Feel Good Food for Better Bowel Care

Bowel care after spinal cord injury is the number one concern among people with SCI – and while it can be daunting at first, a good routine and diet can work wonders. We’ll take a look at great ingredients and tips for maintaining bowel health. And, as we’re deep into Veganuary, we’ll investigate whether a plant-based diet is best for SCI people and how to integrate it into your routine.

What Changes in Your Diet after SCI?

You don’t necessarily need to drastically overhaul your diet after spinal cord injury but you may have to make some changes – even if you already eat a balanced and varied diet. Your body will have new needs post-injury; you might need to consider reducing your salt intake and daily calories, and introducing more fibre.

Your bowel also changes. Function can be affected at almost every injury level, and going to the toilet requires planning and preparation. While the bowel will still extract water and nutrients on its own, going to the toilet requires muscle effort and nerve stimulation – spinal cord injury can take these away.

SCI also makes gut transit slow down and constipation is common after injury, but with a managed diet and good routine, SCI people can maintain continence and regularity, while avoiding complications and accidents.

Beneficial Foods

Food diaries aren’t just a weight loss tool; they can help you identify which foods your body responds well to and which ones cause issues. Due to the slowdown in gut transit, upping your fibre intake will help to keep things moving – finding a sweet spot will mean tracking your foods and trying different things.

Discounting any pre-existing allergies or dietary requirements, a balanced and varied diet is the best way to stay healthy – but there are some foods that can make things better from the start.


Tasty and full of nutrients, fruit is a great snack and an excellent source of fibre – smoothies and juices aren’t off limits, but they don’t have the same benefits as whole fruit.


Pretty much all vegetables are great to eat – the more colourful they are, the better. Greens, purples, reds and oranges should be more present than beige and yellow veggies; but there’s no harm in eating starchy veg as part of a varied and healthy diet.

Whole Grains and Pulses

Rices and breads are filling and can be really nutritious if made from whole grains.  Beans and lentils are an amazing source of protein, and go brilliantly with rice. These foods all hold generous amounts of fibre and in the right balance, will help maintain regularity.

Lean Meats and Fish

Chicken breast, turkey mince or lean pork and beef are all good choices for meat-eaters – but oily fish like raw salmon or fresh (not smoked) mackerel are even better.


While not a food, upping your water intake is important after SCI. It helps reduce urinary tract infections, which are a common secondary condition. It also helps combat constipation.

With all these foods, home cooking with controlled fat and salt content is advised for best results. With the right seasoning and preparation, delicious food is within everyone’s reach.

Foods to Avoid

High Fat

Fatty foods can irritate your gut and cause continence issues. They are absolutely fine in moderation, but regular takeaways and convenience foods will mean that your bowel routine becomes disrupted more often.


Salt can raise your blood pressure and this can cause big problems for people with SCI. Anyone with an injury above T6 is more susceptible to autonomic dysreflexia – the sudden onset of extremely high blood pressure. If your baseline blood pressure is high, it will become significantly more dangerous. Lowering your salt intake as part of a healthy diet will help combat high blood pressure.


By all means, drink alcohol in moderation. Excessive or binge drinking will impact your routines and do long-term damage. It’s best to avoid alcohol if you can, because it’s just not very good for you – but it’s fine every once in a while.

Going Plant-based

There’s growing evidence that a vegan diet is great for your body, mind and the planet. It’s important to remember that a vegan diet isn’t automatically healthy; chips are vegan-friendly but you couldn’t expect to eat them every day and stay healthy. Lots of meat alternatives are heavily processed and very salty, which we already know is especially bad for people with SCI.

A healthy vegan diet is full of nourishing and delicious food, including all the vitamins and minerals you need without any supplements. The occasional treat, as with any diet, is going to slot into your healthy habits with no ill effects. There’s a lot of misinformation going around about veganism and plant-based diets, but on the whole it is a good diet, so long as all your body’s needs are met. While vegan sausage rolls taste as good as the real thing and have become mainstream, nobody’s pretending they’re a health food. Keep it balanced – with some help from this NHS guide to plant-based nutrition.

Persian Lentils and Rice

Looking for inspiration? Here’s a great fibre-packed, vegan-friendly meal idea! This rich, aromatic dish serves up eight big portions. It’s easy to make, moreish and versatile. Serve it with rice, cauliflower rice or tear and dip toasted pitta breads into it.


  • 500g red lentils
  • Large onion, finely diced
  • Garlic, 8 cloves, crushed
  • Turmeric, 2 tsp
  • Saffron threads, if available (just a pinch)
  • Vegetable stock pot, made up to 1 pint
  • Chopped tomatoes, 1 tin
  • The juice of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • A splash of olive oil

Let’s Cook!

First, prepare your vegetable stock pot; make up one pint of stock with boiling water, and allow the saffron threads to steep in the liquid. Then, in a very large hot pan, heat a splash of olive oil. Fry off the onions and garlic until translucent, and sprinkle in the turmeric. Add the chopped tomatoes followed by the lentils and stir everything together. Give the stock a stir and pour it over. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow all the liquid to be absorbed by the lentils (this should take about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally. Squeeze in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Here for You after Spinal Cord Injury

Aspire Law is a specialist law firm, just for people with SCI. We’re dedicated to providing information and support for everyone affected by spinal cord injury – from advice on bowel care, to legal help when you need it.
For information and spinal cord injury legal advice, get in touch: give us a call on 0800 030 20 40.