Food For Thought…Literally

When my husband suffered his brain injury, we were initially told it was “not survivable” by several of the physicians caring for him. As I called all of his family to the hospital to say their good-byes to him, I stayed at his bedside night and day. You see, I was a hospice nurse and also had just graduated from nurse practitioner school. I was very much of the belief that no one should die alone, especially not my own husband. As the days turned into weeks, the doctors had changed their thoughts on Mark’s prognosis.

Fast forward several weeks later, when he came out of his coma and was being evaluated for rehabilitation. I was assured in no uncertain terms that they could help Mark to get to the point where he would be able to transfer to a wheelchair with assistance pivoting, but would likely be able to do anything for himself again. Nearly seven years later, he still has cognitive and physical deficits, but has surpassed all medical reasoning.

Now we have a strong Christian faith and I have no doubt that God had His hand in Mark’s miraculous recovery. It did really impact me however, when physician after physician, from neurosurgeons to vascular specialists all said the same thing to me. “He would not have survived or had this kind of recovery if he hadn’t been in such good health when it happened.”

You see, Mark and I were diligent about your health, diet and physical activity. We loved our lifestyle that was criticized by many of our family and friends. Being on the other side of such a life altering medical event has kept me even more motivated to continue to do whatever I can to keep us both healthy and at our absolute best, regardless of how things have changed.

This new found challenge of Mark’s brain injury and other health complications really inspired me to learn more about how nutrition can ultimately help his brain to stay healthy and to delay or even stop the deterioration of his cognition that is often expected in individuals who have suffered an acquired, traumatic or medical brain injury.

I’d like to share some of the staples we include in our daily diet to keep us both at our best.

Foods that can help decrease overall inflammation in the body can also contribute to maintaining healthy brain function. These foods include fish, healthy oils, flaxseed and avoiding processed sugars.

Healthy fats, such as those found in things like fish, nuts and avocado have been shown to improve our ability to think and have even been shown to assist repair of the brain after a traumatic brain injury.

Water! Hydration is key in ensuring that your loved one is functioning both physically and cognitively at their very best. Dehydration has even been shown to impact the very structure of the brain.

Leafy green vegetables, such as kale or spinach, are considered nutrient dense food, meaning you get a lot of bang for your buck. The B vitamins in these foods have also been shown to assist in repairing the brain after an injury.

Berries including strawberries and blueberries and their powerful antioxidants have been shown to contribute to neurogenesis. This is the brain’s ability to rewire itself! How amazing is that?

This list is not all inclusive, but it is a great place to start to make the small changes in diet that will have a big benefit for anyone who is under your care and has had a brain injury. Adding some of these foods into your loved one’s daily diet will give their body the opportunity to start to repair damage and ultimately, bring a better quality of life for those with brain injury.  

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