26 Oct Best Brain Foods Post-TBI
Best Foods for Better Thoughts
After a traumatic brain injury (TBI), recovery time feels like forever. It also feels like it’s out of our control. There are aspects of our daily routines, however, that can be improved to better our brain functioning post-TBI. Research indicates that diet and exercise are two noninvasive ways we can improve molecular mechanisms of neural repair.
Fasting As A Healing Aid
Managing one’s caloric intake through practices such as intermittent fasting can aid in the healing process. One reason for this may be down to “allocation of resources”, meaning that if the body is constantly routing additional blood supply to the digestive system to break down food, there is less blood supply available to route to the brain to aid in the healing process.
Foods That Feed Inflammation
It’s not surprising that foods considered bad for us are also the foods that increase inflammation. These should be avoided, especially after a traumatic brain injury, as inflammation is a major symptom of the condition. Refined carbohydrates (white breads and pastries), french fries (fried foods), soda (sugar-sweetened beverages), red/processed meat (burgers, steak), and margarine are all foods that inflame. Avoid these as best as possible to expedite the proper process of healing.
Foods That Fight Inflammation
Tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and fruits are all great for fighting inflammation and speeding up recovery. These foods are rich in certain healthy nutrients meant for improving brain functioning.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Studies have shown particular foods to be best for one’s recovery after a brain injury – and better for brain health in general. In particular, Fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve cognition, plasticity, and recovery of neurons after post-TBI.
A vital form of omega-3 fatty acids is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which has been found to be vital to brain structure and function. The body, however, is not capable of producing DHA on its own, so implementing foods rich in DHA is important to insure proper function of neurons and neuronal recovery after TBI. Not to mention, omega-3 fatty acids appear to reduce oxidative stress damage, which often results from trauma. That’s just an added plus of the brain-healthy nutrient.
As mentioned, fish is a top source for omega-3, but there are other options in dairy, juice, grains, nuts, oils, and fresh produce, which are great sources of the nutrient.
Vitamin E, which has been shown to protect neurons, is found in certain oils, nuts, and spinach. As an antioxidant, it reduces free radicals in the brain, which tend to impede neuronal functioning. It’s also great for improving memory performance in older folks. Another great ingredient for enhancing post-TBI recovery is curcumin, a yellow curry spice. It’s been found to improve neuronal function in those with Alzheimer’s by reducing oxidative stress.
What Diet Should You Follow?
There is no one single diet that works for every single person. That is because each person’s brain and body chemistry is completely unique to them so for the best individual advice, it’s best to consult a health coach or nutritionist. However, there are several popular diets whose recommendations include many of the inflammation-fighting foods listed above. One such example is the Mediterranean diet (click the link to download the Mediterranean diet PDF) which boasts a whole host of health benefits, but perhaps what the diet is best known for is its effects on cognition. Changing your eating habits to include more fruit, fish, and whole grains can help to improve your memory, especially in the event of a brain injury. This is just an example of how you can pull together brain-healthy ingredients into one cohesive diet plan.
Food for Thought
Remember that a healthy diet can only go so far. In everyday life, it’s important to exercise regularly and get adequate sleep. In recovery from a brain injury, rest, relaxation, and healthy eating are the most important. Exercise should be minimal to avoid any jerking movements or further damage to the brain. And as always, it’s best to consult your doctor before making any major diet or lifestyle changes.