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Nutritional Care for People With Huntington's Disease
In the Early Stages
- Be aware that depression may develop. Look for symptoms such as a loss of interest in most activities, or fatigue as the person struggles to accept the diagnosis.
- Seek psychological care from a therapist who is familiar with Huntington's disease.
- There is little need to worry about food cravings, as long as the individual eats an overall well-balanced diet.
- A multivitamin and mineral supplement may be beneficial.
In the Middle Stages
- Avoid eating when tired or upset.
- Sit upright during all meals, snacks, and drinks.
- Try to avoid foods that cause coughing, choking, or throat irritation. These may be foods that are dry, crumbly (eg, chips, dry cereal), acidic (eg, citrus fruit/juice, tomatoes/juice), spicy (eg, chili powder, red and black pepper, curry powder), or stringy (eg, melted cheese).
- Eat slowly.
- Avoid talking while eating or swallowing.
- Blend and puree foods.
- Add sauces, gravies, liquid dressings, and moist toppings (eg, sour cream, butter, mayonnaise) to foods.
- Choose foods that are soft and moist, such as yogurt, pudding, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, oatmeal, gelatin, milk shakes, frozen yogurt, or ice cream.
- Buy a commercial thickener to thicken liquids. Liquids with a milkshake consistency are easier to swallow.
- Cut food into small pieces, take small bites (½ teaspoon or less), and chew well.
- Between bites of food, sip a beverage.
- Use a straw.
- Make your own vegetable and fruit juices.
- Stay seated upright for at least 30 minutes after eating.
- Use cups with covers and straws, such as sports cups, to prevent spills.
- Get forks and spoons with rubber handles or larger handles for easier gripping.
- For the slow eater, use a warming tray to keep food warm.
- Use bibs, aprons, and moisture-resistant table covers.
Have more high-fat, high calorie foods such as:
- Sauces (creamed or cheese) and gravies
- Creamed soups and bisques
- Plain, whipped, or sour cream
- Ice cream (without chips, nuts, or chunks)
- Mayonnaise (add to sandwiches and salads)
- Butter (add to vegetables, pancakes, and hot cereals)
- Smooth peanut butter or other smooth nut butters
- Full-fat salad dressings
- Avocados in guacamole dip, sliced in salads, or as a side dish
- Full fat milk or yogurt
- Soft cheeses, cheese spreads, dips, or sauces
- Eliminate possible distractions, such as the TV and radio.
- Avoid arguments or discussions that may be upsetting.
- Provide a pleasant and relaxing setting with adequate lighting, attractively arranged food and decor, and a comfortable seating arrangement.
- Be flexible and consider the changing needs of the person with Huntington's disease.
In the Advanced Stages
Things to Remember
- This information helps with nutrition tips only. There are other aspects of the disease, like medications, and medication interaction. Learn as much as you can.
- Counseling may be part of the treatment process for the individual and family and caregivers.
- As the disease progresses, swallowing and eating become more difficult.
- During the late stages, person may need 24-hour care.
Hereditary Disease Foundation http://www.hdfoundation.org/
The Huntington Disease Society of America http://www.hdsa.org/
Canadian Association of Family Physicians http://www.cfpc.ca/
Huntington Society if Canada http://www.huntingtonsociety.ca/english/index.asp
Depression. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated November 13, 2012. Accessed November 26, 2012.
Huntington Disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated September 4, 2012. Accessed November 21, 2012.
Huntington's Disease - Diet Issues. Better Health Channel website. Available at: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Huntingtons%5Fdisease%5Fdiet%5Fissues?open. Updated June 2011. Accessed November 21, 2012.
Nutrition and HD. Huntington's Disease Society of America website. Available at: http://www.hdsa.org/images/content/1/1/11695.pdf. Accessed November 21, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 11/2012
- Update Date: 11/27/2012