Children with cerebral palsy do not only have problems with their motor skills. This can, actually, be defined or referred to as insufficient growth and development. Children would cerebral palsy would often experience difficulty in eating. Difficulties would include unable to swallow, hyperactive gag reflex, and inability to control feeding. These challenges could be factors on why most children with cerebral palsy are malnourished.
There are several issues or reasons why children with cerebral palsy find it difficult to eat. For example, the mouth and the throat of a person could be affected by cerebral palsy making it difficult for patients to eat. Others would find it difficult to control their tongue. In some cases these could end up choking the patient when their food is directed towards on the tracheas down to the lungs.
There are also some who does not want to be touched on the face, lips and mouth. This could also affect whenever you are feeding the patient. Because of the numerous problems on feeding, it takes a while before children with cerebral palsy would finish their food. A longer time and process of feeding would totally tire the child, therefore more calories were being burned.
There are researches from the University of California, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, showing the malnutrition has become a common problem among patients of cerebral palsy. In the research, it was stated that in severe cases of cerebral palsy, malnutrition is evident. But in less severe cases of cerebral palsy, malnutrition is barely noticeable.
What is malnutrition?
Malnutrition is a condition where the body does not gain enough vitamins, nutrients and minerals that the body needs. Malnutrition is not only about being undernourished, there are also cases of malnutrition where the body is overnourished.
Lack of nutrition while the baby is undergoing fetal development can be a risk factor for cerebral palsy. If the baby is not getting enough nutrition, there could be problems with the brain development. Therefore, even if the baby is still in the stomach, it is very important to eat foods that will provide sufficient vitamins and nutrients. This would help lessen the risk of any abnormalities.
It is important to treat or address malnutrition immediately. When unnoticed and unattended, malnutrition could even lead to making their conditions worse and in worst cases, could even lead to death.
So what can we do about it?
There are different ways to address malnutrition for cerebral palsy patients. It may be necessary for parents to give nutritional supplements. A speech therapist is also somebody who can help about malnutrition and cerebral palsy. A speech therapist helps the patient to have more control with the mouth muscles. This would help the individual to intake more food.
Treatment could also involve the use of support systems and other devices. For example, there are surgical procedures that can done like inserting gastronomy tubes which would allow the children to have more feeding. For those children who are finding it hard to grasp other objects, larger eating utensils can be given to them so that would be able to wait for the laptop.
There are about 35% of children with cerebral palsy who are malnourished. This is a very important issue and needs to be addressed. Problems like this with feeding and nutrition can even worsen the children’s condition.