Foods rich in levodopa

Levodopa for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

What is levodopa?

Levodopa or L-DOPA is an amino acid that the body uses to produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine.

Under normal conditions, neurons make dopamine from tyrosine, which they first convert into levodopa and then into dopamine. Levodopa is the direct precursor of dopamine.

In Parkinson’s disease, death or progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons, which synthesize dopamine, occurs due to unknown causes. In Parkinson’s therapy, levodopa is given as a drug to produce dopamine, because it becomes levodopa in the brain.

Causes of lack of dopamine

broadbeans

Broadbeans are an excellent source of levodopa. (Sprouted beans or boiled beans)

The lack of dopamine in the brain is the cause of muscle stiffness, tremors and slow movements, which are the main symptoms of this disease. Due to the decrease of dopamine in the ganglia of the brain, muscle stiffness occurs, slow movements and tremors, which are the most characteristic signs of this disease. It is a degenerative disease, that is, it gets worse as time goes by.

How useful is levodopa?

Levodopa is given in medicines to treat Parkinson’s. It helps increase the levels of dopamine in the brain and improves the tremors of the disease, especially in the early stages. For this, it is important to take levodopa away from meals.

FOODS WITH LEVODOPA FOR PARKINSON’S

Vegetarian food rich in levodopa

Levodopa is found naturally in a few vegetables, mainly in legumes. Of all of them, the levodopa content of the beans stands out:

  • Broadbeans (Vicia faba L.), in the flowers of the plant and in the seeds, in less quantity in the leaves.
  • Velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens (L) DC.), In the seeds. Legume from India used by Ayurvedic medicine
  • Purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.), in the plant
  • Banana (Musa x paradisiaca L.), in the fruit.
  • Caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris L), is not used because it is a toxic plant
  • Common broom (Cytisus scoparius L.), Not used because it is a toxic plant

Beans to increase dopamine

Of all the previous foods, broadbeans are the foods that have shown greater properties as a source of natural levodopa. It is proven that consuming beans increases the levels of levodopa in the blood and can be useful against the first stages of Parkinson’s disease (study, study).

It has been recommended to consume broadbeans to people with Parkinson’s because beans are the richest food in levodopa (L-DOPA), precursor of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in the treatment of disease and improvement of motor skills.

One way to consume abundant beans for people with Parkinson’s is from the bread made with bean flour ( or from the boiled beans, preferably with previous germination. The germination of beans eliminates substances that prevent the absorption of levodopa (antinutrients such as protease inhibitors).

Foods with levodopa of animal origin

In animals, levodopa is only found as an intermediate product of dopamine in the brain, so we can not ingest levodopa by eating meat, eggs or fish.

However, foods of animal origin are a source of tyrosine, an amino acid from which the body can manufacture dopamine, so the great importance of these foods in the diet of Parkinson’s patients should not be overlooked either.

Attention! Broadbenas should be taken away from meals with animal proteins. The same recommendation extends to medications with levodopa. The amino acids present in protein-rich foods compete in their absorption with levodopa.

How to better absorb levodopa?

To assimilate well the levodopa present in foods or medications, it is recommended:

  • Treat Helicobacter pylori or gastritis if it appears. The lack of gastric juices can cause poor digestion of proteins and the levodopa present in the drug or drug is not assimilated correctly. This can help the digestive infusions of ginger (can also be used as a spice), turmeric (with a pinch of black pepper), or undo a bit of umeboshi (the size of a pea) in the mouth before or after foods.
  • Eat foods rich in levodopa (bread of beans, beans, …) preferably on an empty stomach.
  • Do not combine with other foods rich in proteins, it is recommended to take more protein at night and less during the day.
  • Avoid constipation
  • In the case of medication, take it according to medical advice.

Why is not dopamine administered?

Dopamine can not be used as a medication because it can not cross the blood brain barrier to reach neurons.

The organism can also obtain dopamine from the amino acid tyrosine, which is transformed into levodopa, and subsequently into dopamine. But this process is slow and controlled by a regulatory enzyme, thyroxine hydroxylase, so no more dopamine is produced by eating more tyrosine.

For this reason, oral levodopa is the only form of administration that allows increasing levels of dopamine in the brain (in food or medication). Levodopa is absorbed in the small intestine (duodenum and jejunum) by active transport. Then it travels through the portal vein to the liver and from there it passes into the bloodstream and into the brain.

Is levodopa always good? Contraindications

Foods with levodopa are not recommended in people with schizophrenia, because some experts believe that the disease could be caused by too much dopamine or excessive activity of dopaminergic synapses. For these people, the foods with levodopa discussed above, mainly beans and broad bean bread, would be contraindicated.

punto rojo More information on Parkinson’s disease.

Elisenda Carballido
Written by Elisenda Carballido Dietitian nutritionist. Postgraduate in Phytotherapy and master in Nutrition and Metabolism.
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Article updated on: 19 March, 2019

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