NUTRITION IN SPINAL CORD INJURY

Published: June 3, 2006
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We start with nutrition because it’s basic to health no matter what is going on in your body systems.

While you are in the hospital, you will probably find that one of the most annoying things is that everyone will keep after you about your weight. It seems they are never satisfied -you are too thin, or you are too heavy, but never “just right”.

There are good reasons for this. If you are very much underweight and eat a poorly balanced diet, you are more likely to develop pressure sores. Also, you may not have enough energy to keep you going through a busy day of therapy. If you are overweight, you will find it more difficult moving and doing transfers. If you have surplus flesh where you shouldn’t, you will have more skin irritation.

You should begin by comparing your present dietary habits with your habits prior to your injury.

A WELL BALANCED DIET

A well balanced diet includes enough:

  • Protein (2-3 servings per day) from meats, fish, poultry, eggs (and other dairy products if allowed), dry beans, and nuts
  • Minerals and vitamins from fruits and vegetables to keep you trim and healthy (2-5 servings per day, including one yellow and one green vegetable and a food high in Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits) and
  • Roughage (6-11 servings per day) of whole grain breads and cereals, rice, potatoes, oats, grits, cornmeal, etc.
  • Fluids

DIETARY CONSIDERATIONS IN SCI

  • Protein – You may need to increase the amount of protein you eat to help prevent tissue or muscle breakdown which can occur in spinal injuries, fever, or surgery. At least 2 servings (4 ounces each) of a high protein food should be consumed every day.

    High protein foods are also important to healing of pressure sores, because body proteins are lost through open, draining sores and the way to replace them is to increase the protein in your diet. If you have a Pressure Sore, increase your protein intake to 100-200 grams per day (a minimum of 4 (4 ounce) servings.

    To limit saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet, avoid fried foods, choose meats that are lean, and milk and milk products that are low in fat. In addition to meat, poultry, and fish, excellent sources of protein are cheese (cheddar, parmesan, Swiss, and cottage cheese); milk and yogurt; and sardines and pinto beans.

  • Minerals and Vitamins – You may need to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat. Excellent sources of minerals and vitamins are:

    • Raw lettuce, carrots, apples, etc.
    • Stewed prunes, apricots, dates, etc.
    • Dried apricots, dates, prunes, figs
  • Roughage – You may also need to increase your daily intake of dietary fiber to promote normal bowel functioning and prevent constipation and diarrhea. Whole grain breads and cereals, fresh fruits, and vegetables provide the essential fiber or roughage in your diet. Excellent sources include:

    • Whole grain foods, such as whole wheat and other dark breads, rolls, muffins, pasta, or crackers; bran, oatmeal, shredded wheat, granola, and other cereals; unrefined cornmeal, brown rice, whole barley, millet, popcorn, etc.
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables (including the skins) and tossed salads
    • Cooked dry beans and peas
    • Raw nuts and seed mixes with dried fruits, peanut butter

However, if you are on a restricted liquid intake, you should not consume high amounts of dietary fiber since this will probably make you constipated.

  • Fluids – The amount of liquid you drink is important and should be limited per your Bowel program. Fluids are necessary to prevent dehydration and to keep your kidneys and bladder flushed to prevent urinary infections and stones. You will be encouraged to drink liquids, such as cranberry juice, to keep your urine acid (low pH). You should drink extra fluid if you have a pressure sore that is draining, such as water and apple juice.

If your doctor orders a special diet, your nurse and the dietician will give you instructions.

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