Nutrition, diet & brain injury
A healthy diet is an essential key to maximizing your brain's
potential after a brain injury.
Poor diet can affect mood, behaviour and brain function. Our
brains need energy and nutrients for healthy brain chemistry,
functioning of nerves, and correct neurotransmitter levels. A
healthy diet becomes even more critical after a brain injury as you
begin the recovery process.
The basics of a healthy diet
Fad diets come and go, but the essentials of a healthy diet
- Eat a variety of foods including vegetables, fruits and
- Eat lean meats, poultry, fish, beans and low-fat dairy
- Drink lots of water
- Go easy on the salt, sugar, alcohol, saturated fat and trans
- Eat unsaturated fats in moderation, strictly limit saturated
and trans fats.
Are there special supplements which could help when recovering
from a brain injury? A recent study by the Department of Defense in
the USA suggested that choline, creatine,
omega-3 fatty acids and zinc are helpful during the recovery
process. A healthy diet will generally supply all key vitamins,
minerals and fats needed - supplements typically are only a
semi-effective way to make up for a poor diet.
Alcohol, caffeine & other
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause nutritional deficiencies
as key vitamins and minerals are needed to break it down in our
bodies. Most rehabilitation specialists will advise completely
quitting alcohol use for at least a year or two after a brain
injury, if not permanently. For those who do choose to eventually
drink again, they are advised to drink in very moderate amounts
only, and for family members to ensure it is not worsening any
behaviours or other impairments after the brain injury.
Each vitamin is found in different foods and has a different
purpose for our brains.
Vitamin B-1- Grain products, pork,
legumes, nuts, seeds and organ meats. Helps metabolize glucose
(blood sugar) - Glucose is a primary energy source and promotes
growth and muscle tone.
Vitamin B-12- Milk, meat and
eggs. Protects our nerve cells by maintain a myelin sheath
(outer coating) - B-12 deficiency can result in nerve damage and
impaired brain function.
Folic Acid- liver, yeast, asparagus,
fried beans, peas, wheat, broccoli, and some nuts. Prevents a
buildup of blood reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke also
can lower levels of serotonin in the brain (neurotransmitter and
functions the brain).
Vitamin B- enriched grains, meat,
fish, wheat bran, asparagus, high quality milk and peanuts. Vitamin
B deficiency can cause mental symptoms such as irritability,
headaches, loss of memory, inability to sleep, and emotional
instability. Also pellagra (causes psychosis, delirium, coma,
diarrhea, dementia, dermatitis and death.
Vitamin A- meats, fish, eggs,
carrots, yellow squash and spinach. Helps provide protection
against infection, bone and teeth formation, smooth skin and
promotes growth and repair of body tissue.
Vitamin E- plant oils, green leafy
vegetables (e.g. Spinach) and some breakfast cereals. Supplies
oxygen to the brain, slows down ageing process, nutrition for cells
and prevents blood from clotting
Vitamin B-6- chicken, fish, pork,
whole wheat products, brown rice and some fruit and vegetables.
Helps with metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, supports nervous
system and maintains healthy skin.
Iron- meat, poultry and
fish. Iron helps the formation of hemoglobin (which carries
oxygen to cells throughout our bodies).
Magnesium- Green leafy vegetables
(e.g. spinach), whole grains, nuts, seeds and bananas. Assists
with bone structure and aids in the transmission of nerve
Manganese- Whole grains and nut,
also some fruits and vegetables. Helps metabolize
carbohydrates and assists in the brain functioning.
Copper- organ meats, seafood, nuts,
seeds, whole grain bread and cereals and chocolate. Deficiency
can cause anemia and impairs brain function and immune system
Zinc- red meats, liver, eggs, dairy
products, vegetables and some seafood's. Maintains cell
membranes and protects our cells from any damage.
Selenium- Seafood, liver and eggs
also some grains and seeds. Provides synthesis for some hormones
and protects cell membranes from damage.
References and further information