
Listen to the full podcast:
Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 
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Here’s What a Realistic Weight Loss Timeline Looks Like
Here’s What a Realistic Weight Loss Timeline Looks Like

Many people try crash diets to lose weight fast, which may provide some short term results but don't work for the long haul. Here is a realistic timeline for healthy weight loss.

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8
min
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9 Great Apps to Track Nutrition
9 Great Apps to Track Nutrition

Tracking nutrition has never been easier due to instant access to nutrition tracking apps. Here are the best ones.

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9
min
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6 Popular IBS-Friendly Diets
6 Popular IBS-Friendly Diets

Learn more about irritable bowel syndrome, and see what popular IBS-friendly diets people follow to ease their symptoms.

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9
min
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What You Need to Know About Neuropathy
What You Need to Know About Neuropathy

Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can cause pain, discomfort, and interfere with daily tasks. Explore effective ways to prevent and manage it.

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9
min
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The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet

Fermented foods have a range of health benefits. Read on to learn more about what they are and why you should be adding them to your diet.

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12
min
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13 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress
13 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress

Stress can negatively affect your entire body. Here are thirteen different ways to reduce stress in your life.

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12
min
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Best Physical and Mental Health Apps Available in 2022
Best Physical and Mental Health Apps Available in 2022

Here are the eleven best physical and mental health apps available in the app store.

Podcast
33
min
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Improving Metabolic Health with Carlee Hayes
Improving Metabolic Health with Carlee Hayes

On this episode of Passionate Pioneers with Mike Biselli, Carlee Hayes, Nutrition Manager at NutriSense, discusses the company’s digital platform that aims to help others discover and reach their health potential.

Podcast
40
min
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Carlee Hayes talks Metabolic Health with Rejuvenaging
Carlee Hayes talks Metabolic Health with Rejuvenaging

In this episode of Rejuvenaging with Dr. Ron Kaiser, Carlee explains how to cut through the online nutrition industry's noise, why we shouldn't look for a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to nutrition, and how CGMs work.

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6
min
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Fruit Juice or Whole Fruit? What You Should Pick and Why
Fruit Juice or Whole Fruit? What You Should Pick and Why

Should you be drinking your fruits? Read on to find out more about juicing, whole fruits, and why one may be better for you than the other.

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7
min
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Meet the Blood-Glucose Friendly Rambutan: What It Is and How to Eat It
Meet the Blood-Glucose Friendly Rambutan: What It Is and How to Eat It

Do you know what a rambutan is? Learn more about this blood-glucose-friendly tropical fruit and why you should add it to your diet.

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13
min
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Organ Meats: Should You Be Adding Them to Your Diet?
Organ Meats: Should You Be Adding Them to Your Diet?

Learn about the health benefits and risk factors of adding organ meats to your meals, and try our favorite recipes using these nutritional treasure troves. 

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6
min
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Five Cancer Research Developments of the Last Five Years
Five Cancer Research Developments of the Last Five Years

Read on to learn more about five of the most promising developments in cancer research.

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8
min
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A Quick Look at Meditation and Blood Glucose 
A Quick Look at Meditation and Blood Glucose 

Learn more about meditation, how it positively impacts blood sugar, and how you can start incorporating it into your routine.

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7
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Tasty, Nutritious Salads You'll Love
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Tasty, Nutritious Salads You'll Love

Salads don't have to be boring! Our Nutrition Team recommends nine delicious, nutritious salads to help you find your favorite.

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7
min
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Do You Need More Vitamin D?
Do You Need More Vitamin D?

Most people get the vitamin D they need from exposure to sunlight, but if you don't spend enough time outdoors, you may not be getting enough of this vital nutrient. Read our article to learn more.

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6
min
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Your Mother's Day Gift Guide
Your Mother's Day Gift Guide

Can't decide on the perfect gift for Mother's Day? Pick from a list of ideas to find a healthy, but still exciting gift this year.

