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Reducing Problems With Eating and Drooling in Parkinson's Disease

Eating problems

Many of the same muscles used for speech are involved in chewing and swallowing. Changes in these muscles caused by Parkinson's disease may result in:

  • Weight loss and nutrition problems.
  • Slow eating.
  • Fatigue during eating.
  • Food "sticking" in the throat.
  • Coughing or choking on food or liquids.
  • Trouble swallowing pills.

Methods to reduce these problems involve changing how and what you eat.

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  • Sit upright when eating, drinking, and taking pills.
  • Take small bites of food, chew completely, and swallow before taking another bite.
  • Take small sips of liquid and hold them in your mouth as you prepare to swallow.
  • If eating is tiring, divide food into smaller but more frequent meals.
  • Thicker drinks make swallowing easier. Try milk shakes or juices in gelatin form.
  • Eat moist, soft foods. Use a blender to prepare food for easier chewing.
  • Avoid foods such as crackers or cakes that crumble easily. These can cause choking.
  • If you cough or choke, lean forward and keep your chin tipped downward while you cough.

Drooling

Drooling occurs in people with Parkinson's disease when they cannot swallow their saliva. To reduce drooling:

  • Keep your chin up and your lips closed when you are not speaking or eating.
  • Swallow often, especially before you start to speak.
  • Practice lip exercises to strengthen lip muscles.
  • Avoid sugary foods that cause more saliva to develop.
  • Ask your doctor about medicines you can use to help the problem.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer G. Frederick Wooten, MD - Neurology
Last Revised December 3, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 03, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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