SCI Health Series: Paralyzed? What You Eat Matters

Eating healthy is critical to your health as a person with paralysis. From organic foods, farm to table, eating locally to changing your diet to vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, there are many avenues to choose from in your quest to eat healthy. And the results are undeniable. From better skin, organs that function better, to sleeping better and stronger bones, the food you eat can determine your quality of life, especially after a SCI.

When you eat consciously and begin to look at food as medicine, you can combat impending healthy problems in an amazing way. Trying to change how you eat isn’t always easy. There are a handful of things you need to remember when eating healthy with a SCI. Read our list covering the basics below!

Drink Water, All Day Long

A side effect of a spinal cord injury is a neurogenic bladder, so keeping your bladder in great shape is a must. Drink up to 8 cups a day to keep your bladder flushed and sediment-free, and if you need help drinking all that water, many will heat up their water. Others use fruit to flavor their water, a lime or lemon twist is a great alternative to water flavoring. Also, try to avoid drinking soda and alcohol on a regular basis. Both dramatically lessen the quality of your skin due to their low water-content. Water is good for you in all kinds of way.

Have Enough Protein Each Day

You hear it all the time, but eating enough protein each day really is a big deal. It helps you feel full and it helps heal the body, especially any wounds or open sores, so it’s important to increase your protein levels when battling a pressure sore (or one that may be starting up). But make sure it’s lean. Whether it’s hard boiled eggs, string cheese, turkey, chicken breasts, protein powder in anything (smoothies) or a basic lean steak, try to fit as much protein you can into your diet each day.

Load Up on Fruits & Vegetables

Start looking at fresh fruits and veggies like they’re the most important multivitamin you take. From greens to tomatoes, the vitamins and minerals we derive from food (Vitamin C, D, K, calcium, iron, etc) can really improve your overall state of health if you’re paralyzed. Super foods to consider eating each day are kale, avocados, blueberries, sweet potatoes, garlic, beets, but really anything fresh in the fruit or veg department is great for the body.

Healthy Carbs vs. Evil Carbs

The type of carbohydrates you eat are important when you’re paralyzed. For example, instead of eating white bread or white rice, go for wheat bread or brown rice, or even nuts are an alternative. You will get the energy carbs give, without the empty calories. Another fun alternative to a regular carbohydrate we all eat – beets chips instead potato chips (available at most grocery stores nowdays). Note: Changing the carbs you eat can make a huge difference on your bowel program as well.

Limit Sugar Intake

It’s critical to a lower your sugar intake after a spinal cord injury. Many people who become paralyzed can sometimes develop hypoglycemia or even early-stage diabetes (if they begin to put on weight after their injury), so try not to eat too many sugar-laden foods or drinks. Sugar has a tendency to pack on the pounds. And if you must use sugar, buy organic honey for your home to use as an alternative.

Lastly, we know it’s a struggle to eat healthy with all the stresses paralyzed life brings. We recommend meal planning – where you cook all of your food on Sunday, and then put it in food containers to be consumed over the next 3 to 4 days (Pinterest has great tips on this!). If you need help, ask a family member, friend or caregiver to assist you. No matter how much work it is or seems, don’t let it stop you. The power that eating healthy has on your daily well-being is priceless.

How do you eat healthy with a spinal cord injury?

Learn more: Web Links

Nutrition and Spinal Cord Injury, Veterans Association

You Are What You Eat: Nutrition After a Spinal Cord Injury

Book: Eat Well, Live Well, with a Spinal Cord Injury 

SCI Nutrition Videos

SCI Connections Series: Healthy Eating Ideas For Individuals With Spinal Cord Injur

Nutrition – Spinal Cord Injury Education | Frazier Rehab Institute

Everyday Nutrition for Individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries

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