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Common Nutritional Concerns in Parkinson's

These typical nutritional concerns for people living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) should be addressed early on to minimize complications.

Bone thinning

Strong bones can keep people living with Parkinson’s safer when unexpected falls happen. Mobility challenges can become more common as PD progresses, including an increased risk of falls. Studies show that Parkinson’s also increases the risk for bone thinning. This combination can lead to injury.

Eating meals rich in bone-strengthening nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K is important. Regular exposure to sunlight also increases vitamin D.

In addition to the right foods, walking and other weight-bearing exercises keep bones strong, making fractures or breaks less likely.

Dehydration

Parkinson’s medicines can raise dehydration risk, which can lead to confusion, weakness, balance problems, respiratory failure, kidney problems and even death. Work toward drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid daily to stay hydrated. Dehydration can also lead to low blood pressure or orthostatic hypertension.

Bowel impaction

Parkinson’s disease can slow the movement of the colon, causing constipation, so try to get at least 20-25 grams of daily fiber in your diet and drink six to eight cups of water a day.

Unresolved constipation can lead to bowel impaction. This is when a mass of dry, hard feces becomes impossible to pass normally. Bowel impaction can require hospitalization and even surgery.

Unplanned weight loss

People living with advancing Parkinson’s disease can experience weight loss. Difficulty swallowing, feeling full or bloated and improperly fitting partial plates or dentures are all potential causes.

Some people with PD feel full after eating a small quantity of food. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help.

Unplanned weight loss and malnutrition can lead to a weakened immune system, muscle wasting, loss of vital nutrients, risk for other diseases and even death. Discuss concerns about weight loss with your medical team and consider getting tested for H.Pylori, a bug in the gastrointestinal tract that may affect the absorption of PD medications and consequently affect the overall response to treatment. Learn more about the symptoms of H. Pylori.

Medication side effects

Medications play a key role in managing PD symptoms, but they can also cause unwanted side effects. Most people living with PD take more than one medication. This can increase the level of unwanted side effects. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing anything unusual.

Common medication side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Appetite loss, often followed by weight loss
  • Edema (fluid retention)
  • Compulsive eating and weight gain
  • Hallucinations
  • Dyskinesia

Protein-levodopa interaction

Levodopa is one of the more important medicines used to treat Parkinson’s disease. However, the small intestine absorbs both levodopa and protein in food. If you take the medication too soon before or after eating, the protein in your diet might interfere with the carbidopa/levodopa absorption. Ask your medical team for help timing medications in relation to your meals. It is generally recommended that people with PD prescribed carbidopa/levodopa take it 30 to 60 minutes before eating a meal or two hours after a meal.

 
 
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