How important is Weight Management when it comes to Parkinson's?
Keeping an ideal weight is important with Parkinson's. At certain times, we may notice increased weight due to lack of mobility, or loss of weight due to diminishing appetite. Below are strategies on how to manage both weight loss and/or weight gain.
Weight loss is a common side effect of Parkinson's. In fact, in many cases, weight loss precedes motor symptoms and is considered an index for Parkinson's progression. There are various potential causes at play, such as overall malnutrition, increased energy output, decreased energy input, nausea or vomiting, and lack of appetite. If you have unwanted weight loss, the best thing to do is to talk to your physician about creating a plan to manage your caloric intake. Creating a meal plan to gain and then maintain your weight will vary by individual, but shakes, smoothies, avocados, nuts and seeds are all simple ways to consider adding nutritional calories to your diet. If loss of smell is a problem for you, you can also consider using more spices to make your food taste better.
Tips for gaining weight:
Consider adding a nutritional supplement to your diet, such as an Ensure Drink to hit your minimum required calories for the day and to get enough vitamins and minerals
Avoid low-fat or low-calorie products
Choose high-calorie snacks, ideally those with some nutritional value such as peanut butter, guacamole, or nuts
Have your drinks after a meal instead of before or during so you don't consume too much liquid
Plan meals to include your favorite foods
Increase the variety of food you're eating
Choose foods that are easy to prepare and eat
Make eating a pleasant experience, not a chore. Listen to music.
Try not to eat alone - invite somebody over for dinner or go out.
Weight gain is another common side effect that can occur from a decreased ability to exercise or because of gastric emptying, in which you may feel like you're uncontrollably gaining weight despite not eating much. The discrepancy may have to do with your body going into starvation mode as it tries to recalibrate your energy input and output. Again, the best course of action is to speak with your physician about a weight loss plan that aligns with your specific issues and goals. Also, you might consider an anti-inflammatory diet if you're suffering from weight gain associated with gastric emptying.
If your weight gain seems to be associated with compulsive eating, a common impulse control disorder that dopamine agonists can cause, talk with your physician about managing or changing your medications or options for managing any compulsive eating behavior.
Keeping mobile and exercising can help most with reducing weight gain. Remember the importance of keeping a healthy weight, especially if you require assistance from your care partners.
Tips for managing weight gain:
Avoid non-nutritious drinks like soda/pop
Eat small, frequent meals and snacks
Walk or get involved in another light activity to stimulate your appetite
Treat depression that may be associated with appetite control
Disclaimer: The information contained in these Frequently Asked Questions have been sourced by reliable, research-based publications. It is to your discretion whether or not to incorporate the education and awareness as guidance into your wellness journey with Parkinson's. The Parkinson Association of Alabama cannot be held liable for the solutions you try, and you should always consult with medical experts before trying anything new or incorporating new matters into your overall wellness plan.
The Davis Phinney Foundation. Parkinson's Nutrition Q&A. Parkinson's Treatments and Therapies. Every Victory Counts. Page 191. "Manual." Sixth Edition. 2021.
Marie, Lianna. Chapter 47. Page 141. Part 6. Nutrition and Exercise. The Complete Guide for People with Parkinson's Disease and Their Loved Ones. Purdue University Press, 2022.