Muscular dystrophy is the name given to a group of genetic disorders characterized by muscle weakness and wasting.

There is currently no cure for muscular dystrophy, but available treatments can help to manage symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life.

A balanced  diet is important to the health of people with muscular dystrophy.

Choosing the right diet

Getting sufficient nutrition can be a challenge for people with muscular dystrophy. Many have difficulty chewing and swallowing, or feel fatigue at levels that reduce appetite and make eating a chore. Limited caloric intake can break down muscles faster, possibly speeding disease progression.

A registered dietitian should be part of patients’ care team. The dietitian can help in constructing an appropriate meal plan so patients get the nutrition they need in ways easy to eat and swallow. This might mean substituting a meal-replacement shake for solid foods, or turning to softer foods. Many patients can also benefit from taking vitamin supplements, but this should be in consultation with a healthcare professional. Dietitians can also recommend recipes and meal preparation strategies.

A well-balanced diet that is high in protein, and rich in leaner meat like fish or poultry, is important. Because many patients struggle with constipation due to weak stomach muscles and limited mobility, many dietitians recommend a diet high in fiber as well.

Mealtime strategies

Several strategies can help make mealtimes easier for people with muscular dystrophy:

  • Do no rush a meal, allowing time to eat; rushing increases the risk of choking
  • Avoid dry foods with loose crumbs, like day-old bread, crackers, or chips
  • Taking small bites may make chewing and swallowing easier
  • Minimize distractions during mealtimes, like a radio or TV, to concentrate on the meal and reduce the risk of choking
  • Sitting in an upright position can help with swallowing

Speech therapy

Speech therapists can work with patients to improve the strength and range of motion in muscles that control chewing and swallowing. They also can help teach safer approaches to swallowing so to lessen the risk of choking.

Medication

Excess saliva is common in patients with weakened tongue and throat muscles, but certain medications can be used to lessen saliva production.

Tube feeding

In extreme cases, doctors may recommend a feeding tube for nutritional support. This is a tube surgically connected directly to the stomach, bypassing the mouth and esophagus to ensure that patients are getting sufficient nutrients.

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Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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