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Weight Loss

Weight loss is common in people living with Parkinson’s disease. It is usually mild to moderate, and occurs mostly in the later stages of the illness. 

Weight loss should be addressed as quickly as possible, because it can exacerbate both motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. If not treated properly, it can lead to significant problems, such as osteoporosis (bone deterioration) and increased risk of infection.

Weight loss is a nonspecific symptom. For some, maintaining a healthy weight may have already been a challenge before Parkinson’s. Now, you may find that you are losing weight and can’t figure out why.

With age, some people lose muscle mass, which causes their weight to decrease naturally.

Weight loss is also associated with multiple medical conditions, including cancer, thyroid diseases, inflammatory bowel disease and other malabsorption syndromes.

It is certainly possible that you are losing weight due to Parkinson’s disease, but other potential medical causes should be investigated before arriving at that conclusion. Your doctor will be able to eliminate certain possibilities by ordering lab tests.

Various aspects of Parkinson’s disease can cause weight loss. These causes vary from person to person, and sometimes several different factors may contribute to the weight loss.

The motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as tremors, muscle rigidity, and dyskinesia consume a lot of energy. The involuntary movements increase your body’s energy requirements. If you don’t compensate by eating more calories, you will lose weight.

Sometimes, motor symptoms can hinder your ability to prepare and eat meals. Difficulty swallowing can be a real problem in the more advanced stages of the disease.

Non-motor symptoms of the disease can also sometimes contribute to weight loss. Depression, apathy and changes to your sense of smell and/or taste can reduce your appetite and lead to lower food intake.

Delayed gastric emptying can cause nausea, bloating and the feeling of satiety after ingesting only a small amount of food.

La maladie de Parkinson peut entraîner une perte de poids chez certaines personnes pour plusieurs raisons. Ces causes varient d’une personne à l’autre et plusieurs de ces raisons peuvent se combiner pour contribuer à la perte de poids.

Les symptômes moteurs de la maladie de Parkinson, tels que les tremblements, la rigidité musculaire, ou la dyskinésie  sont énergivores. Ces mouvements involontaires accroissent les besoins énergétiques de votre corps. Si ceux-ci ne sont pas compensés par un apport supplémentaire de calories, vous allez perdre du poids.

Parfois, ces symptômes moteurs sont des obstacles à la préparation ou à la consommation des repas. Les difficultés à avaler peuvent représenter de véritables difficultés dans les stades les plus avancés de la maladie. 

D’autre part, les symptômes non moteurs de la maladie peuvent parfois contribuer à la perte de poids. La perte ou la modification d’odorat et/ou du goût, la dépression et l’apathie peuvent réduire l’appétit et conduire à une consommation plus réduite d’aliments.

Le ralentissement de la vidange de l’estomac peut provoquer des nausées, des ballonnements ou une sensation de plénitude, même après avoir consommé de petites quantités de nourriture.  

Meals are a daily activity with a very important social component. Despite your illness, your meals should continue to be enjoyable times that you share with loved ones, if you don’t live alone. Try spicing up your meals, both literally and figuratively, to rekindle your interest in those moments.

If you experience bloating, try subdividing your meals into smaller portions and spreading them throughout the day. Little snacks eaten periodically can help you keep your energy up.

You may need to rethink the way you get food and prepare your meals. It might be time to ask for help from family, friends or local organizations that deliver meals. You can also visit a speech-language pathologist, who will be able to assess the way you swallow.

If your weight loss problem persists, see your doctor. An occupational therapist or nutritionist can also help you find ways to eat enough.

First of all, your neurologist can adjust your medication to reduce your tremors and dyskinesia, which are unnecessary drains on your energy. Optimizing your medication can also improve your swallowing and give you more mobility to prepare your meals.

Your GP or neurologist can help you manage your depressive episodes and lack of motivation by prescribing psychotherapy or anti-depressants.

A speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist can assess the way you swallow and recommend exercises to help you improve the mechanism. They can also suggest specific foods and ways to prepare them that make them easier to swallow.

A nutritionist can recommend nutritious, high-calorie foods and nutritional supplements. They can also help you create menus that reflect your food preferences to encourage you to eat more.

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