5 Tips to Beat Sugar Cravings with Parkinson’s Disease

Guest post by: Casey Farlow, MPH, RDN from Theory Health

5 Tips to Beat Sugar Cravings with Parkinson’s Disease

Did you know that sugar cravings can be a symptom of Parkinson’s disease?

A new pilot study showed that a higher proportion of Parkinson’s patients identified themselves as craving sweets. This makes sense as we know sugar can feed the reward systems in the brain, and dopamine (the brain chemical that is lacking in Parkinson’s disease) can play a big part in driving cravings.

An increase in sugar cravings is shown to be a side effect of the gut microbiome changes we see in Parkinson’s patients. When there is an overgrowth of candida and bad bacteria, these microbes tell your brain to eat more sugar as sugar is their main food source.

Unfortunately, a diet high in refined sugar can increase inflammation in the brain, so it is important to try to limit sugar when possible. 

Does this mean you can never have a piece of cake or ice cream again?

Of course not!

The goal is to begin reducing refined sugar in the diet a little at a time to better the health of our brains. 

The good news is you have more control over your cravings than you may think, and there are many tips and tricks you can use to reduce them.

In this post, I’ll cover 6 tips for keeping your sugar cravings down so you can give your brain health a boost.


Craving Tip #1: Keep your blood sugar balanced.

The first and most important thing is to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day. If you have dips in your blood sugar, sugar and refined carb cravings will come in full force. To boost your brain health and keep your blood sugar stable, remember this equation:

PP + FF (Protein + Phytonutrients + Fiber + Fats)

Having these macronutrients balanced at your meals and snacks will keep the sugar cravings at bay and boost your brain health.

Protein: Protein is essential building blocks of neurotransmitters.  Some examples include wild-caught fish, beans, eggs, tofu, tempeh, hemp seeds, and leafy green veggies.

Phytonutrients: Phytonutrients are essential for protecting our brains from oxidative stress.  Phytonutrients are the colors in fruits and veggies. The more color the better, since phytonutrients work better in combination! 

Fiber: Fiber is essential for feeding the good gut bacteria that help you create neurotransmitters and is wonderful for keeping your blood sugar stable. Fiber can be found in whole grains, fruits, veggies, and seeds. 

Fat:  Fat has gotten a bad reputation, but it is crucial to boosting your brain health and keeping your blood sugar stable! Some examples of healthy fats include butter, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, egg yolks, nuts, seeds, and avocado. 

Try to include all four for your meals and at least two for your snacks.  (For example, instead of just having a banana, have a banana with nut butter to include some healthy fats and protein.)

Craving Tip #2: Prioritize sleep. 

It’s well known that Parkinson’s can wreck your sleep schedule, but prioritizing your sleep routine in an attempt to get a solid night’s rest can go a long way in warding off sugar cravings.

Check out these blogs to help you optimize your sleep:

How to Build a Stellar Sleep Routine

Parkinson’s Sleep Kit - 5 products to help you seize some ZZZs

Craving Tip #3:  Seek out support instead of sugar.

Stress increases cortisol levels, which will send you straight for the ice cream! A Parkinson’s diagnosis (on top of everything else going on in your life) can be very stressful, making it even more important to have support to get you through the tougher days.

It is so important to have a support system - whether that be friends, family, and/or a good psychologist. Stuffing your feelings and frustrations down will only lead to more sugar cravings and feeling worse overall.

If your support network is lacking, make sure you have at least one stress-reducing strategy in your daily routine, such as meditation, journaling, art, prayer, deep breathing, or yoga. 

Craving Tip #4: Feed your good gut bacteria.

Research shows us that good bacteria crave fiber and will literally tell your brain to eat more of it through the vagus nerve.

The opposite is true for sugar.

The more sugar you eat, the more bacteria you will grow that love sugar and will tell your brain to eat more.

You want to start to build up the bacteria that love fiber so they will begin to take over the sugar-loving bacteria. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and probiotics are a great way to put in more of that fiber loving bacteria to curb sugar cravings.

Some good sources of probiotics*: 

  • Sauerkraut 

  • Kimchi

  • Kefir 

  • Kombucha 

  • Yogurt 

*If you are taking an MAO-B inhibitor, talk to your doctor before adding in fermented foods and probiotics.

