Nutrition in Cerebral Palsy Patients

This is a guest post from Jonathan Rosenfeld, a medical malpractice attorney in Chicago, IL. Jonathan is the founder of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers. I appreciate his contribution to this blog. The topic Jonathan attacks today is an important one: how to help cerebral palsy patients get the best possible outcomes.
There is no doubt that many cerebral palsy (CP) patients face many obstacles. But there is some relatively low hanging fruit to improve patients outcomes: good nutrition. Because of their condition, patients can be malnourished even when though they are fed regularly with what may seem like a healthy diet for the average person.

Causes of Malnutrition in CP Patients

There are many factors that can lead to poor nutrition for patients with CP. A combination of muscle, brain and digestive issues all can lead to undernourishment. Because of these, up to 35% of children with cerebral palsy are thought to be malnourished.

  • Chewing. Due to certain brain lesions that can affect the motor skills for face and mouth muscles, CP patients may have a hard time controlling the muscles needed for chewing. This can lead to food being difficult, if not impossible, to chew. 86% of CP patients experience oral-motor dysfunction.
  • Swallowing. Same as with chewing, swallowing requires muscle control that can be impaired in CP patients. This can lead to choking and vomiting. 60% of CP patients have some kind of swallowing disorder.
  • Digestive Disorders. CP patients can have several digestive issues including acid reflux (77%), chronic constipation (74%) and abdominal pain. These are often caused by lack of muscle tone within the body to properly move food through the digestive system.

Preparation Techniques and Types of Foods To Consider For CP Patients

Nutrition is important for any person to grow and thrive, even more for those with an ailment like CP. Making sure persons with CP are getting the nutrients and calories they need can be challenging, but there are ways to manage their intake. Using proper methods for preparing foods, along with using certain types of foods can increase their nutrient intake.

  • High nutrient foods. Using foods that are full of vitamins, minerals and calories can be beneficial for CP patient’s diets. These can be fruits and vegetables, healthy oils and fats and whole grains. Stay away from highly processed foods that are low in fiber and nutrient content.
  • Preparing easy-to-swallow meals. Make sure meals are soft, with small pieces that are easy to chew and swallow. Smoothies and shakes are a great way to go. These can be made with fruits and juices as well as adding higher fat content with healthy fats like coconut milk or nut butters. You can also add vegetables to increase nutrient and fiber content, which can help with constipation.
  • Reduce acidic foods and beverages. Since so many cerebral palsy patients have acid reflux, limiting foods that can irritate the condition is helpful. Stay away from citrus, spicy foods, fatty meats and carbonated beverages.

With a little forethought, making sure cerebral palsy patients are receiving the nutrients they need is achievable. There are also nutritional counselors and dieticians that can help you make sure that they are getting the right balance of nutrients. Knowing the hurdles and finding ways to overcome them is the first step. This article here also gives some good information about the specific foods for children with cerebral palsy that is worth a read. Caring for Cerebral Palsy also has some good information on this subject as well.