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Parkinson's Disease: Eating and Drooling Problems - Topic Overview

Parkinson's disease can change many of the muscles used for speech, chewing, and swallowing. Changes in these muscles may cause:

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

But there are things you can do to help reduce eating and drooling problems. A speech-language pathologist (also called a speech therapist) can teach you exercises and show you other ways to help with eating, swallowing, and drooling.

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Eating problems

You can reduce eating problems by changing how and what you eat.

  • 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

To reduce drooling:

  • Keep your chin up and your lips closed when you aren't speaking or eating.
  • Swallow often, especially before you start to speak.
  • Ask a speech therapist about 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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
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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