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Nutrition for people with spinal cord injuries

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Eat-Well,-Live-Well-with-Spinal-Cord-InjuryMaintaining health can prevent secondary complications from developing, new book says

oanne Smith and Kylie James knew that diet plays a significant role in the health of people with neurological disorders. But they couldn’t find published material to that back knowledge up.

So Smith, a registered nutritionist with a spinal cord injury, and James, a nutritionist and occupational therapist specializing in neurological disorders, decided to produce a book themselves. They did it with a grant from the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

The book Eat Well, Live Well with Spinal Cord Injury is available at Ontario’s Job Opportunity Information Network (JOIN) career fairs for people with disabilities. One takes place March 15 at the Marriott Eaton Centre Hotel in Toronto and another on March 22 at the Sheraton Parkway Hotel in Richmond Hill. It will also be available for $19.99 as an ebook.

Q: What’s the connection between diet and spinal cord injury?

A: You’re susceptible to secondary health complications, like bladder infections, lower immune system, bowel dysfunction, respiratory infection, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis. These can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle, which includes good nutrition. If you have these conditions already, it can help manage them.

Q: Does it pertain to spinal cord injury only?

A: The recommendations in the book are specific for spinal injury, but there is a great crossover to anybody with any kind of neurological condition, whether it be Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, acquired brain injury.

Q: What’s the incentive?

A: If you can maintain your health and prevent a lot of these secondary complications from developing, it’s saving yourself and the health-care system money down the road. We are also dealing with greater susceptibility toward weight gain, lower energy, sleep difficulty, so just trying to enhance your day-to-day function can make a significant difference.

Q: Can you give an example?

A: Pressure sores are something that people with spinal cord injury are vulnerable to from the acute-care stages throughout their lifetime. You maintain skin integrity by eating the right amount of protein every day, getting things like vitamin A and vitamin C into your diet, as well as boosting your immune system to keep the infections at bay.

Q: How much difference can food really make?

A: Making small changes in your diet every day can make a big difference in terms of function and independence. It’s like a little insurance.

For information on JOIN’s career fairs visit

By: Barbara Turnbull Life Reporter

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