Diet and Nutrition Related to Parkinson's Disease


Good nutrition can help you maintain a better level of health when you have Parkinson’s. The quality of your diet will have an impact on:
• Maintaining or reaching a healthy weight
• Maintaining optimal energy
• Maintaining adequate muscle strength

There are generally three areas of concern for people with Parkinson's: weight loss or gain and constipation.

Weight loss
Weight loss may occur in up to 70% of people living with Parkinson’s. A number of factors may contribute to the problem:  difficulty preparing food, including fatigue;  problems chewing or swallowing; constipation, reduced appetite perhaps due to loss of sense of smell, depression or changes in cognitive ability. You may benefit from a consultation with a nutritionist or dietician. A speech language pathologist can do a swallowing assessment, especially in advanced Parkinson’s.

Here are some suggestions to stimulate your appetite and increase your food intake:
• Eat food you enjoy.
• Eat small frequent meals.
• Use easy-to-prepare foods to save your energy for eating.
• Season food well with herbs, spices, and sauces.
• Supplement meals with nutritional snacks.
• Eat high calorie foods such as cream, butter, margarine, mayonnaise, honey, molasses or syrup, ice cream, puddings, homogenized milk, and whipping cream.
• Drink high calorie fluids like juices, milkshakes or nutritional supplements such Boost®, Ensure®, Carnation® Breakfast Essentials™ and Resource® 2.0.* (Whey protein drinks are also a source of nutrition).
• Avoid filling up on low calorie foods, baked goods and liquids such as coffee, tea, clear soups and raw vegetables.
• Limit fatigue related to meals by choosing foods that are easy to chew and ask for help with cutting meat, buttering bread, etc.

*Monitor high protein drinks if taking levodopa as combining the two may interfere with levodopa’s absorption into the brain and may have an effect on motor functioning. If you are experiencing motor fluctuations and are thinking about adjusting the amount of protein in your diet, it is best to talk to a qualified dietician or to your doctor.

Weight Gain/Overweight
Some people with Parkinson’s may be overweight and this may lead to other health problems.  Stringent diets may decrease your energy. Try to stabilize your weight by eating nutritious meals, controlling portions and being as active as possible. Consult a nutritionist or dietitian to help plan a healthy, gradual weight loss program. Compulsive eating (binge eating) may be a side effect of Parkinson medications (PDF). If you are experiencing this behaviour, tell your neurologist/doctor. Often medication can be adjusted which can reduce or control the behaviour.

Constipation
Your diet can have a significant impact on constipation. Two key dietary recommendations for managing constipation are: eat high fibre foods and drink more fluid. Being constipated can slow the absorption of your Parkinson medication, thereby minimizing its effectiveness. Constipation can be treated. More information is available in our brochure on Constipation (PDF).

References:

Canadian Guidelines on Parkinson’s Disease.
A Manual for People Living with Parkinson’s Disease, Section 11: Diet and Nutrition, Parkinson Canada
A Guide to the Non-Motor Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, Dr. Ronald Postuma 
Live Well with Parkinson's: This website offers a scheduling tool that allows people with Parkinson’s or their caregivers to enter information (body weight and medication dosages and schedules) based on which it generates a daily plan that shows people taking the medication how much protein they can have and when they should consume it during the day to meet their nutritional needs. Read more on this website here.