It has been said many times by multiple professionals in the healthcare industry, that a healthy diet is key to a healthy life. And that is very true for everybody, especially for a person with a spinal cord injury. A normal able-bodied persons body can function better with a healthy diet. The same goes for a person with a spinal cord injury because they are more susceptible to health problems like  bladder infections, constipation , skin breakdown, weak immune system, obesity, osteoporosis , heart problems, and diabetes, all due to the lack of movement brought on by paralysis. By eating right, a person with a physical disability or spinal cord injury will have the luxuries a healthy body brings and prevent further harm to themselves.

What happens to the body After a spinal cord injury

After a spinal cord injury, a person’s body will change dramatically. Their body will burn a lot of calories so that it can heal itself. After the healing process is complete, the person’s body has lost a lot of its muscle. Once the muscle has been depleted, the bodies ability to burn calories so fast while healing will reverse and the metabolism will slow down. Where there was once muscle now begins to store fat. That is why it is so important to have and put in place a healthy diet with exercise so that additional health problems will not occur.

The 2 main steps to maintaining a healthy body After the healing process.

Step one: knowing your proper body weight

Finding the right body weight to your body type will help you figure out where you need to be to keep your body healthy. You can find a mathematical model that will help you estimate the right body weight for your body type at the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital‘s website. Mary free bed’s website is helpful and has lots of information that talks about good nutrition for spinal cord injuries. It was even mentioned in there to talk with a certified dietitian prescribed by a general physician. By doing that, it will ensure you that you will be counseled by a person that has taken the time to learn about proper nutrition and will possess extensive knowledge on how to find your exact body type and weight.

Step two: eating the right foods

Eating the right foods will ensure a healthy body. Especially for a person with a spinal cord injury. Those right foods consist of adequate protein, fiber and fluids.

Protein

Protein is a key nutrient that is the building blocks for repairing human body tissue. It is also very important that a person with a spinal cord injury take in an adequate amount of protein on a daily basis. By eating protein you will build and sustain muscle tissue as well as help the healing process with pressure sores.

 Fiber and fluids

Fiber and fluids is essential in aiding with digestion. It is important that a person with a spinal cord injury implement these important nutrients. This will help in having a healthy bowel movement. The foods that a person with the spinal cord injury should eat are fresh fruits and vegetables, bran, plain popcorn, whole-wheat bread, whole grain cereals, and beans. Also it is very important that while eating those foods, to drink lots of water because without fiber can cause and worsen constipation. Drinking adequate amounts of water make it possible for the stools to be softer so that they can be passed. Also it is very important to know while taking in fiber that you do it gradually because it can cause cramping, bloating, and increased flatulence. To avoid this, it was stated on the website Mary free bed  ,  “to increase the amount of fiber per day to 5 grams per day over a span of 3 to 4 days”. Warning: If you are a diabetic,  it would be wise to consult with your doctor and dietitian first before making new food choices. They will know your health record.  Fruits and  breads are high in sugar and can compromise blood glucose levels.

Knowing the complications a poor diet can bring on, to a person with a spinal cord injury

Finding your ideal body weight and the information on the proper foods to eat, will assist you in obtaining a healthy body. It is very important to know how to support and maintain a healthy lifestyle that will prevent health problems that a person with a spinal cord injury may encounter. The Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation layout five major health risks that people with paralysis will deal with if they do not take proper care of their bodies. Those five major health risks are:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Pressure sores
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Bone/joint conditions and fractures

Obesity

Obesity is brought on by a slow metabolism, an over consumption of calories and a sedentary lifestyle. People with spinal cord injuries end up having this problem due to the lack of movement by paralysis. This can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and pressure sores. So it is important to exercise with adaptive equipment made for people spinal cord injuries. Whatever you can move may help with controlling your weight.

Diabetes

Spinal cord injuries will start to gain weight after the healing process below the level of injury making it hard for the body to use its own insulin the proper way. The way the body uses insulin will be affected greatly and will lead to diabetes.

Pressure sores

A pressure sore is loss of muscle and decreased circulation on the bony parts of the body i.e. tailbone, elbows, shoulder blades, and the spine. Pressure sores are very serious and must not be taken lightly.  They can cause a lot of problems for a person with a spinal cord injury even death. It is crucial  that when this happens to let your doctor know and increase your protein until the pressure sore has healed. That is why it is important to eat protein and at the right amounts.

Cardiovascular disease

The heart is a very important organ in the human body especially for a person with a spinal cord injury. It helps pump blood through their system. And in their blood are nutrients that are being carried and deposited throughout the entire human body. It has been shown that a person with a spinal cord injury will not not be as active as an able-bodied person. Physical movement helps burn calories and fat that is deposited in their bloodstream. However a person with a spinal cord injury will not be able to burn a lot of calories because they don’t move enough. The lipids that come from fat will be deposited in their bloodstream and sit longer in their blood vessels causing damage to the blood vessel walls. This will lead to clogged arteries and eventually heart attack. That is why it is important to have a healthy diet in place that will provide healthy fats instead of unhealthy ones.

Bone and joint conditions and fractures

A person with a spinal cord injury will also suffer from low bone density. This comes from the lack of weight-bearing and resistance that exercise and movement brings. Over a period of time the person’s bones become weak and brittle thus making it hard for transfers. People that push their chairs will experience shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome,as well as shoulder, arm, and hand pain. Also people with long-term quadriplegia will have pain in their elbows, shoulders, wrists and hands.

Conclusion

So for people with spinal could injuries to avoid life threatening elements, It would be wise to have a healthy diet put in place. The way that can be done is by learning your body type, finding your ideal body weight, eating the right foods, speaking to a registered dietitian, and exercising. You will be able to live a healthy lifestyle that will give you a long life with less complications. It doesn’t have to be complicated it can be a simple as you wanted to be.

 

Photo courtesy of Gellinger

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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