Individuals with cerebral palsy (CP) have problems with muscle tone, movement, and/or motor skills. They also have growth deficits because of swallowing, feeding, and digestive problems. That’s why they need a balanced and nutritious diet for overall health and growth.
What causes nutritional deficits in CP?
There are several factors that may cause poor nutrition in children and adults with CP, such as:
- swallowing and feeding problems because of weakness in the throat, jaw, tongue, and facial muscles;
- poor appetite because of constipation or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD);
- frequent infections and hospitalization;
- higher nutritional needs.
CP patients also may not have coordination needed to feed themselves or may have behavioral issues that affect mealtimes. They also may have difficulty communicating that they are hungry or thirsty.
What are the dietary needs of CP patients?
A good, nutritious diet can help improve weight gain and growth, immune function, circulation, and cognition. It also can decrease irritability and help speed recovery from surgery and illness.
The diet for individuals with CP should include:
- Calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and calcium-supplemented fruit juices.
- Vitamin D-rich foods such as fish, fish liver oil, vitamin-D supplemented milk, orange juice, and cereals.
- Phosphorus-rich foods such as dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, poultry, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
- Vegetables and fruits that are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Are additional dietary measures needed?
Dietitians may recommend specific vitamin, mineral, calorie or protein supplements depending on the needs of each individual patient.
Children with swallowing problems may need changes in food texture and beverage thickness so that they can swallow safely.
In some cases, food and drinks may need to be provided through a feeding tube that may be placed through the nose to reach the stomach for short-term feeding support, or directly through a port in the belly and into the stomach (gastrostomy) for long-term feeding needs.
Last updated: Mar. 11, 2020
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