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Luke Smith, MS, RD, LD, CPT

Dietitian + Personal Trainer

Luke Smith Nutrition, LLC

Managing Weight Loss and Muscle Wasting


Living with Parkinson's disease (PD) comes with its share of challenges. One significant concern is the potential for weight loss and muscle wasting, which can greatly affect your quality of life. Today, we’re going to explore the factors that contribute to muscle loss and share some effective strategies to help manage these symptoms.

Weight loss and muscle wasting in Parkinson's disease can occur due to several factors:

  1. Increased Energy Expenditure: PD symptoms, such as tremors and rigidity, can increase energy expenditure, leading to unintentional weight loss.

  2. Reduced Appetite: Loss of appetite is common in PD, which can result in decreased food intake.

  3. Swallowing Difficulties (aka dysphagia): Difficulty swallowing can make it challenging to consume enough calories.

  4. Medication Side Effects: Some medications used to treat PD may cause nausea or other gastrointestinal issues, further reducing appetite and food intake.


Now... let’s talk about some strategies to help manage weight loss and muscle wasting.

1. Balanced, Calorie-Dense Meals

Eating calorie-dense foods that are rich in nutrients can help combat weight loss. Focus on incorporating healthy fats, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates into each meal. Some examples include:

  • Healthy Fats: Avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish (like salmon).

  • Lean Proteins: Poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, tofu, and legumes.

  • Complex Carbohydrates: Whole grains, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and brown rice.


2. Frequent, Small Meals

Eating smaller, more frequent meals can be easier than consuming three large meals a day. Aim for 5-6 smaller meals or snacks throughout the day to ensure a steady intake of calories and nutrients.


3. Smoothies and Shakes

Smoothies and shakes can be an awesome way to increase calorie intake, especially if swallowing is difficult. Use ingredients like full-fat yogurt, fruits, vegetables, protein powder, and nut butters to create nutrient-rich drinks. These can also be really refreshing as the weather starts to get warmer!


4. Protein-Rich Foods

Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass. Include a source of protein in each meal and snack. Some high-protein foods are:

  • Greek yogurt

  • Cottage cheese

  • Lean meats

  • Eggs and/or egg whites

  • Legumes and beans

  • Protein bars or shakes


5. Exercise and Physical Activity

While it might seem counterintuitive, regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining muscle mass and overall health. Engage in exercises that promote strength, flexibility, and balance, such as:

  • Resistance training (using weights or resistance bands)

  • Pilates or yoga

  • Tai chi

  • Walking or light aerobic activities

*Always consult with your healthcare professional or physical therapist to tailor an exercise program that suits the individuals capabilities and needs.


6. Supplements

In some cases, dietary supplements might be necessary to ensure adequate nutrient intake. Discuss with a healthcare provider the potential benefits of supplements such as:

  • Protein powders

  • Multivitamins

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Vitamin D and calcium (for bone health)


7. Addressing Dysphagia

If swallowing difficulties are present, it might be a good idea to consult with a speech-language pathologist to develop strategies and techniques to make eating safer and more comfortable. Modifying the texture of foods and liquids can also help.

Taking care of your nutritional needs and staying active can make a big difference in managing weight loss and muscle wasting in Parkinson's disease. By focusing on balanced, calorie-dense foods and keeping up with regular, enjoyable physical activities, you can support your overall health and well-being.


Remember, it's always a good idea to chat with your healthcare team before making any big changes to your diet or exercise routine. With the right approach, you can help maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass, improving your quality of life and helping you feel your best!

The Importance of Calcium and Vitamin D


When we look at maintaining strength, independence and mobility when living with Parkinson’s disease, bone health is a key concern that can greatly impact one’s quality of life. The diminished mobility associated with this condition elevates the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. Fortunately, we can mitigate bone loss through nutrition and lifestyle strategies.


At the forefront of bone fortification lies calcium, the essential mineral for bone density, supported by vitamin D, which optimizes calcium absorption. Together, these nutrients form a dynamic duo crucial for maintaining bone integrity and reducing the risk of fractures associated with Parkinson's disease.

Let’s explore some strategies to enhance your intake of these important nutrients:

Don’t be afraid of dairy: Dairy products are calcium-rich and provide a variety of other important nutrients. Including milk, yogurt and cheese in your diet can help increase the calcium you get from food. For those seeking alternatives, fortified non-dairy options like almond or soy milk offer comparable benefits.


