While a proper diet is important for all children, it is especially important for those special needs children who suffer from cerebral palsy.
Food choices are important since it’s been shown that they can improve or worsen some of the physical symptoms associated with cerebral palsy. It’s important for parents to know which foods to include as a steady part of the diet and which ones to avoid in order to provide the child with the best possible nutrition.
Causes and Concerns
Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormalities in the brain. These abnormalities cause a disruption in the child’s ability to control movements and posture. The child can exhibit symptoms that range in severity from mild requiring no kind of special assistance to ones so severe there is a need for lifelong care.
Some forms of cerebral palsy (CP) may have detrimental effects on the brain’s ability to move the face, mouth and head which can cause problems from the child when he or she attempts to chew and eat. Because the condition may affect the chewing function, the diet needs to include quality foods that are easy to eat or drink.
The Importance of Good Nutrition
Proper nourishment is of great concern for children who have cerebral palsy. As many as 35 percent of cerebral palsy children suffer from malnutrition according to the organization MyChild. This factor slows the growth process and makes it difficult for the child to gain weight.
For children with cerebral palsy, high calorie healthy foods are essential because it may be difficult for many to physically consume enough food to meet their nutritional requirements.
Two of the most common symptoms of cerebral palsy are constipation and acid reflux. This is the result of poor muscle tone, a condition that makes it difficult for the body to push stool through the colon and into the lower sphincter of the esophagus. This causes the contents of the stomach to wash into the esophagus which causes the condition known as acid reflux.
When preparing foods for a child with cerebral palsy, limit processed foods that have very little nutritional value as much as possible. Instead, place your focus on foods that are high in calories, are nutritious, and contain high qualify fats.
A great addition to the child’s daily diet is calorie-rich smoothies that contain fruits high in calories such as bananas, mangos and avocados, along with green leafy vegetables and powdered greens for the vitamin content.
It is also important to include healthy fats in order to increase both the nutrition and calorie count. This might include nut butters, coconut milk, and coconut oil; you can spread them on foods or add them to smoothies.
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, collards, and kale are good in smoothies or added to many of the foods you prepare for your child. These leafy green vegetables add vitamins, minerals, fiber, and bulk, the latter of which are important to avoid constipation.
In order to add prebiotics and probiotics to the diet, you may wish to include cultured dairy products, sauerkraut, kimchi, and bananas. These components help build healthy bacteria and help with relief from constipation.
Foods to Avoid
Because it’s often difficult to know the trigger foods, it’s best to avoid those foods that can cause constipation and acid reflux. To reduce the potential for constipation, avoid foods that are the most problematic such as:
- Processed snack and junk foods
- Fried foods
- Excessive red meat
- Ice cream and cheese
These foods also have minimal nutritional value and should not replace healthy alternatives that include fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The biggest triggers for acid reflux include:
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy foods
- Fatty meats
- Carbonated beverages
Changing the way you feed your child or prepare his or her food can make a difference in the symptoms of cerebral palsy your child endures. Make the health and comfort of your child the biggest priority in your life.