The best cerebral palsy diet is one that’s going to promote optimal brain function and combat weakness caused by secondary or associative conditions.
The source of motor impairment in individuals with cerebral palsy is not a problem with the body, but rather a problem with the brain.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the best foods to add to a cerebral palsy diet to maximize the health of your child’s brain and body.
Cerebral Palsy Diet
Add these foods to your child’s diet to help prevent, reduce, or treat these problems.
Eggs are a great source of protein and choline.
Protein intake plays a key role in preventing and treating muscle atrophy in children with cerebral palsy.
Choline is a nutrient necessary to produce acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter that affects mood, memory, and muscle control).
Avocados are high-fat and high-calorie fruits that are full of various nutrients.
Many individuals with cerebral palsy are undernourished because they have difficulties controlling their chewing or swallowing.
Feeding your child high-calorie and nutritious foods can help ensure that they are eating enough and getting the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy.
Avocados are also rich in oleic acid, which is a type of omega-9 fatty acid linked to improved cognition and overall brain health.
3. Nut Butters
Peanut butter, almond butter, whatever your preference, nut butters are high in healthy fats.
They’re also high in calories and don’t require much chewing, so they can help ensure that individuals with cerebral palsy-related feeding problems are eating enough.
Nut butters are extremely versatile and generally kid-approved. Mixing them into oatmeal or smoothies can add extra protein, fiber, healthy fats, and other essential vitamins and minerals to your child’s meal.
4. Olive Oil
Olive oil can boost the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in the brain.
BDNF is a chemical that promotes the formation of new brain cells, making it ideal for healing brain damage.
The fats found in olive oil increase acetylcholine levels in the brain and can help improve learning and memory.
5. Dark, Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are essential for any healthy diet but can especially benefit those with cerebral palsy because they contain vitamin K, which is essential for healthy brain function and strong bones.
This study found that those who regularly ate leafy greens had slower rates of cognitive decline than those who didn’t.
In fact, cognitive decline “among those who consumed 1-2 servings per day was the equivalent of being 11 years younger.”
Leafy greens also contain folate, a B vitamin that’s necessary for the synthesis of serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
These neurotransmitters help improve mood and may help regulate heightened behavior problems common in children with CP.
6. Whole Grains
Whole grains like oats, brown rice, whole wheat, whole rye, barley, and quinoa are extremely nutritious.
They contain fiber, which will keep you full and add bulk to your stool.
A lot of cerebral palsy patients sit in a wheelchair for most of their day. This causes the abdomen to compress for long periods, which slows digestion and decreases blood flow.
Many people with cerebral palsy are prone to digestion problems like constipation, so adding fiber to their diet can help move things along.
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber found in many whole grains that help build healthy bacteria in the gut and aid in digestion.
7. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is high in calcium, which is essential for bone health and helps promote nerve function.
Because many children with cerebral palsy don’t get enough nutrients due to feeding problems, their bones and muscles tend to get weak.
Greek yogurt contains lots of protein, which will enhance cell growth and repair for building muscles.
As mentioned earlier, individuals with cerebral palsy may have difficulties with digestion and bowel movements.
Greek yogurt is full of probiotics that can help promote digestive health.
Ginger is a root that has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
It has all sorts of healing properties that can aid in digestion, circulation, immunity, and brain function.
Pain due to spasticity is common in individuals with cerebral palsy and ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can gradually reduce joint and muscle pain.
Ginger is also chock full of antioxidants and can help combat oxidative stress in the brain to improve cognitive function.
Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which improves nerve function and promotes the development of neurons in the brain.
Behavioral and learning difficulties are common in children with cerebral palsy. This study found that “children who had increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids performed better in school, in reading and in spelling and had fewer behavioral problems.”
Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, but it can be found in oily fish like salmon!
Lack of vitamin D is linked to reduced memory and cognition. It’s also very important for regulating cell growth and communication between cells.
Turmeric is a bright yellow herb that’s full of nutrients and is most commonly found in Indian food.
As much as 50% of children with cerebral palsy experience epilepsy.
Curcumin is a compound found in turmeric. It’s suggested that curcumin has anticonvulsant properties because it is so high in antioxidants and can reduce oxidative stress in the brain.
It also increases BDNF levels in the brain to promote neuroprotection and improve brain function.
Other Important Considerations for a Cerebral Palsy Diet
Now that you have the food part down, let’s go over some other things to keep in mind.
If your child has difficulties chewing and swallowing, consider blending their food so that it’s easier to consume.
Some children with cerebral palsy have gastrointestinal reflux disease, which can cause stomach acid to irritate the esophagus and cause heartburn.
Greasy, spicy, or acidic foods can trigger acid reflux and should be avoided.
When it comes to children’s diets, quality and quantity are both equally important.
You want to ensure that the food going into your child’s body is nutritious and will contribute to their growth and wellbeing.
That’s a wrap! The best foods to add to a cerebral palsy are full of vitamins and minerals that will help empower the brain and keep the body strong.