What are some common nutritional concerns for people with PD?
1. Bone thinning
- Studies have shown that people with PD are at increased risk for bone thinning.
- As PD advances it can increase the likelihood of falls.
- For those with PD, it is especially important to eat meals that provide the bone-strengthening nutrients including: calcium, magnesium, vitamins D and K.
- Regular exposure to sunlight is also important, as it increases vitamin D in the body and serves as a bone-strengthening agent.
- Walking and other weight-bearing exercises can also help in keeping bones strong and less likely to fracture or break.
- PD medications can raise the risk for dehydration leading to: confusion, weakness, balance problems, respiratory failure, kidney problems and death.
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
3. Bowel impaction
- PD can slow the movement of the colon, thus causing constipation.
- Therefore, you must get enough fiber in your diet.
- If the constipation does not get resolved it can lead to bowel impaction where a mass of dry, hard feces becomes impossible to pass normally.
- When bowel impaction occurs it may require hospitalization and even surgery.
Did you know that in the United States alone, dehydration is responsible for 1.8 million days of hospital care each year (about ten days per patient) and costs more than $1 billion annually?
4. Unplanned weight loss
- People with PD often lose weight without meaning to, due to nausea, loss of appetite, depression and slowed movement.
- Unplanned weight loss along with malnutrition can lead to a weakened immune system, muscle wasting, loss of vital nutrients and risk for other diseases and possibly even death over an extended period of time.
5. Medication side effects
- While medications play an important role in managing the symptoms of PD they may also have unwanted side effects.
- Taking more than one medication may increase the level of unwanted side effects.
- Common side effects include:
- Appetite loss, often followed by weight loss
- Edema (fluid retention)
- Compulsive eating and weight gain
- Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing anything unusual.
6. Protein-levodopa interaction
- One of the more important medications used to treat PD is levodopa.
- However, levodopa must compete for absorption from the small intestine with proteins in food, and it may be necessary to take care with the timing of meals and medications.
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Medical content reviewed by: Nina Browner, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in North Carolina and by Fernando Pagan, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.