Get some sun (responsibly… I don’t want you sunburnt!): Bask in the natural radiance of sunlight, allowing your skin to synthesize vitamin D. Aim for brief but regular exposure and be mindful of sunscreen application if you’re in direct sunlight for long periods of time.


Eat more seafood: Incorporate fatty fish like salmon and mackerel into your lunch or dinner rotations. Not only are they delicious, but they also serve as excellent sources of vitamin D and protein.

Remember to eat your vegetables: All veggies can be great, but leafy greens (such as spinach and kale) are a good source of calcium and other micronutrients vital for your health.

Supplemental Support: If you don’t think you’re getting enough calcium or vitamin D, consult with your healthcare provider regarding the appropriateness of calcium and vitamin D supplements.

By implementing these dietary and lifestyle adjustments, you can reap the numerous health benefits that can come with it. Strengthened bones not only enhance balance and stability but also reduce the risk of falls, thereby preserving independence. Vitamin D's influence also extends beyond bone health, positively impacting mood regulation, immune function and muscle integrity.

Calcium and vitamin D are essential nutrients that not only promote bone health but also contribute to mobility, mood regulation, and overall quality of life. By incorporating calcium and vitamin D-rich foods into your diet and adopting lifestyle strategies to optimize intake, individuals with Parkinson's disease can take proactive steps towards better health outcomes and improved quality of life.

Hydration and Parkinson's Disease


Proper hydration isn’t just about quenching thirst; it's a vital component in maintaining overall health and well-being, especially for individuals navigating the complexities of Parkinson's Disease (PD).

PD is a neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects movement, but it can also lead to a number of other symptoms, including impaired balance, cognitive changes, and digestive issues. Hydration plays a pivotal role in managing many of these symptoms and promoting overall health for individuals with PD.

Many medications used to manage Parkinson's symptoms, such as levodopa, can cause dehydration as a side effect. Dehydration may exacerbate symptoms like dizziness and orthostatic hypotension, making it crucial for individuals with PD to maintain adequate fluid intake to counteract these effects.

Parkinson's can also affect the muscles in the digestive tract, leading to issues like constipation and irregular bowel movements. Proper hydration helps soften stool and promote regularity, which can help alleviate discomfort and reducing the risk of digestive issues.

Individuals with Parkinson's may also have difficulty regulating their body temperature, which can lead to increased sweating and fluid loss. Adequate hydration helps maintain optimal body temperature and prevents overheating, especially during physical activity and as the weather starts to get warmer.

Lastly, dehydration can impair cognitive function and exacerbate symptoms of cognitive decline in individuals with Parkinson's. Staying hydrated can support brain health and may help mitigate cognitive challenges associated with the disease.

Tips for Staying Hydrated:


Maintaining proper hydration can be challenging for individuals with Parkinson's, but adopting simple strategies can make a big difference.

1. Establish a hydration routine: Set reminders to drink fluids regularly throughout the day, even if you don't feel thirsty. Incorporate fluids into your daily schedule, such as drinking a glass of water with each meal or setting hourly reminders on your phone.

2. Choose hydrating beverages: Water is the best choice for staying hydrated, but other fluids like herbal teas, diluted fruit juices, and electrolyte-enhanced drinks can also contribute to your daily fluid intake. Limit excessive consumption of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, as they can have diuretic effects.

3. Monitor your fluid intake: Keep track of how much fluid you're consuming each day to ensure you're meeting your hydration needs. Drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water can be a good minimum number to shoot for each day.

4. Eat hydrating foods: Incorporate hydrating foods into your diet, such as fruits (watermelon, oranges, berries) and vegetables (cucumbers, celery), which have some water and provide additional nutrients.

How to assess hydration:

Urine Color: Check the color of your urine; pale yellow to clear urine means you’re probably hydrated, while dark yellow or amber-colored urine may indicate dehydration.

Thirst Level: Pay attention to your thirst cues. If you feel thirsty, it's a sign that your body needs fluids, and you should drink water or other hydrating beverages.

Skin Turgor: Gently pinch the skin on the back of your hand or forearm. Hydrated skin should snap back into place immediately, while dehydrated skin may take longer to return to its normal position.

