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Diet for Cerebral Palsy

If you or a loved one suffers from cerebral palsy, this short overview of a cerebral palsy diet can help ensure you don't miss out on any vital nutrients that can help reduce some of the worst symptoms of cerebral palsy in kids and adults.
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Cerebral palsy is a blanket term for a group of neurological disorders of movement and posture. During the growth of a fetus, damage to the brain (not normally attributed to any specific cause) leads to motor disorders and can often have related medical issues, including problems with communication, eating, behavior, seizures, cognition, and further activity limitation.

Most children with cerebral palsy have one of the following conditions:

  • Spastic movement
  • Athetoid movement
  • Ataxic movement

Some individuals with cerebral palsy have a combined type of cerebral palsy. Research suggests that children with cerebral palsy are more likely to be at risk for nutritional deficiencies, first, because they often have trouble chewing and eating, and second, because they may also have digestive disorders that makes it more difficult to properly digest food and absorb nutrients.

Most individuals with cerebral palsy work with a team of dieticians, nutritionists, and doctors to ensure they receive the right nutrients that they need. However, all individuals with cerebral palsy are often deficient in many of the same nutrients, outlined below.

The Nutritional Needs of Cerebral Palsy Patients

A person with CP is at risk for nutritional deficiencies for the following reasons:

Why Nutrient Deficiency is Common in CP Patients
  • Frequent infections
  • Frequent use of antibiotics and medications
  • High nutritional needs
  • Poor appetite
  • Foods may need to be softened
  • Trouble swallowing or eating

The highest risk of nutritional deficiencies are in childhood after the child is finished drinking milk or formula and before the child is old enough to be concerned for their own nutritional health. Doctors usually keep a sharp eye on children with cerebral palsy to ensure they are not lacking in specific, necessary nutrients.

The growth chart for a child with CP is different than that of a healthy child, which will also alter nutritional and dietary needs. Some children and adults with CP require additional nutritional supplements (often taken in capsule, powder, or liquid form) to ensure they reach their necessary nutrient needs daily.

Why Cerebral Palsy Patients Have Nutritional Issues

Current research shared by Cerebral Palsy.org indicates that about one-third of children and adults with CP are malnourished or operating at nutritional levels far below optimal. The biggest barriers to a high-quality idea are eating, drinking, feeding, and swallowing difficulties. Other barriers to effective nutrition include:

Infrequent Meals

It can be hard for a person with cerebral palsy to eat enough in one setting before getting tired. Ideally, serving multiple small meals to a person with CP will make it easier to get the nutrients they need to thrive.

Oro-Motor Difficulties

Trouble with tongue movement and poor mouth closure can make it harder for a person with CP to eat. This condition makes it harder to keep food in the mouth, which causes nutrient deficiencies and hydration issues. Trouble with Self-Feeding A lot of individuals with CP struggle with self-feeding. While most individuals with cerebral palsy have been through therapy to improve self-feeding, they still can have trouble using utensils and fine motor control necessary to feed correctly. This can cause a person with CP to tire before getting enough food.

Sensory Issues

Children and adults with cerebral palsy may have sensory issues that make eating harder. These sensory processing issues may cause sensitivities when touching their face, while encountering certain food textures, or other issues that make eating a challenge.

Acid Reflux

Poor muscle control often causes acid reflux in individuals with cerebral palsy. Acid reflux causes symptoms like heartburn, ulcers, and vomiting. In the most severe cases, a person with cerebral palsy may refuse food just to avoid the pain of extreme acid reflux.

Common Nutrients Many CP Patients Lack

Individuals with cerebral palsy require the same nutrients as anyone else, which include all of the main vitamins and minerals the body needs to function. However, medications, lifestyle, and the side effects of cerebral palsy usually cause similar nutrient deficiencies in all individuals with cerebral palsy. However, no nutrition outline can take the place of a blood test, which can tell you exactly what nutrients are lacking in a person with cerebral palsy. You and your doctor should work together to come up with an eating plan and nutrient supplement list to insure the unique nutritional needs of the CP patient are met.

Calcium

Calcium is the most-used mineral in the body. 99 percent of all calcium is found in the bones, but the other one percent has a huge role in controlling7 muscle function, soft tissues, and blood. Calcium is essential for the relaxation and constriction of the blood, muscle contraction, impulse transmission, and secretion of hormones.

Without enough calcium, the body literally cannot function. Calcium's muscle role is the biggest boost for cerebral palsy patients, as muscle control is a huge issue for individuals with CP. many individuals with CP are also diagnosed with osteopenia, which is a general weakness of the bones, which causes bones to become more fragile, break easily, and even can cause issues even in a person who lives an inactive lifestyle.

Vitamin D

Without enough vitamin D in the diet, the body cannot use calcium efficiently. The calcium that is taken in by the body cannot be used without the vitamin D to bring it into useable form. A study published by PubMed found that individuals with CP are prone to low vitamin D levels, which can further compound the calcium loss and bone problems often seen in individuals with cerebral palsy. Higher doses of vitamin D were associated with lessening of muscle pain and weakness in patients with CP. One big issue that blocks the amount of vitamin D absorption in individuals with cerebral palsy is when they take medication for seizures. Seizure medication is known to cause trouble with absorbing vitamin D.

