Parkinson’s Disease: Eating and Drooling Problems
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.
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.
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.