Children with cerebral palsy have difficulty eating food and tend to have poor nutrition and weight problems as a result. But why is this?
Children with Cerebral Palsy may have trouble gaining or losing weight, for various reasons. These difficulties are caused by problems with the child’s muscle tone, movement and motor skills, making mealtimes challenging. They’re often unable to chew or swallow successfully and have digestive issues, which can lead to malnutrition and weight problems.
This means that parents must invest extra time, care, and effort into making sure their child well nourished. The expense of this extra care is usually covered by state benefits, or if it is cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence, compensation claims may be able to cover it.
Weight problems can be negative for children regardless of their physical condition, but when a child has cerebral palsy, it can be a serious issue. In this post, we’re going to share those issues with you, so you know why you need to make sure your child is well nourished.
Poor growth, weight problems and malnutrition can have a serious impact on a child’s health when they have cerebral palsy. It might impact their psychological and physiological functioning, societal participation, motor function and ultimately, their survival.
Here are the main issues weight problems and malnutrition can cause in a child with cerebral palsy:
The first issue that arises from poor nutrition and weight problems is growth, development, muscle strength, immune function, and healing.
What this means in practical terms is that a child with cerebral palsy wouldn’t grow to their full size. Because of this, their body might not be as sturdy as it could have been if they had grown properly.
This same child could also have a weakness in their respiratory musculature, due to their reduced muscle strength. This could give them a predisposition to catch pneumonia and other respiratory tract infections.
On top of that, a malnourished child with cerebral palsy has a reduced immune function, making it harder for them to fight a respiratory tract infection. Their impaired healing would make surgery much more dangerous for them compared to other children.
In scenarios like these, that are not at all unlikely, malnourishment and weight problems become much larger health issues.
When children are undernourished and underweight, they show lower levels of exploratory activity and attachment behaviour that are crucial for social development.
These deficiencies also decrease the energy available to get involved in activities with other children, lowering their overall levels of social interaction and increasing their apathy. This dissuades them even further from participation in play, school, or rehabilitation.
It’s easy to see how these issues could cause a lot of problems for a child with cerebral palsy, and why it’s important for their weight problems to be resolved as early as possible.
Infants with cerebral palsy can have their brain growth diminished by poor nutrition and weight problems. This reduction in brain growth can lead to adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes which heavily impact the lives of the sufferers.
Conversely, improving an infant’s nutritional levels has the opposite effect. It actually stimulates brain growth whilst having a positive effect on their neurodevelopmental outcomes.
There’s also evidence to show that introducing better nutrition and improving weight problems in children with cerebral palsy can boost their motor skill development and increase their exploratory behaviour.
The final issue that malnutrition and weight problems have on children with cerebral palsy is overall mortality rate.
At all levels of motor function, children with cerebral palsy who have poor nutrition are less likely to survive than those who are well-nourished and at a healthy weight. There has even been an uptick in the survivorship of children and adults with CP over the past few decades.
This uptick has been linked to the increased use of gastronomy tube feeding over that same period. It’s also been down to an improvement in understanding of the nutrient requirements of children in general, and specifically those with cerebral palsy.
Before we end this post, we’re going to quickly share some advice on how to make sure a child with cerebral palsy is well nourished so you can avoid all the horrible issues we’ve laid out in the above section.
The first step is to address and treat the underlying cause of malnutrition e.g. therapy to help your child swallow better and use eating utensils more effectively.
Once you’ve treated the underlying cause, it’s important to work with a dietician to create a meal plan that will provide your child with the best nutrition possible. This plan should be unique to your child’s particular needs and difficulties.
On top of that, you might need to supplement the food with vitamin D, calcium and other oral supplements that help your child’s brain function, bone density and muscle strength.
These simple steps should be enough to provide your child with adequate nutrition and alleviate their weight problems. In some cases, this might not be enough, and your child might have to use a feeding tube, but it’s all in the name of giving them a better life.
In this post, we’ve discussed the main issues that weight problems and malnutrition can have on children with cerebral palsy, from general health to their long-term survival.
There are many more issues that malnutrition can cause to children in general. But, this article has focused specifically on the ones that are most detrimental to children with cerebral palsy.
Either way, any one of these issues is reason enough to investigate your child’s diet, treat the underlying cause of their malnutrition, and provide them with the best possible opportunity to live a comfortable life.
Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained medical professional. Be sure to consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.