Welcome to the January 2012 edition of “Living Well with Brainlash”, the blog for people with MTBI, their supporters and their health care providers. Whether you have been recently diagnosed with MTBI, Post Concussive Syndrome, PTSD, Chemo Brain, or the myriad of other descriptors that circle around these diagnoses, here you will find help, understanding, resources, great ideas, support, and useful Lifestyle Strategies for living your life well.
Here are the five categories and their five topics for the January blog:
- Symptoms of MTBI: The Importance of Nourishment
- Body Therapies: Cranial Sacral Therapy
- Dietary Supplements: CoQ 10, Phos.Choline
- Handy Hint: Ball Cap Strategy
- Food: Actual Good Carbohydrates
1. Symptoms of MTBI:
The Importance of Nourishment
Every day you vote with your fork at least three times. This is a predictable act, a repeated, consistent therapeutic act. You choose your fuel, and you add it to your body regularly.
You watch which grade of gas you put in your car because fuel grade makes a performance difference. I’ll save the diet lecture, and jump right to the reasons your brain injury recovery will work best with a few attentive menu behaviors.
Drink water. Water keeps you hydrated, helps your brain work as well as possible. Optimal water consumption: 8 glasses a day. All other beverages you consume do not contribute to this total.
Eat protein 3 times a day, or more. You have a brain injury, and eating protein frequently gives you a sustained supply of the building blocks your body needs to repair your brain. So, an egg with breakfast. Cheese sandwich for lunch. Or a cup of chicken broth. Dinner of fish with veggies. As a snack, a dip with veggie sticks. A handful of walnuts.
Eat breakfast. This single act is one of the most powerful for gaining maximum energy through your day. Eat breakfast before 9 AM.
Eat lunch. And eat lunch by noon or 1 PM. Include protein.
Eat dinner. And finish your meal by 7 PM. No snacking afterwards. Give your body and your brain a chance to rest.
Snack time. Have a small, refreshing snack anytime after breakfast and before 7 PM. A handful of almonds. Celery sticks with nut butter. A slice of cheese.
Supplements and Vitamins. Most of the specific supplements meant to assist the healing of a brain injury are best taken early in the day. This is because the supplements are active nourishment, and are meant to stimulate cognitive activity and circulation. Therefore, take them so your waking hours benefit from the supplements. I suggest most should be taken with breakfast or lunch. If you take them too late in the day, you run the chance that your brain will receive stimulating help about the time you would prefer to go to sleep!
Low Glycemic Foods. Carbohydrates are important aspects of a healthful menu. The lower the carb-to-fiber ratio, the better for your body furnace. These foods are the steady, slow burners in your furnace. If you choose processed foods (you know, junk food), the body burns through it fast and the nutritional value is very poor. None of this is news to you. Whole foods, unprocessed foods you cook yourself have better nutritional value.
So, salad is good. Whole grain breads and cereals. Eggs, yogurt. Fruit. Vegetables. Nuts. You get it.
What you might not realize is, with a brain injury your usual mechanism for deciding if you are ‘hungry or full’ is on the fritz. The hypothalamus gland, located in the middle of your head, is generally jarred in most instances of head trauma. So in addition to it regulating ‘wake-sleep’, ‘hot-cold’, and ‘thirsty-sated’, it also governs ‘hungry-full’.
With MTBI, your ‘hungry-full’ may be this constant ‘feed me’ buzz in your consciousness that seemingly no amount of munching and crunching can shut up. Nothing you eat satisfies. There is a continuous, yes annoying, hum of low-grade craving.
So here’s the double good news: a higher protein, lower carb, whole food menu can calm that experience down. AND. While you are waiting for it to calm down, at least you are not gaining weight (or as much as you could on soda and chips).
Soda. I will save the ‘empty calories’ lecture, and jump straight to the artificial ingredients. Aspartame. Nutrasweet. Splenda. Saccharin. And their ilk. All are called “Excito-toxins.” They are disruptive to brain function. And with an actual brain injury, it multiplies the added stress you are heaping on top of your recovery efforts.
For beverage entertainment, mix at home some fizzy water with about 10% actual fruit juice poured into your cup. Use real fruit juice. (Don’t get me started on High Fructose Corn Syrup.)
Lean Into the Changes.
Is it easy to change your eating habits on top of MTBI recovery? Certainly not. Sometimes it will feel like ‘one more thing’ on top of a heap of exhausting challenges.
That’s why I recommend leaning into these changes. Shift gently and steadily. From the above list, pick one and invoke it into your lifestyle. Maybe giving up soda is easy, and shifting that to a water habit is your chosen first step. Excellent. Get started.
Remember, you are in charge of what you select at the grocery store. Switch categorically from one sort of food item to a different brand with more wholesome ingredients. You will eat what you bring home from the store. Start shifting your choices towards low-carb, high value foods that support your brain health.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
With modest focus on your daily menu, its content and its timing, you enhance your overall health, fortify your energy supply, support maximum brain function and give yourself the best chance for optimal recovery.
2. Body Therapies
Cranial Sacral Therapy
In my opinion, a vital cornerstone of MTBI recovery is founded on the treatment known as Cranial Sacral Therapy. This therapy is based on the principle that your body, especially your central nervous system, and specifically your head, spinal cord and the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that moves within this system, functions most effectively when the pressure and flow of CSF are in balance.
