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.
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...
This single act is one of the most powerful for gaining maximum energy through your day. Eat breakfast before 9:00 A.M.
And eat lunch by noon or 1:00 P.M. Include protein.
And finish your meal by 7:00 P.M. No snacking afterwards. Give your body and your brain a chance to rest.
Have a small, refreshing snack anytime after breakfast and before 7:00 P.M. 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.
Listen to your body.
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).
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, the content and timing, you can enhance your overall health, fortify your energy supply, support maximum brain function and give yourself the best chance for optimal recovery.