When we think of Veteran’s we commonly think of PTSD or old age related problems such as Alzheimer’s. Many of our currently returning veterans are suffering from something entirely different. It is called Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI. Civilians can get this as well, especially in sports or automobile accidents. A TBI can occur when something hits your skull, but it can also occur when your body is moved forcefully enough that the brain ‘bounces’ against the inside of the skull.
Think of a person being thrown from a car. They may not actually hit their head on anything, but the jarring effect of the sudden landing can cause damage. Children sometimes get this type of injury when shaken.
The results of this type of injury are very traumatic. The person may look fine on the outside, but be unable to think clearly or remember details for an extended period of time. For some it is like suddenly having Alzheimer’s. The good news is that they don’t typically continue to downward spiral like someone with Alzheimer’s. The brain can heal itself, but it is a long hard road, filled with frustration, anger and depression. These roadblocks occur for the family of the injured person as well as the victim. There are things we can do to speed up the process. It can go from a seeming standstill to the pace of a slow snail.
Things to avoid:
- The modern American diet. This is not what the injured person wants to hear. They want to get back to normal. They want to hang out with their friends and do what their friends are doing. Their friends are killing brain cells with artificial colors, artificial flavors, pesticides, antibiotics, and just plain poor nutrition. The person who is trying to rebuild their brain can’t afford to kill brain cells.
- Alcohol. This is tough because their buddies may be imbibing and they want to relax and hang out with them, but they can’t afford to.
- Antibiotics. If you need them to save your life, take them, but follow up with a good probiotic and fermented foods. Good gut health equals good brain health. We have to start taking care of our guts before the body can take care of the brain.
- Wheat products. There is a term called ‘grain brain’ that describes what happens when someone eats a diet based mainly on grains. It closely resembles dementia.
- Avoid toxic substances in your home. These include lead, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers and other flame retardants, Toluene, PERC found in dry cleaned clothes, and fluoride. If it smells or tastes like a chemical then you will want to stay away from it.
There are some positive things you can do to improve your brain power, even if your brain has been injure. The first is to eat a healthy diet. A diet based on organic fruits and vegetables that include a lot of green leafy vegetables. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid meat and dairy. Good organic meats and dairy contain the critical Omega 3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and encourage the brain to heal.
In addition to that here are some more things you can do:
- Supplement with herbs such as Ginko Biloba, Feverfew, Butcher’s Broom, Bacopa monnieri, Gotu kola, Ginseng, Sage, Rosemary, turmeric, and Periwinkle.
- Supplement with vitamins such as B vitamins, Coenzyme Q10, Magnesium, Vitamin C and probiotics.
- Eat for brain health. Include Omega 3 rich foods, coconut oil, green tea, coffee, blueberries, spinach, grapes, and tomatoes are all known to increase brain function.
- Move your body. Sitting in front of the TV all day is wrong on many different levels. Physical exercise, including strength training has been shown to help with more than just increasing the blood flow. It decreases stress, produces nerve protecting compounds, improves the production of neurons, as well as releasing feel good hormones.
- Learn something new. Even just reading a book, or listening to a book on a subject you are unfamiliar with helps create new brain cells. The more you are interacting with the information the more good it will do you. Learning a new language has shown the most benefit, but only if you actually use it.
- One of the simplest things you can do is to make sure you stay well hydrated. An easy formula to remember is to take your body weight in pounds and divide that number in half. That gives you the optimum number of ounces to strive for. If you sweat heavily increase it accordingly. It works best if you get half your water in before lunch.
For those that have a long way to go to achieve brain health the progress is going to be painfully slow, but it will be there. For the rest of us, using these tips can slow down and possibly prevent brain deterioration as we age.