A healthy diet is known to be important for everyone, but for SCI individuals it’s even more critical, reports Anlerie de Wet
The question of efficient dietary management in persons with SCI has not yet been satisfactorily answered, according to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the US – especially SCI individuals with type II diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia and cardiovascular diseases.
However, the study recommends that nutrition assessment should be performed during acute, sub-acute and chronic phases of rehabilitation after SCI, because, without certain nutrients, the risk increases for these individuals to develop diabetes, elevated cholesterol, pressure sores, osteoporosis (loss of bone density) and obesity.
According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, individuals with SCI should do four things when it comes to nutrition: eat, drink, exercise and soak up the sun!
First, it is important that individuals with SCI eat three meals per day and these should provide them with a total daily intake of between 15 g and
30 g of fibre, which assists bowel movements. Note: individuals should gradually increase their fibre intake from a small quantity to the optimum amount – to avoid constipation.
Individuals should include low-fat dairy products (which contain calcium to strengthen the bones) and eliminate or decrease their intake of fried food and high-fat food.
Secondly, to prevent or lessen the risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI) individuals with SCI should drink at least 1.5 litres of liquids a day to soften the stool. Water and cranberry juice or extract is the best option to prevent UTIs or even kidney and bladder stones.
Thirdly, physical activity for individuals with SCI is vital. It can help to manage problems such as spasticity, weight gain and chronic pain, while improving strength and endurance to accomplish everyday tasks. Multiple studies have also shown that people who are physically active are less likely to feel anxious, lonely or depressed.
Finally, get some sun: individuals with SCI are very likely to have a vitamin D deficiency. As vitamin D helps with muscle functions, it is necessary to close the deficiency gap. Oral supplements are available, but sometimes a good 10 to 15 minutes in the sun each day can do the trick for free! Just be sure to wear short pants, a sleeveless shirt and a hat – and enjoy it!