Affecting one or both sides of the face, Bell's palsy is a neurological disorder that affects the facial nerves. Often causing facial muscle weakness or paralysis, the condition can make talking, laughing, eating and swallowing a difficult task. Although diet does not have a direct impact on Bell's palsy, eating a healthy diet with appropriate textures can encourage quicker healing and prevent choking.
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Bell's palsy occurs when one of the facial nerves becomes damaged, resulting in temporary paralysis of the facial muscles. Typically, the condition only affects one side of the face. However, it can affect both sides of the face in some cases. Symptoms of Bell's palsy can vary from moderate facial weakness to complete paralysis. Along with muscle weakness or paralysis, symptoms might include facial twitching, drooping eyelids, drooping corner of the mouth, excessive saliva, impaired sense of taste, dry mouth, dry eyes or watery eyes. Bell's palsy is most commonly caused by the herpes simplex virus. However, it can be caused by other types of viral infections or physical trauma.
If Bell's palsy affects one or both sides of your mouth, you might need to temporarily change your eating habits. Chewing on the side of the mouth affected by weakness or paralysis will likely be difficult. To prevent choking, avoid large bites of food or foods that are chewy, sticky or hard, such as caramel or thick cuts of meat. If most of the mouth is affected by weakness or paralysis, a soft diet may be necessary. A soft diet might include yogurt, pudding, ice cream, mashed potatoes, soup and soft cooked vegetables. If the entire mouth has been affected by Bell's palsy, a full liquid diet might be necessary.
Foods to Eat
During a Bell's palsy episode, there are not any specific foods you should eat to help treat or correct the problem. However, as with any disease or illness, it's important to maintain a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet. Focus on eating foods high in nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Your Bell's palsy diet should include plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, legumes, and healthy fats. If possible, avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar, refined flours, sodium and cholesterol. Although these foods might not directly make your Bell's palsy episode worse, they prevent the body from functioning at its optimal level, which could delay healing.
Vitamins and Minerals
Consuming plenty of vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and zinc will encourage nerve repair and growth. Although supplements are available, you can also increase your intake of these beneficial nutrients through your dietary choices. Foods high in vitamin B12 include beef, cheese, seafood, eggs and milk. Excellent sources of vitamin B6 include spinach, peppers, tuna, cauliflower, bananas and broccoli. To increase your daily intake of zinc, focus on oysters, seafood, pork and zinc-fortified breakfast cereals.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.