One of the lesser-known symptoms of Parkinson’s is problems with chewing, which can make it difficult for individuals with the disease to eat properly and maintain a healthy diet.
Problems with chewing in Parkinson’s can be caused by a variety of factors, including muscle stiffness and weakness, as well as difficulty with coordination and control of the jaw and tongue. This can make it difficult to open the mouth wide enough to take a bite, or to chew and swallow food properly. Some individuals with Parkinson’s may also experience a loss of taste or a decrease in the sense of smell, which can make food less appealing and lead to a loss of appetite.
One of the most common problems with chewing in Parkinson’s is known as “dysphagia,” which is difficulty swallowing. This can occur when the muscles that control swallowing become weak or uncoordinated, making it difficult to move food from the mouth to the stomach. This can lead to food getting stuck in the throat, or to a condition known as “aspiration,” where food enters the lungs instead of the stomach.
Another common problem with chewing in Parkinson’s is “dysarthria,” which is difficulty speaking and forming words. This can occur when the muscles of the mouth and tongue become weak or uncoordinated, making it difficult to move the jaw and tongue in the necessary way to produce speech.
The problems with chewing and swallowing can lead to malnutrition and weight loss, this is why it is important for individuals with Parkinson’s to work with a speech therapist and a dietitian to develop strategies for managing these symptoms. This may include changes to the texture and consistency of food, as well as modifications to the way food is prepared and served.
One of the most important things that individuals with Parkinson’s can do to manage problems with chewing is to maintain a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. This can help to ensure that they are getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy and maintain their strength.
Another important strategy is to avoid foods that are difficult to chew or swallow, such as dry or tough meats, raw vegetables, and hard or crunchy foods. Instead, individuals with Parkinson’s should opt for softer, more easily chewed foods, such as cooked vegetables, mashed potatoes, and soups.
Additionally, people with Parkinson’s can try different strategies to help with swallowing, such as sitting up straight while eating, taking smaller bites, and taking more time to chew and swallow food.
Overall, problems with chewing and swallowing are common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that can make it difficult for individuals to eat properly and maintain a healthy diet. However, with the help of a speech therapist and a dietitian, individuals with Parkinson’s can develop strategies for managing these symptoms and maintaining their health and well-being. By following a healthy diet, avoiding difficult-to-chew foods and using different strategies to help with swallowing, individuals with Parkinson’s can make sure they are getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy and maintain their strength.
I am proud to release my new book, Parkinson’s Warrior: Fighting Back & Taking Control. The book details my journey with Parkinson’s, explains the essential concepts about the disease, and gives hope for those seeking relief from this relentless illness. If you would like to learn more about Parkinson’s, I humbly recommend you purchase this book. It is now available on Amazon.com and other bookstores in print and as an ebook.
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Nick Pernisco is the Parkinson’s Warrior, a person with Parkinson’s who has dedicated his life to helping others with Parkinson’s. Get the Parkinson’s Warrior book here. Join the discussion on Facebook.