Getting to know...a dietitian

Rebecca McManamon is a British Dietitic Association-registered neurodietitian who specialises in a range of conditions, including Parkinson's.

I am both a dietitian and a neurodietitian. Dietitians can assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems. Neurodietitians are dietitians who specialise in neurological conditions specifically. They may just treat people with those conditions, or specialise in a particular area – for example, helping people who use feeding tubes to manage their nutrition.

I started my career working with people on hospital wards, and with people in their own homes and nursing homes, including those who had had a stroke or other neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s. Over the years, I’ve worked in a variety of areas but have continued working with people with neurological conditions. I currently work in the private sector, in a neurological inpatient unit, and with people in their own homes.

Diet is very important in the management of Parkinson’s. It’s important for someone with the condition to get all the nutrients they need, as it can help reduce symptoms including constipation, muscle weakness and fatigue.

Above all, it's important that food is enjoyable. If you have Parkinson’s and are struggling to eat enough, your dietitian can advise you on whether you should take nutritional supplement drinks.

I’d encourage anyone with Parkinson’s to eat a well-balanced diet, with protein included in every meal (unless advised differently due to Levodopa), to have at least five fruits and vegetables a day, and to drink at least 1.5L-2L of fluid daily.

As constipation can be a problem, having a fibre-rich diet that includes lentils, beans and whole grains (if safe to swallow), is also essential.

Above all, it's important that food is enjoyable. If you have Parkinson’s and are struggling to eat enough, your dietitian can advise you on whether you should take nutritional supplement drinks. 

For those who are having difficulty swallowing, it’s important to seek professional advice as soon as possible. Your specialist or Parkinson’s nurse should be able to refer you to a registered dietitian. I would also encourage you to seek professional advice on feeding tubes, which can be a short-term option for someone who has difficulty with taking their medication. 

What inspires me the most about working with people with neurological conditions is the big difference it can make to their quality of life and ability to achieve things.

Find out more about the British Dietetics Association at: www.bda.uk.com