Faces of Parkinson's - The Importance of Nutrition


Meet Don Bartlett. He enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, boxing and growing vegetables at the community garden. Don has been married to his wife Rhonda for 17 years and has three children; Nicole, Kristen, and their son Lars. Nicole and Kristen both live in Florida and each have two girls of their own, giving them four beautiful granddaughters. 

As the Senior Director of Nutritional Services at Florida Hospital, Don is an expert when it comes to Nutrition. He has dedicated much of his time researching the importance of proper nutrition as the first line of defense in fighting off disease. Author Michael Pollan sums up proper nutrition in seven simple words… “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  By food he means eat close to the ground, minimally processed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.  Even though good nutrition cannot cure Parkinson’s, it can certainly mitigate the symptoms and improve quality of life.

Don was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in early 2015 although he had noticed something was “different” a couple of years before that. Some early signs were shaking in his right hand, voice softening, and his handwriting became a little more difficult. When he was first officially diagnosed his Neurologist explained he may have trouble with constipation as it is a common side-effect of PD.  The doctor stated she would be happy to write him another prescription to help.  Don quickly declined stating, “with a few prunes each morning and fresh greens from our garden at dinner, I’m good to go!”  Don is convinced that adhering to good nutrition principles has staved off advancement of many PD symptoms.

After his diagnosis, Don went through the normal course of emotions. He immediately contacted Florida Hospital’s Parkinson’s Outreach Coordinator and discussed ways that he could get involved. Don attended the Brain & Beyond Conference then shortly after that was introduced to the Parkinson Association of Central Florida (PACF) and was invited to join their Board of Directors. Immediately after joining he felt motivated by the board members who either cared for or have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The sense of community among board members and their own personal dedication inspired Don to educate himself and become an advocate for all affected by PD – the patients, their caregivers, and family alike.