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Individual and everyday diet

The objective of a healthy diet is not only to ensure you get the nutrients you need, but also to provide delicious food that you enjoy eating and that improves the quality of your life.

During the different rehabilitation and life phases of a person with a spinal cord injury, it is important to avoid a poor diet and the complications that this leads to. As dietary requirements are individual and may vary over the course of rehabilitation, food intake must also be adapted according to the individual.

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What health problems may arise in people with a poor diet and in connection with a spinal cord injury?


This is caused by an excessively low intake of nutrients. Your body is lacking something. Causes of malnutrition:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Dysphagia
  • Psychological stress
  • Increased demand due to disease
  • Metabolism issues

Impact of malnutrition:

  • Reduced general well-being
  • Loss of muscle mass and resulting loss of strength
  • Reduced immune defences, susceptibility to diseases / infections
  • Poor skin condition, risk of pressure sores, poor wound healing
  • Bowel management problems

Overweight people can also be malnourished because they lack specific nutrients (frequently: protein, minerals and vitamins).


Obesity can have serious consequences for people with spinal cord injuries. Possible causes of obesity in people with spinal cord injuries are:

  • Reduced movement
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Reduced resting metabolic rate
  • Psychological factors such as loneliness, frustration, stress, etc.

Impact of obesity

  • Reduced general well-being
  • Secondary metabolic diseases such as type-2 diabetes or lipometalbolic disorders
  • Transfer difficulties, restricted mobility
  • Pressure sores

Digestion problems

The connection with nutrition has already been referred to in the previous chapters on stool movements. Therefore, it is important always to consider diet and defecation in the same context. Possible causes of digestion problems include:

  • Reduced bowel activity due to the spinal cord injury
  • Reduced movement
  • Existing incompatibilities
  • Side effects of medication
  • Spasticity and pain
  • Psychological, social and cultural aspects

Many of these problems are accompanied by:

  • Flatulence
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling unwell

Pressure sores

There can be a link between nutrition and pressure sores. Pressure sores are exacerbated by:

  • Deficiencies in specific nutrients (frequently protein, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin C)
  • Being obese / underweight

In the absence of these nutrients or if you are obese / underweight, you may be preventing wounds and pressure sores from healing, which can have the following consequences:

  • Immobilisation
  • Pain
  • Extended stays in hospital
  • Possibly surgery

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What can you do?

Many of these health problems can be influenced by a balanced and healthy diet. A person with spinal cord injury should have the same diet as that recommended for a healthy person.

Nutritional counseling examines your current diet and offers professional support in implementing an adapted diet.

Is there a special diet for people with spinal cord injuries?

There is no specific diet at all. We recommend that people follow a healthy, balanced diet in order to consume adequate quantities of all nutrients. Our recommendation for eating dietary fibre (roughage) is that the amount consumed be a little less than that consumed by able-bodied people.

How does the composition of the body change?

There is a decrease in muscle mass due to the lack of movement. This means that there is a reduction in the metabolic rate and, accordingly, in energy requirements.

Can I still eat everything?

Yes, you may eat everything. As with able-bodied people, quantities play a decisive role. As you require less energy, it is important to reduce your intake of high-energy foods (such as sugary drinks, nibbles, sweets). In addition, you should pay careful attention to your own body in order to identify any things that may not agree with you.

Is there any need to take food supplements?

There is no need to take supplements if you have a balanced, varied diet. However, certain foods are added as supplements in certain cases, e.g. if you have increased requirements during a period of illness or if a deficiency is discovered in your blood.

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