Spinal cord injury diet

Spinal Cord Injury Diet and Nutrition Tips

We all know that healthy eating is important. Not only does food change the way we feel and look, it also has a role to play in biological processes such as our immune response. The value of good nutrition for spinal cord injury (SCI) patients cannot be underestimated and plays a vital role in recovery.

This is one area that injured patients can quickly take control of and do something about. It’s particularly important once you realise there is a higher risk of complications and secondary health problems associated with spinal cord injuries.

For instance, research shows that the prevalence of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes is higher in spinal cord injury patients compared to the general population. Maintaining a good diet, therefore, is not just desirable – it’s a prerequisite for a healthy recovery.

The importance of good nutrition for individuals with spinal cord injuries

Nutritional advice for spinal cord injury patients is available online but individuals should always liaise with their healthcare provider or doctor before making any big changes to their diet.

SCI patients may have to deal with a number of secondary symptoms related to the injury of the spine, including:

  • Pressure sores caused by lack of movement
  • An increased risk for osteoporosis
  • Putting on weight which can lead to conditions such diabetes and heart disease
  • Bladder and bowel dysfunction
  • Deep vein thrombosis

A carefully planned spinal cord injury diet will not totally remove all risk for patients but it will certainly help reduce problems and help individuals maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Spinal cord injury diet: Things to consider

Spinal cord injury diet considerations

A lot depends on what your diet was before the spinal injury occurred. Those who followed a healthy eating lifestyle probably won’t find it so difficult to continue with this post-injury.

One of the major issues that spinal injury patients face is lack of exercise through their immobility. For many, this means weight gain can quickly become a problem. Even for those who are able to undertake exercise, lowering metabolic rates and inactivity often present further challenges.

Your body may well require fewer calories. For this reason, monitoring weight and adjusting diet accordingly should be an ongoing process. Specific types of food are going to be beneficial. For example, those with an SCI are prone to pressure sores and eating enough protein should help with the body’s recovery process in this area.

Spinal injury patients may also have trouble regulating their bowel movements, so ensuring a healthy diet with plenty of fibre is another important factor. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of fluids is a part of this. Drinking cranberry juice may also reduce the risk of urinary tract infections which have the potential to further complicate recovery.

Top spinal cord injury diet and nutrition tips

Spinal cord injury nutrition advice

There is plenty of nutritional advice for individuals with a spinal cord injury available online, so this makes it easier to take time to learn more about beneficial foods and dietary tips.

  1. Correct portion sizes may be an issue for many. It can be easy to get into the habit of eating too much. Approaches such as mindful eating as well as simply stopping when feeling full, even if there is still food on your plate, may be worth considering.
  2. Eating more fibre is important, if the individual in question currently eats an insufficient amount. It is advised to eat around 30 grams of fibre each day. Eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables can help improve conditions such as neurogenic bowel.
  3. Choosing bad food options is much more likely if the decision is made on the spur of the moment without forward planning. It pays to plan meals in advance and swap unhealthy choices for healthier ones.
  4. It’s important to monitor your weight at regular intervals and make diet adjustments and exercise accordingly. Losing weight is often much more difficult than avoiding weight gain in the first place.
  5. Avoiding the regular consumption of unhealthy snacks like crisps and chocolate bars is always a good idea. Nuts and dried fruit are a great alternative to consider when hungry between meals.
  6. Sugary drinks should also be avoided. Water is a much healthier (and cheaper) option.
  7. Exercising is important to maintain muscle strength and aerobic capacity. Planning an exercise regime that can be regularly followed is important. Regular exercise can also significantly improve mental wellbeing as well as physical health.
  8. Attention should be given to the balance of different food types in each main meal. It’s important to consume enough of the key nutrients, proteins and fibre to get the most of your diet.


Spinal cord injury diet considerations are important, especially if the individual in question hasn’t previously focused too much attention in this area of their life. Simple changes to the food they eat can have enormous benefits on the way they feel and help them prevent other potential health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.