The Role of the Nutritionist/Dietitian

Contributed by Ann Gaba, EdD, RD

Changes in nutritional status often underlie a variety of seemingly unrelated problems in people with movement disorders, from weakness and weight loss (or gain), to changes in mood, alertness, and general quality of life. Nearly every patient with a mid-stage to advanced stage movement disorder will present with a combination of nutrition problems and disease problems unrelated to nutrition. At first evaluation, the proportion of each of these may not be readily apparent. The crucial difference being that, unlike many symptoms of movement disorders, nutritional issues are often easily corrected.

For most movement disorders, a comprehensive nutrition assessment by a qualified professional (Registered Dietitian) can determine what intervention(s) could optimize that individual's nutrition. This process includes interviewing the patient and caregiver(s) to review the patient's eating habits, food allergies and aversions, culinary preferences and health-related problems as a result of existing dietary habits. Additional information, such as the patient's current weight, weight history, and pertinent lab values are also included in this assessment.

Together with Speech Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and other members of the interdisciplinary team, she/he can discuss meal planning, supplements, and other appropriate adjustments with the patient and caregiver(s), and help to dispel misinformation they may have obtained.