Consequently, a person taking seizure medication may need to increase their intake of vitamin D. The American Academy of Paediatrics suggests that even healthy children consume 200IU/day of vitamin D. Phosphorous Phosphorous is a necessary mineral for building strong, healthy bones. Individuals with CP often have weaker bones and are likely to suffer from osteoporosis, even at a young age. Adding more bone-building nutrients to the diet and supplements can help prevent some bone damage common in individuals with cerebral palsy. Phosphorous is found in dairy, fish, nuts, whole grains, poultry, and eggs.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is important for individuals with cerebral palsy because it is essential for synthesizing norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. This neurotransmitter affects brain function and mood directly. Many individuals with cerebral palsy also struggle with low mood and depression. Vitamin C also is used to transport fat into cells for conversion to energy, which is essential both for healthy individuals and individuals with cerebral palsy.

Vitamin C also boosts the immune system and can be helpful in preventing illness in CP patients.

Thiamin

Thiamin is a water-soluble vitamin. This vitamin is required for many enzymes in the body. This B vitamin prevents many problems from occurring in the body, including muscle pain, weakness, heart problems, neurological problems, and neuropathy. Many individuals with CP are diagnosed with post-impairment syndrome, which is a combination of muscle weakness and pain that can be subdued by supplementation with thiamin.

Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for all body's processes, but is particularly helpful for building strong bones, helping cells communicate, producing energy, and synthesizing molecules. 60 percent of all magnesium in the body is found in the bones and 27 percent is found in the muscles. Magnesium is often low in all adults, but individuals with CP are more likely to be deficient in this vital mineral.

Zinc

Zinc is a trace element that the body only needs a little of, but if the body does not get enough zinc, it suffers greatly. Low zinc intake is linked with developmental delays and stunted growth. Low zinc levels can also cause problems in the immune system, problems with neurological function, and problems with the reproductive system. Individuals with CP benefit from added zinc due to its brain-boosting and immune system-boosting function.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is an essential B vitamin that plays a large role in efficient nervous system function, immune system, hormone production, and even DNA writing. Vitamin B6 is also necessary to prevent anemia, as B6 is used to transform iron into heme iron, which is how iron moves through the blood. B6 benefits individuals with CP by boosting the immune system and regulating the nervous system.

GABA

GABA is a neurotransmitter that reduces stress and helps nerve cells communicate. Individuals low in GABA are more likely to be irritable, anxious, and depressed. Research suggests that supplementing with GABA can help reduce seizure episodes in epilepsy patients, which is the biggest benefit for cerebral palsy patients. Additionally, GABA has been shown in some studies to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and other learning disabilities.

Boron

Boron is a trace element that is necessary to absorb calcium and magnesium. This makes the tiny trace element extremely important. Boron is also essential for the health of bones and the entire skeletal system. Boron can even help function similarly to vitamin D if vitamin D levels are low in the body. Proper boron intake has been linked to a reduction in arthritis, which is common in individuals with cerebral palsy. A lack of boron can cause decreased brain activity, poor manual dexterity, and impaired eye-hand coordination.

Manganese and Copper

Individuals with cerebral palsy often are low in minerals that build strong bones. These important nutrients include manganese and copper. These ingredients are found in beans, vegetables, and most meat. They are often added to liquid or capsule supplements to make it even easier to get the right nutrients to build strong bones.

How to Tell If a Diet has Enough Nutrients

The best way to track if a person with cerebral palsy is getting enough nutrients is to keep a food diary. Keep track both of what is served and how much is eaten. It is what and how much of a food is eaten that will determine how many nutrients are consumed. If you add a supplement, keep track of what the supplement contains and in what amounts. A dietitian will create a customized nutrition plan that offers a detailed look into the precise calorie, nutrient, fluid, vitamin, and mineral requirements for each specific person.

This detailed guide can help ensure that the person with cerebral palsy is getting the required nutrients to live a healthy life. Your doctor will monitor nutritional progress and make adjustments to the diet as necessary. Often, doctors will prescribe a supplement to replace any missing nutrients. Both liquid and capsule forms are available, and you should choose the type of supplement that is easiest to consume. Many formulas arrive in powdered form, to be added to a liquid prior to consumption. Some individuals with CP who have nutritional deficiencies will have trouble swallowing capsules.

The Cerebral Palsy Diet Maintains Health

A person with cerebral palsy has unique nutritional needs. The cerebral palsy diet will ensure that a person with CP gets all the nutrients necessary to prevent health problems, build strong bones, and maintain a healthy immune system throughout life. It is essential that a person with cerebral palsy receive the nutrition necessary to prevent health problems from developing. Talk to your doctor about what nutrients to add to the cerebral palsy diet to ensure no nutrient gaps are found.

Sources


http://www.cerebralpalsy.org/about-cerebral-palsy/treatment/therapy/diet-plan-counseling

http://www.cerebralpalsy.org/information/nutritional-health

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/diet-cerebral-palsy.html

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