Proper hydration can profoundly influence the quality of life for individuals living with Parkinson's disease. By staying hydrated, you can:
-Improve energy levels and reduce fatigue.
-Enhance medication effectiveness and symptom management.
-Support cognitive function and mental clarity.
-Maintain mobility and reduce the risk of falls due to dizziness or orthostatic hypotension.
-Alleviate digestive discomfort and promote more regular bowel movements.


By prioritizing adequate fluid intake, individuals with PD can better manage symptoms, improve overall health, and enhance their quality of life. Incorporating simple hydration strategies into daily life can make a huge difference in navigating the complexities of living with this disease.


So… fill up your water bottle and make it a priority Every. Single. Day.



Nutrition Spotlight: A Key to Managing Parkinson's Disease

Today, we're delving into the vital role of nutrition in managing Parkinson's disease, with a focus on the importance of incorporating a diverse range of fruits and vegetables into your diet.

Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder affecting movement, presents challenges that extend beyond conventional medical treatments. Emerging research suggests that dietary choices can significantly impact the progression of the disease and the management of its symptoms.

Fruits and vegetables stand out as nutritional powerhouses, offering a rich source of various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber essential for overall health. By consuming a variety of these plant-based foods, individuals with Parkinson's can benefit from their potent antioxidant properties.


Furthermore, the gut-brain connection has garnered increasing attention in the context of Parkinson's disease. A diet abundant in fruits and vegetables supports gut health, fostering a diverse microbiota that may have protective effects on brain function and inflammation levels.

Inflammation, a hallmark of many chronic conditions including Parkinson's disease, can be mitigated by the anti-inflammatory compounds found in fruits and vegetables. By incorporating these foods into their diet, individuals with Parkinson's may potentially experience relief from symptoms and stay energized throughout the day.

Additionally, the fiber content in fruits and vegetables promotes digestive health, addressing common issues such as constipation, which is prevalent among many Parkinson's patients.

Incorporating a diverse array of fruits and vegetables into daily meals can be a simple yet powerful strategy for managing Parkinson's disease. Whether it's adding a handful of berries to your morning cereal, extra vegetables to your soup or experimenting with vibrant vegetable stir-fries, small dietary changes can yield significant benefits for overall well-being.

As part of our commitment to promoting healthy eating habits, we're excited to invite you to join us for the upcoming Nothing to It! Cooking Class on March 16th. The menu for the night will feature a delicious Vegetarian Mushroom Chili and a Main Dish Salad with protein options such as hard-boiled eggs, chickpeas, beans, or chicken. These recipes are crafted to be heavy on vegetables, with small amounts of protein, and focused on incorporating fiber-rich ingredients. It's a fantastic opportunity to learn new culinary skills, discover exciting recipes, and nourish your body with wholesome, plant-based goodness.

We hope to see you there for an evening of fun and culinary inspiration!

Optimizing Protein for Parkinson's Disease Management: Recomendations, Sources, and Strategies to Eat More Protein
BLuke Smith, MS, RD, LD, CPT/Dietitian + Personal Trainer/Luke Smith Nutrition,

Navigating life with Parkinson's disease requires a comprehensive approach to health management, and nutrition plays a pivotal role in supporting overall well-being. Specifically, protein emerges as a vital factor influencing medication effectiveness, muscle health, energy levels and retaining muscle mass as we age. In this post, we'll explore the importance of protein intake, daily recommendations, diverse protein sources, and effective strategies to enhance protein consumption so you can stay healthy and strong.


Appreciating the Importance of Protein:

Protein absorption can interact with Parkinson’s medications like levodopa, which can increase the need for a consistent protein intake throughout the day. Beyond its connection to medication, protein becomes essential for maintaining muscle mass and strength, which is critical for those struggling with muscle stiffness and rigidity. Adequate protein intake also contributes to sustained energy levels, countering the persistent fatigue associated with Parkinson's disease. Lastly, protein plays a crucial role in fostering cellular repair and maintaining overall health.


Protein's Role in Muscle Retention as We Age:

Addressing the challenges of maintaining muscle mass as we age becomes more manageable with the aid of protein. It assumes a pivotal role in preventing age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia. For individuals facing Parkinson's disease, where muscle stiffness is an added concern, ensuring sufficient protein in your diet becomes even more crucial to safeguard muscle function and independence as you age.


