Wondering how cerebral palsy affects the immune system?
While cerebral palsy will not directly weaken your child’s immune system, it may be the underlying cause of various problems that affect the immune system.
This article will explain the effects of cerebral palsy that may indirectly affect one’s immune system as well as daily actions that can help strengthen the immune system.
How Cerebral Palsy Affects the Immune System
Let’s go over 3 major outcomes of cerebral palsy that can weaken the immune system:
Reduced Physical Activity
Your physical activity levels may impact on your body’s ability to function.
Lack of mobility slows down the body’s metabolic rate and circulation, which reduces the efficiency of major body functions.
Blood needs to effectively circulate throughout the entire body to fuel cellular activity.
Without sufficient blood flow, your body may not be getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly. This may weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections.
Additionally, individuals with motor impairments are less likely to move around and be exposed to their environment, which makes them less likely to develop immunity.
Cerebral palsy can affect the muscles around the mouth, making it difficult for individuals to chew and swallow their food.
Feeding difficulties commonly result in malnutrition, which represses the immune system.
Anxiety and Stress
Individuals with cerebral palsy are more likely to experience heightened levels of anxiety and stress due to their motor impairments.
This causes the brain to activate our body’s stress response and release hormones (primarily cortisol) that suppress immune cell function.
Stress reduces the number of lymphocytes in the body, which are essential for fighting off infection.
Actions You Can Take to Support Your Immune System:
Here are some steps individuals with cerebral palsy can take to help support their immune system:
1. Use a Blender
It is best to get essential nutrients from food. However, it can be difficult for individuals with CP to eat.
By using a blender, the need for chewing is nearly eliminated and the child can focus on slowly swallowing the drink.
Because oral motor impairments also make it difficult to swallow, choosing nutritionally-dense foods that don’t add a lot of volume such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables provide the best nutrition.
If necessary, blend vitamins into your child’s drink. Vitamins C, B6, and E can help boost your child’s immune system.
2. Use a Feeding Tube
If it is difficult for your child to chew or swallow, your physician may recommend using a feeding tube to ensure optimal nutrition.
About 1 in 15 individuals with cerebral palsy utilize a feeding tube.
Feeding tubes are surgically inserted through an opening in the abdominal wall and deliver food directly to the stomach.
3. Increase Daily Physical Activity
Making an effort to move around more will help promote circulation and keep the body functioning at its best. The more you move, the better equipped your body will be to fight off infections.
Regular exercise will also help regulate neurotransmitters in the brain and reduce stress levels.
4. Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing promotes full oxygen exchange, which helps activate your body’s relaxation response.
As a result, deep breathing may help reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of anxiety that suppress the immune system.
CP and Immunity: Key Points
Just because an individual has cerebral palsy does not mean they will have a weak immune system.
However, complications of CP such as reduced mobility, feeding problems, and high levels of stress may affect the body’s ability to function optimally.
Hopefully, this article provided understanding for the interaction between cerebral palsy and the immune system as well as suggestions to improve general health to live your best life. Good luck!
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