For anyone who has either experienced or seen someone they love experience loss of cognition and function due to the devastation of a brain injury knows how overwhelming the prognosis can be. Often, whether the injury was a result of trauma, like an accident or disease, like a stroke, we are never prepared to see someone who was independent suddenly become dependent on others.
This happened to me when my husband Mark had a massive brain bleed in 2015. He was only 46 years old and it was due to an undiagnosed genetic disease. Our lives changed forever that day, but I have never been one to sit back and just let an obstacle railroad me. It became vital for me to learn as much as possible about how to give Mark the absolute best chance for recovery.
In my desire to learn about how the brain works and my passion for nutrition, I have been looking for ways to use food as medicine my entire life. This situation was no exception. Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not anti-Western medicine, but I do believe that giving our bodies the absolute best building blocks for daily life can go a long way.
Making little changes can go a long way. Fish. Some people love it, some people hate it. Research has shown over and over the benefits of a diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. The best sources of that are actually found in fish. The current recommendation to improve brain function and provide protection for the brain is to eat fish twice weekly. That can be a tall order for those of us in the U.S. where fish is not usually a staple of our diets.
However, thinking of how you can implement fish into your weekly diet doesn’t have to be terribly difficult and the rewards are amazing.
Did you know now that fish can actually improve memory, improve mood, decrease anxiety and even provide protection against cognitive decline. As someone who has been working and a caregiver since 2015, I can tell you that Mark isn’t the only one who needs to worry about maintaining brain health. Being a caregiver definitely takes its toll on those who are in this role. Caregivers have increased incidences of memory loss, anxiety and depression due to the responsibility of caring for others.
The best sources of Omega 3 fatty acids from fish include salmon, tuna and sardines, which are generally easy to find and prepare. We keep sardines on hand (I know, they seem so icky in that little can, but they are really actually so quick, easy and delicious).
If you are 100% against eating fish for whatever reason, consider adding things like flaxseed, chia seeds or walnuts to your diet. They can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, all kinds of foods and provide a great Omega 3 fatty acid punch to boost the brain as well.
It can be overwhelming to know where to start as a caregiver trying to make changes that will help you and the person you are caring for live your best lives and have the best outcomes. Try to just make small changes/additions to your daily routine. Before you know it, you will have a foundation that will give you the satisfaction of doing the best for yourself and those you are caring for!