A spinal cord injury can make maintaining good nutrition a challenge. Your level of activity has changed — lowering your metabolism — and your ability to shop for and prepare food has probably been affected. But good nutrition, exercise and weight management are even more important now that you’re in a wheelchair than they were before. Those with spinal cord injuries are at an increased risk of:
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Pressure sores
- Neurogenic bowel
You can help to fend off those conditions and maintain optimal health by paying attention to these factors:
Weight: Spinal cord injury patients lose weight while they’re hospitalized, much of it muscle mass. If you put that weight back on without paying attention to nutrition, fat can replace the muscle. If you’re paralyzed from the waist down, your goal weight should be 5 to 10 percent less than the ideal weight for an able-bodied person of the same gender and age range. If you’re a quadriplegic, your weight should be 10 to 15 percent less. But follow the recommendations of your doctor or nutritionist, because these are general estimates.
Protein: Wheelchair-using SCI patients with pressure sores need about 100 grams of protein daily (twice the normal amount) while the sores are healing.
Zinc and vitamin C: This mineral and this vitamin promote wound healing. Your doctor should monitor your blood levels and let you know if you’re low. Taking a multivitamin is often adequate.
Calcium: Immediately after your injury, you may have been instructed to limit your calcium intake. Once out of the hospital, you should probably return to normal calcium consumption of 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams daily (age-dependent) for bone health. Taking 400 IU of vitamin D daily aids calcium absorption.
Fiber: To regulate bowel activity, you likely need 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily. Drink lots of water, and space meals out throughout the day. Your physician will monitor bowel disease (nerve damage) that can occur after SCI and may put you on a different program.
Have questions about wheelchairs or other mobility products? Contact the experts at Power Mobility & Lifts for the answers you need. Headquartered in Phoenix, we serve clients throughout Arizona.
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