The Vital Role of Nutrition In SCI

Different forms of nutrition in food

SCI can have a profound impact on an individual’s life; it does not only affect the mobility but also overall health and well-being. There are so many issues and secondary complications that come with SCI such as loss of control over bladder & bowel, neurogenic bladder and bowel, urinary tract infection, chronic constipation, weight management, pressure sores and a lot more. To tackle with these complications along with rehabilitation, maintaining a good nutrition is also crucial. Nutrition plays a very important role in supporting the recovery and long-term health in SCI patients.

In this blog, we will explore why nutrition is essential for individuals with SCI and provide tips to optimize dietary habits.

Importance of Nutrition In SCI Patients:

After an SCI, the body’s nutritional needs may change, and proper nutrition becomes even more vital. Here are some key considerations and the crucial role of nutrition after a spinal cord injury:

12 main vitamins

1. Adequate Calories and Protein Intake

SCI often leads to changes in metabolism, muscle breakdown, tissue damage and a decrease in body mass. Consuming enough calories through extra protein rather then carbohydrates is essential to support the body’s healing process, maintain muscle mass, and prevent complications such as pressure sores and infections.

Protein-rich foods like pulses, oats, soya bean, eggs, lean meats, fish, and dairy products should be included in the diet.

2. Adequate Fiber Intake

After SCI depending upon the level of injury, many people loose bladder and bowel sensation. Digestion of food and movement of stool towards colon and rectum also slows down resulting in issues such as constipation, incontinence causing bowel accidents and sometimes diarrhea too.

Consuming an adequate amount of dietary fiber, found in fruits, green vegetables, cucumber, carrot, whole grains, and pulses can help soften the stool and hence promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.

3. Hydration

Staying hydrated is important for everyone, but it is particularly crucial for individuals with SCI. Proper hydration keeps healthy skin, helps prevent urinary tract infections, supports digestion, aids in regulating body temperature, and promotes overall health. Water, coconut water, and low-sugar beverages should be consumed throughout the day.

In addition, it is also very important to give calculated amount of liquid as suggested by the medical advisor if the person is doing CIC for urination to prevent leakage.

4. Calcium and Vitamin D

Individuals with SCI may have a higher risk of osteoporosis due to inactivity and decreased weight-bearing activities. Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is important to maintain bone health. Dairy products, green leafy veggies, nuts, and supplements may be recommended to ensure sufficient calcium and vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is mandatory with calcium supplements for better absorption.

5. Antioxidants and Anti-inflammatory Foods

 SCI may lead to an increase in oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, can help counteract oxidative stress. Foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as fatty fish, turmeric, ginger, and olive oil, may also be beneficial.

6. Vitamin and Mineral

Individuals with SCI may have a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency due to changes in absorption. Vitamin B12 is essential for nerve function and blood cell production. Including sources of vitamin B12, such as meat, fish, dairy, and fortified foods, or taking supplements if needed, is important.

Furthermore, along with Vitamin B12 person with SCI may also have low phosphorus and sodium level. Mostly quadriplegics have low Blood Pressure causing lethargy and restlessness, so It is advisable to increase salt intake unless they have high blood pressure issues.

Additionally, Vitamin C and zinc intake is also essential as it promote skin health. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron more effectively and helps fight infections. It also aids in better absorption of protein. Good sources of vitamin C include lemon, orange juice, orange, kiwi, and broccoli. Sources of zinc include lean meat, liver, eggs, legumes, seafood, and milk. Dry fruits not only provide fiber, protein but many essential minerals.

7. Weight Management

Healthy eating can help lower your risk for becoming overweight or obese and for developing other medical complications, such as constipation, diarrhea, diabetes, infections, and limit your muscle loss.

Food choices determine the amount of calories you consume. Extra calories lead to weight gain and affect your daily activities, such as strength, stamina, and transferring. So, it is important to choose foods that are rich in nutrients while staying within your calorie limits. It is advisable to eat more seasonal fruits mainly water melon, mass melon, papaya and raw vegetables fruits, raw vegetables, salad helps in salad of cucumber, radish, turnip, beat root etc. This helps in filling your belly on one hand and very low calories on the other.

The Vital role of Nutrition In SCI: Key Points

Maintaining proper diet and taking enough amount of nutrition can help boost your recovery faster and also help in fighting with other secondary complications.  Here are some key points mentioned below to maintain proper diet:

  • Try to take as much of green leafy vegetables and seasonal fruits as much as possible as they are rich source of nutrients, high in fiber which helps in bowel management and also they are low caloric.
  • Try to take nuts or dry fruits (except cashew because it is high in calorie)  as evening snacks and avoid packaged food, cold drinks, too much of white sugar, sweets to maintain proper weight.
  • Increase vitamin C intake as it helps to prevent Urinary tract infections and any other infections. Also better absorption of iron and protein.
  • It is advisable to consume adequate amount of Salad.
  • Being hydrated is important for every being but comparatively it is more important for person with SCI as it can cause UTI, constipation, and a lot of other health issues.

Key is balanced diet, thrice a day and in moderate quantity. Snacks between two meals should be fresh fruits and dry fruits, A healthy diet will improve your health, but you can increase your health benefits by combining a healthy diet with other lifestyle changes, such as including physical activities, limiting alcohol use and smoking, as well as maintaining good mental health.

By Dr. Virendra Vikram Singh (PT)