Your diet plays an important role in the healing process for your traumatic brain injury (TBI). What you put into your body can not only affect your health, it can be an integral part of minimizing your symptoms and facilitating a quicker recovery.
These post-TBI recommendations are designed to help you understand what your body needs and what you should avoid.
Healthy eating will not make your TBI symptoms go away; it will, however, give your injured brain a better shot at recovery by providing it the fuel needed to function as best it can.
Your brain has some important nutritional requirements that must be met. Consuming the right amount of water, protein, lipids (fats), carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and sodium can make a huge difference in your overall well-being.
Your body will also benefit from proper nutrition as you experience increased energy levels, mood improvement, and short and long-term health gains.
Drink Lots of Water
This is the most important recommendation. It is easy to get dehydrated, especially in warm temperatures.
Water helps your body digest foods and absorb nutrients. Consuming water will also help your body better regulate your temperature and increase circulation.
How do you calculate the amount of water your body needs?
Take your body weight and divide by 2. That is the approximate total of how many ounces of water you need to drink each day.
For example, a person whose body weight is 160 pounds should try to drink up to 80 ounces of water per day.
Keep in mind that if you are in warmer temperatures and in an environment where you sweat more, you may need to increase your water consumption.
If you have pre-existing medical conditions, you should check with your healthcare provider and ask what they would recommend your daily water intake should be. Some TBI patients may need to drink less water throughout the day.
Pack in the Protein
Protein will help you maintain your muscle mass, your strength, and create a fuller feeling in your stomach. Some of the best sources of protein are meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. These protein sources will provide your brain with the essential amino acids it needs for proper functioning.
Meats could include:
- Lean beef
Other beneficial proteins include:
- Cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
If you are a vegan, it is so important to make sure you get enough protein from nuts and legumes. If you are eating meat, be careful with your preparation. Avoid fried foods and too much red meat.
Lipids Are Essential
These are healthy fats that your body needs. For example, olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and is a healthy way for you to prepare grilled foods.
Here are 10 food items that are high in fat that you should consider incorporating into your diet:
- Chia seeds
- Coconuts (and coconut oil)
- Dark chocolate
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fatty fish (like salmon or mackerel)
- Greek yogurt
- Nuts (like almonds, walnuts, and macadamia)
- Whole eggs
Eat Your Vegetables
Vegetables are a great source of vitamins, fiber, and potassium. They are naturally low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. Their natural fiber can help reduce blood cholesterol and promotes better, regular bowel function.
Here is a list of recommended vegetables:
- Brussel sprouts
- Lettuce (such as romaine and iceberg)
- Sweet Potatoes
Here’s an example meal: You could put together a salad with a mix of romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, and arugula. Cut up some avocado, add some chopped almonds or walnuts and some dried cranberries, and drizzle with olive oil. You can add protein to the salad like grilled chicken, steak, or fish.
Fruits Are Your Friends
Fruits are also a great source of vitamins and antioxidants. It is recommended that you avoid fruit juices because of their high sugar content. A better choice would be raw fruit as these are naturally low in fat and calories.
Here is a list of recommended fruits:
- Melons (like cantaloupe, honeydew, or watermelon)
Don’t Skip the Dairy
Dairy products can be a great source of calcium and vitamin D, but make sure you select one that is low fat.
Whole Grains vs. Refined Grains
Whole grains should be chosen over refined grains. Whole grains are high in fiber and help promote cardiovascular health.
Refined grains are milled, a process that removes part of the grain. Also removed in the process are some of the fiber, iron, and vitamins.
Here is a list of whole grains:
- Rice (including wild rice)
Foods/Items to Avoid
Reduce as much as possible your intake of sugar, artificial sweeteners, caffeine (this includes coffee, tea, and soft drinks), alcohol, fried foods, cigarettes, vapes, and high-calorie pastries like donuts and cake.
You should also consult with your physician before taking any vitamins or supplements.
Think of the food that you are putting in your body as fuel. The cleaner the fuel, the better your body will run.
Improving your diet should help with the brain fog, fatigue, and memory problems you may be experiencing. Healthy eating will not make all of your symptoms go away, but it will give your brain the best chance for recovery and proper functioning.