Nutrition is one of the essential keys for everyone to stay healthy. Using a balanced daily diet, everyone can get the proper nutrition. However, keeping a healthy diet is challenging for many people. And it may be more difficult for adults with spinal cord injuries. In addition to maintaining a nutritious diet, we have to consider more aspects involving some specific conditions.
Being overweight is a common problem for people with spinal cord injuries. Some research shows that two out of three people with SCI are overweight. Due to the sedentary nature of life with SCI, the excess weight gained after SCI is challenging to lose.
And being overweight is associated with some risks, for example:
- Increased pressure on the affected spine may lead to further injury or complications
- Reduced mobility and ability to perform daily activities
- Increased risk of pressure ulcers
- Increased risk of secondary medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease
- Increased stress on the cardiovascular system
- Increased risk of respiratory problems
- Increased risk of depression, and anxiety
Changes in bowel and bladder function
Individuals with SCI may have difficulty with bowel and bladder function. The changes can lead to constipation or diarrhea, affecting nutrient absorption. Properly increasing fibre and fluid intake may manage the issues. Fibre helps move the stool through the bowel. However, for some, having more than 20g of fibre per day can increase the likelihood of constipation. For this situation, individuals should increase their fibre intake gradually and assess their reactions.
Individuals with cervical spinal cord injury may have difficulty swallowing, which is known as dysphagia. This symptom increases the risk of aspiration, where the food or liquid enters the lungs instead of the stomach. So, it’s important to use a specially designed dysphagia diet to reduce the risk. The foods on this diet should be easier to chew and move around in the mouth, and the liquids should be the thickness recommended by your doctor.
Make healthy choices
Generally, a healthy diet includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and some low-fat dairy. These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals that help support the body’s healing process.
Moreover, it should include just enough liquid intake that helps keep the stool soft, flush the bladder and keep the urine light in colour. Meanwhile, it’s essential to consume enough calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12, as people with SCI may have difficulty absorbing these nutrients. Calcium and vitamin D help maintain healthy bones, while vitamin B12 is essential for developing and functioning neurons. It helps produce myelin, a substance that insulates and protects nerve cells.
Additionally, we should avoid processed foods and high-calorie snacks as they’re often high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.
However, creating a healthy diet that fits everyone well is almost impossible, especially when different conditions encounter. We should work closely with a registered dietitian or a healthcare provider to develop a personalised nutrition plan to meet our unique needs and goals.
The NDIS and nutrition support
The NDIS may cover nutrition support, including nutritional supplements or a dietitian to create a meal plan for you. Our NDIS Coordination team will be happy to assist you in including a dietician as part of your NDIS plan.
Finally, the Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) also released a booklet detailing how to make healthy food choices. Please access it for more information about this topic.
This article was written based on the booklet and more sources below. It is only for informational and educational purposes. Please consult your doctor or other health professionals to ensure this information is right for you.
Some information originated from:
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