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8
min
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Can Soy Really Prevent Diabetes?
Can Soy Really Prevent Diabetes?

Some research suggests that eating soy may reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Read on to learn whether that's true and find out more about the other health benefits of soy.

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9
min
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Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Celiac Disease
Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Celiac Disease

Did you know that 23.5 million Americans live with autoimmune conditions? Learn more about the symptoms and causes of celiac disease and what you can do about it.

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7
min
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Positive Thinking May Affect More Than Your Mental Health 
Positive Thinking May Affect More Than Your Mental Health 

It's no secret that positive thinking can improve your mood and help you cope with difficult situations. Review our article to see how a positive outlook may also benefit your physical health.

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10
min
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The Best Diet for Menstruation
The Best Diet for Menstruation

When it comes to your menstrual cycle, what you eat can significantly impact how you feel. Read on to learn more about the best foods to add to your diet to help during that time of the month.

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8
min
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9 Unusual Health Conditions You May Not Know About
9 Unusual Health Conditions You May Not Know About

Though most of us may never encounter these, these health conditions are still fascinating to learn more about. Read our article to find out more about nine of the most fascinating, unusual health conditions.

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10
min
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The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar 
The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar 

Here is everything you need to know about the relationship between weight lifting and blood sugar.

Podcast
17
min
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Two to 80 Employees in Just Two Years
Two to 80 Employees in Just Two Years

In this 20-minute conversation, Dan shares how he’s putting a Rockstar in every seat. And mistakes to avoid along the way.

Podcast
45
min
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Understanding how Glucose Effects our Metabolic Health with Kara Collier
Understanding how Glucose Effects our Metabolic Health with Kara Collier

Kara, registered dietitian, and co-founder of NutriSense, discusses how blood glucose levels are a core marker of metabolic health. She dives into the health consequences of fluctuating blood glucose levels, and what levels to look fasted compared to post-meal.

Podcast
57
min
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Using Real-Time Data to Improve Metabolic Health with Kara Collier
Using Real-Time Data to Improve Metabolic Health with Kara Collier

Today on the podcast, Kara Collier, RDN, LDN, CNSC, discusses revolutionizing preventative healthcare. It’s her mission to empower people with the knowledge to effectively monitor, optimize, and sustain their own metabolic health.

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10
min
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11 Simple and Effective Weight Loss Tips for Men
11 Simple and Effective Weight Loss Tips for Men

Losing weight is typically easier for men than women, biologically speaking, but it's still challenging! Here are 11 simple yet effective tips for losing weight for men.

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9
min
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What are the Best Times to Eat for Losing Weight?
What are the Best Times to Eat for Losing Weight?

Review our helpful article where we discuss the best times to eat if you are trying to lose weight.

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10
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Books on Metabolic Health
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Books on Metabolic Health

Whether you're looking for weight loss tips or to learn more about metabolism, a little reading material can go a long way. To help you get started, here’s some books on metabolic health, recommended by our Nutrition Team.

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9
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Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): Can It Replace Your Workout?
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): Can It Replace Your Workout?

NEAT can’t replace the benefits of intense cardio or strength-training workouts but like any physical activity, it has many overall health and fitness benefits. Read on to find out everything you need to know about NEAT.

Podcast
40
min
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NutriSense CGM Program Review
NutriSense CGM Program Review

On this week's episode, Shannon describes the comfort, cost, usability, and education she experienced using the continuous glucose monitor program from NutriSense.

Podcast
25
min
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Track Your Health in Real-Time with Dan Zavorotny
Track Your Health in Real-Time with Dan Zavorotny

On this episode of the Making Bank podcast, Dan Zavorotny discusses how he started the company “NutriSense” and how it reached a 150 million dollar valuation in 26 months.

Podcast
37
min
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Can a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) Help You Lose Weight?
Can a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) Help You Lose Weight?

Carlee Hayes talks to This Podcast Burns Fat! about the important role blood sugar plays in weight management.