How does a stroke affect eating and nutrition?

Stroke can devastate a person's nutritional health because it may limit his or her ability to perform daily activities associated with eating, such as grocery shopping, preparing meals and feeding oneself.

Stroke can also impair a person's ability to swallow. Swallowing problems may result from weakening of the tongue or loss of coordination of tongue movements. Food can become pocketed between the cheek and teeth and drooling may occur because of an inability to seal the lips.

The person may also:

  • Choke and cough during and after meals
  • Be unable to suck from a straw
  • Lack a gag reflex
  • Suffer from chronic upper respiratory infection

If calorie and nutritional needs cannot be met, the person may become malnourished, a condition characterized by weight loss and a poor appetite.

Diet modifications need to be individualized according to the type and extent of these impairments. A registered dietitian (RD) can develop a plan of care that will provide a satisfying and nutritionally adequate diet.