Craving Tip #5: Resolve micronutrient inadequacies. 

Sometimes, micronutrient deficiencies can lead to sugar cravings.  Here are a few supplements have been shown to help with reducing those urges to run for the brownies: 

  • High-quality B-complex 

  • Chromium 200mg (3 times a day to help with blood sugar balance)

  • Gymnema Sylvestre (This has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda to help curb sugar cravings, and has been shown to decrease A1C in diabetics.)

  • High-quality probiotics or probiotic-containing foods (Helps replace those sugar-loving bacteria!)

Remember that this does not mean you can never have refined sugar, it just means that we want to limit when possible to boost your brain health. Every now and again, sugar can be good for the soul!

Try to make small baby step goals to reduce your sugar intake this week. For example, if you have 2 scoops of ice cream every night, try to have 1 scoop every day instead.  What is your goal for the week? Tell us in the comments below. 

Cravings Tip #6: Swap in healthier dessert options.

You’ll never be completely free from cravings. You are human after all!

This is why it’s a good idea to have some healthier alternatives prepared for when you need a sweet fix.

Indulge in a healthy amount, enjoy the experience, and then make sure your next meal follows the PP+FF formula from tip #1 above.

Here are two recipes to try instead of reaching for that tub of ice cream or plate of brownies.


RECIPE: Banana Ice Cream

Step One: Let the bananas ripen before peeling. Once ripe and starting to turn brown, peel the bananas, cut into pieces, and freeze them.

Step Two: Once the bananas are frozen, put them in a high-quality blender or food processor until they reach the desired consistency. If you run into issues blending, add in ¼ cup liquid, preferably nut milk or coconut milk. You can eat it right out of the blender!  If you want a firmer consistency, you can put in the freezer until it gets to the desired texture. 

Step Three: Add some flavor! Here are some fun ways to spice up your banana ice cream by Chocolate Covered Katie.

Chocolate Banana Ice Cream: Use 3 bananas. Add 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract, pinch salt, and 3 tbsp cocoa powder.

Mint Chocolate Chip: Use 2 bananas and a pinch of salt. Add 1/8 tsp pure peppermint extract (or more if desired), and stir in chocolate chips or cacao nibs after blending. Optional, blend in a pinch of spirulina or a small handful spinach for color and an extra nutrient boost.

Peanut Butter: Make the original recipe below, adding 2-3 tbsp peanut butter or another nut butter or allergy-friendly alternative before blending.

Cookies ’n Cream: Make the original recipe below, adding 2 tbsp coconut butter if desired. After blending, add in a crushed cookie sandwich or Healthy Oreos.

Very Berry: Make the original recipe below, adding 1 cup frozen berries of choice and 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract.

Strawberry: Use 2 bananas. Blend in 1/2 cup frozen strawberries. Add 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract and an optional shake of cinnamon.

Pina Colada: Make the original recipe using 1/4 cup canned coconut milk as your milk of choice. Blend in 1/2 cup frozen pineapple. Stir in shredded coconut if desired.

Vanilla Bean: Use 3 bananas and a pinch of salt. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste.

Pistachio: Make the original recipe below, adding 2-3 tbsp pistachio butter and 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract. Sprinkle crushed pistachios on top if desired.


RECIPE: Black Bean Brownies

(by: Chocolate Covered Katie)


  • 1 1/2 cups black beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well) 

  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder 

  • 1/2 cup quick oats 

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1/2 cup pure honey

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil

  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips 

Step One: Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor and blend until completely smooth. 

Step Two: Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top. 

Step Three: Cook the black bean brownies 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. You can place them in the fridge overnight and they will firm up!

I hope these tips can help you start to gain control over your cravings and give your brain a boost!

Remember: Every effort counts, so focus on baby steps and give yourself credit for making positive choices, no matter how small.

My best,



Casey Farlow, MPH, RDN, CLT

Casey Farlow (aka "The Brain Dietitian") is a registered dietitian nutritionist with advanced training in functional medicine approaches to brain health. She is the founder of her virtual dietetic private practice, Theory Health, where she works with clients around the world to optimize brain health using a scientific and holistic approach. Make sure to follow her on Instagram @the.brain.dietititan!

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