When an MTBI is present, this balance of flow and pressure is generally disrupted. Symptoms of this imbalance can include but certainly are not limited to headaches, insomnia, nausea, irritability, foggy thinking, poor equilibrium, face pain, inflexible mood and environmental or social oversensitivity.
Treating these and similar symptoms as a primary therapy approach sets the stage for all therapies that follow, and for those next therapies to be more successful and effective with less effort and in less time.
There are several avenues to locating a qualified Cranial Sacral Therapist. Many Osteopathic physicians practice Cranial Sacral Therapy. (An Osteopath is recognized as an Allopathic physician, so the treatment may be covered by insurance.) Many Physical Therapists practice Cranial Sacral Therapy, so likewise it may be covered by insurance.
Additionally, some Massage Therapists offer this service, as well as certified Cranial Sacral Therapists.
Importantly, select a Cranial Sacral practitioner with experience and credible credentials. (Not someone with a fancy Weekend Seminar certificate.)
3. Dietary Supplements:
CoEnzymeQ 10, Phos. Choline
Supplement caveat: My statements about supplements, general dose suggestions, brand names or general benefits have not been evaluated by the FDA, and my opinions are not intended to be viewed as a diagnosis, treatment, cure or preventive against any disease.
CoEnzyme Q 10 (CoQ10)
This supplement is highly valuable as an antioxidant and is a crucial component in the primary energy production cycle. For MTBI, this supplement offers support for cognitive energy increase.
Phosphatidylcholine (Phos. Choline)
This lecithin-based supplement is a main component of cell membranes and is critical for brain function.
4. Handy Hint
Ball Cap Strategy
Your Ball Cap is your friend. Keep one handy in the car, keep several within reach in the house. Wear one when you go into any public building, grocery store, medical or dental office, restaurant. The brim on that ball cap will shade your eyes from up to 40% of the obnoxious glare and incredibly stressful brilliance of fluorescent overhead lights.
Fluorescent lights may not bother most people, but they burn valuable brain and eye energy from MTBI people. They wear us out, fast. I can actually feel the energy drain when I walk into the grocery store and realize my ball cap is in the car. There is no shopping fast enough to avoid the debilitating effects of the flickering, face-squinting rays.
Compact fluorescents are no better. Have you ever been over to dinner at someone else’s home and their dining room chandelier is loaded with those compact fluorescents? It’s enough to make me cry, long before dessert arrives. So I always take a hat when I go out for the evening.
For the record, other hat styles are welcome if they get the job done.
Actual Good Carbohydrates
You will be happy to know that there are lots of really tasty and enjoyable foods low in carbohydrate content. Let’s start eating now!
Rule #1: Eat breakfast
Rule #2: Eat protein for breakfast.
You need protein first thing for breakfast. Listen, you are healing from MTBI, and your body is making new brain cells and repairing the ones that have been injured. The building block for cell generation is protein. Eat protein now.
Scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach.
Whip up two eggs with a little milk or water. Set them aside and sauté about 3 medium sized, sliced mushrooms in a little olive oil. Throw in a handful of washed and dryed-off spinach leaves. When the spinach has wilted, pour in the eggs and cook to your taste.
Serve on a plate, with a slice of low-carb toast (by that, I mean a slice of bread which states on the label that the Carb Content is 14 grams or less.)(Carb content minus dietary fiber content is total carb content.) Yes, you can have butter on your toast. And add some berries and fresh fruit to the plate.
Handful of almonds (raw, unsalted is best), or handful of walnuts (raw is best)
Rule #1: Eat lunch
Rule #2: Eat protein for lunch.
You need protein for lunch. See reasons above.
Nice big salad with sliced grilled chicken or shrimp.
Salad dressing with olive oil base is perfect. Very tasty low-carb mayonnaise is made by “Smart Balance”. Key here is to make your own dressing when you can. Garnish with sliced pecans or roasted sunflower seeds.
Half an apple.
Carrot sticks dipped in almond butter.
Rule #1: Eat dinner. (Be done by 7 PM.)
Rule #2: Eat protein for dinner. (Are you getting the drift here?)
Turkey Burger with Sauteed Asparagus
Mix 1 pound ground turkey together with your favorite seasonings, 1/2 cup minced onion, 1/2 cup minced celery, 1 egg and 3 Tablespoons of whole grain barley flour. Shape into 4 patties and fry in olive oil, browning both sides.
Meanwhile, sauté asparagus spears in olive oil with a sprinkling of garlic powder. Cook until tender.
Serve turkey burger and asparagus on a plate with sliced tomatoes and a nice dollop of your favorite condiments.
Now, you have just had five eating events with lots of yummy ingredients. Notice, there were no ‘punishment’ ingredients involved. And you hovered right around 60 grams of carbs for the day. Excellent.
Now, no more food until breakfast tomorrow.
You will sleep better on an empty stomach.
Shopping Tip of the Month
Do not buy or eat anything with Aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda or other Excito-toxin sweeteners in it. Excito-toxins are very stressful upon brain function, and more so with MTBI.
For beverage sweeteners, use liquid or powdered Stevia. (No carbs there!)
For baking, use crystallized Xylitol. Use 1/4 cup to every cup of sugar called for in a recipe. This product is low glycemic and very sweet.
Thanks for reading. See you next month.