Concussions are common, with over 2 and a half million people reporting a mild traumatic brain injury nationwide in 2010, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Conventional recovery advice from doctors suggests that plenty of rest is necessary, alongside refraining from physical activities such as sports. Fewer people, however, tend to realize that diet could play an important role in the recovery process. As Brainline explained, the brain relies on a number of different nutrients to aid with healthy cognitive function and clear thinking. The brain utilizes calories, so it is important to ensure that the calories consumed after a traumatic brain injury are procured from a healthy source. It is also important to eat small meals at frequent intervals during the recovery process – avoid overeating, as weight gain is actually common after a brain injury, Brainline noted.
“The brain relies on a number of different nutrients to aid with healthy function and clear thinking.”
Below is a guide to some of the best and worst foods and drinks to consume during the concussion recovery process:
1. Fruits and vegetables
If you’ll pardon the pun, this is surely a no-brainer. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are essential for quick recovery. It is advised that people eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis anyway to ensure a healthy lifestyle. Brainline suggested that avocados can be especially beneficial, as they are a rich source of healthy fats.
2. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are ideal, as they are packed with omega 3’s and healthy fats and proteins, Heal Your Concussion explained. They also make for a handy, small snack. Certainly, eating regular small snacks throughout the day can boost metabolism and help with recovery. Nuts and seeds can be easily kept in a handbag or purse and are therefore the perfect snack to take to work.
According to Livestrong, eggs are an amazing source of protein. High protein snack bars can also help, and a recent study has suggested that a high protein diet can actually help speed concussion recovery, Livestrong detailed.
Opt for unprocessed, lean meats – preferably grass-fed and pasture-raised, Heal Your Concussion asserted. White meats such as chicken and turkey tend to be lower in fat, but red meat can also be acceptable in moderation. All meats are a fantastic source of amino acids and protein.
Some forms of dairy are acceptable – especially if they are produced by grass-fed cows. Cheese, milk and yogurt are all helpful with concussion recovery. Yogurt in particular is laden with probiotics to help with healing.
6. Coconut oil
According to Heal Your Concussion, coconut oil is something of a wonder product. The oil is packed with healthy fatty acids and is by far the healthiest oil available on the market.
Alcohol should be avoided completely during the concussion recovery process. As Brainline detailed, alcohol tolerance levels can decrease after a concussion and excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to further cognitive decline.
2. Processed sugar
It’s important to ditch the candy bars and cakes during recovery from concussion, Brainline stated. Sweet foods offer little nutritional value and can lead to a number of health complaints.
3. Fried and salty foods
In a similar vein to sugar, doctors advise that healthy people limit their intake of fried foods, so it is especially important for patients experiencing concussion to do so as well. Highly processed, fatty and salty foods, such as the options available at most fast food restaurants, should be avoided.
Coffee lovers should try to kick, or at least curtail, their habit. Recent studies have indicated that black coffee, in moderation, can be beneficial for overall health. The high caffeine content, however, arguably negates the benefits when recovering from a concussion, Brainline asserted. Excessive caffeine can irritate the central nervous system and negatively impact recovery. Coffee should be reduced and sugary high caffeine energy drinks should be cut out completely.
The overarching message of the above information is that maintaining a healthy balance is absolutely key for effective recovery from concussion. The following dietary advice should be headed by everyone, but it is especially important when your body is in recovery mode, whether that be from concussion or from any other chronic condition.