Daily Protein Recommendations:

Individual protein needs for those managing Parkinson's disease will vary based on factors such as age, weight, activity level and overall health. In general, aiming for 30+ grams of protein at each meal can be a helpful guideline, but tailoring this to your individual circumstances is crucial for effective management.


Sources of Protein:

Incorporating a variety of protein sources can help add diversity to your diet. Lean meats like chicken and turkey, fatty fish like salmon, dairy products such as milk and cheese, plant-based options including legumes and tofu, and nuts and seeds. A diversified menu incorporating these sources ensures a well-rounded nutritional profile that will aid you in meeting your protein needs.


Strategies to Increase Protein Consumption:

Maintaining a consistent protein intake throughout the day, incorporating protein-rich snacks, smoothies or shakes, and ensuring every meal contains a protein source are all strategies that can help you incorporate more protein into your diet. These approaches not only support medication effectiveness, but also contribute to sustained muscle health and overall well-being.


Understanding the critical role that protein plays in the management of Parkinson’s, along with the importance of preserving muscle mass as you age, enables you to enhance your overall well-being. By incorporating protein-rich foods strategically and consulting your healthcare team, you can embark on a proactive journey toward improved overall health and quality of life while managing Parkinson's disease.

The Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Parkinson's Management

By Luke Smith, MS, RD, LD, CPT/Dietitian + Personal Trainer/Luke Smith Nutrition, LLC

Greetings to our resilient Parkinson's community. Today we’re going to dive into a nutritional
cornerstone that could be a game-changer for cognitive health – Omega-3 fatty acids. For those
navigating the complex nature of Parkinson's disease, understanding the pivotal role Omega-3s
play in our well-being is so important. So, let's explore some insights into why Omega-3s merit a
place in your daily nutritional regimen.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Ally for Cognitive Health
Omega-3 fatty acids aren’t an ordinary source of fat in your diet. Instead, they stand out as key
players in the pursuit of cognitive vitality. Let’s talk about some of their potential benefits for
those managing Parkinson'
s disease:

1. Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Parkinson's involves neuroinflammation, and Omega-3s are
recognized for their anti-inflammatory attributes, potentially offering a mitigating effect on
neural inflammation.

2. Neurotransmitter Support: The critical role Omega-3s play in neurotransmitter production
and function highlights their significance in facilitating effective communication between brain

3. Neuronal Survival: There’s some evidence suggesting that Omega-3s may contribute to the
preservation of neurons, offering a protective shield for vital brain cells.

4. Cognitive Enhancement: Some studies also hint at the positive impact of an Omega-3-rich
diet on cognitive function, which could be helpful in maintaining mental acuity.

Navigating the Omega-3 Landscape: A Culinary Exploration
Now that we've established the scientific rationale behind Omega-3s, let's turn our attention to
the assortment of foods that can seamlessly incorporate these brain-boosting fatty acids into
your diet:

1. Fatty Fish: Salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines are all rich in Omega-3s. Consistently
including these in your diet (aiming for at least two servings per week) could be a good target to
shoot for when shopping for groceries for the week.

2. Flaxseeds: These versatile seeds can be effortlessly integrated into various dishes. Whether
sprinkled on yogurt, blended into smoothies, or incorporated into baked goods, flaxseeds offer
a convenient and nutritious Omega-3 source.

3. Chia Seeds: Despite being small in size, chia seeds pack a robust Omega-3 punch. Consider
incorporating them into puddings, oatmeal, or smoothies for added nutritional value.

4. Walnuts: These rich and delicious nuts can make for a convenient snack that delivers a
noteworthy dose of Omega-3s.

5. Hemp Seeds: These seeds, when sprinkled on salads, yogurt, or blended into smoothies, also
offer an additional avenue for Omega-3 integration into your diet.

At the end of the day, managing Parkinson's requires a multifaceted approach, and Omega-3
fatty acids are an important nutrient to consider as you continue prioritizing your nutrition.
Embrace these delicious, nutrient dense foods and add them to your culinary toolbox as you
continue taking care of yourself and others.

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Amazing Recipes for People with Parkinson's!

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