Food Varieties that Really Make a Difference With Chronic Illnesses

Mar 25, 2014
Tagged with: Food Varieties that Really Make a Difference With Chronic Illnesses


A healthy and balanced nutrition benefits everyone whether you enjoy perfect health or have a chronic illness, but your diet must be customized according to your individual needs. For example, a reduction in sugar and salt consumption is especially important for people with hypertension, kidney or heart failure, diabetes, and even traumatic brain injury. How your nutritional requirements are determined also depends on the manner of injury to the brain.

A stroke-related brain injury is approached differently than one of physical assault. TBI survivors generally benefit from the same nutritional interventions and medical support as patients of other chronic illnesses since the body’s organ systems are interdependent. In other words, what benefits or harms one system eventually affects another. There are some nutrients that have shown to be invaluable contributors to a TBI survivor’s recovery.

Protein provides all the essential amino acids necessary for normal body functions. Certain amino acids, such as phosphatidyl serine and acetyl L-carnitine, aid specifically in improving mental abilities and are available as supplements. The best protein sources are lean meats, poultry, seafood, yogurt and other dairy products, egg whites, nuts, and legumes. A great alternative is an amino acid complex drink enriched with vitamins and minerals.

There are some additional things to consider:

– As with any injury, your protein requirements are higher than an uninjured person because protein is extremely important for repair and recovery of tissue damage, and more of it will be needed for major organs such as the brain. The general amount is 1.5 g per kg of your body weight per day. This doesn’t consider any additional health conditions, so consult your physician to make sure it is sufficient.

– Stick with liquefied supplements, as your body can metabolize and absorb liquid more efficiently. Liquids are especially helpful if there are facial injuries that make eating difficult.

Your brain’s only source of energy is glucose, a well-known carbohydrate. It stands to reason that while an excess of carbohydrates is not conducive to proper nutrition, completely eliminating them from your diet is just as harmful, even if you’re diabetic. Please note: this doesn’t mean you may eat sweets with impunity!
Fruits and vegetables are ideal carbohydrate sources and can be juiced for easier consumption. Whole grains like brown rice, barley, and quinoa are better alternatives to white rice, breads, and pastas in terms of carbohydrate quality and content. They are also rich in B vitamins, which have an important role in brain function as well.

Healthy fats and oils
The fats that play a role in improving brain function are the omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, one omega-3 fatty acid in particular, known as DHA, is an essential component for brain structure and function. Common DHA-rich sources include fish and liver. There are also supplements that are just as efficient, like krill or fish oils.
Doses of about 800-900 mg of DHA per day have been shown to significantly improve memory stimulation and learning ability, especially if combined with about 12 mg of lutein. Just as with carbohydrates, a diet high in fat and cholesterol will complicate recovery and should be avoided.

Vitamins, Minerals, and other Nutrients
Additional nutrients that are pertinent to brain function are the following:
– B vitamins (B-1, B-2, B-6, B-12, etc.)
– Vitamin C
– Vitamin D
– Foliate
– Coenzyme Q10
Essentially, these play antioxidative roles, which help slow down degeneration in all tissues, including the brain.

Good nutrition provides the best foundation for activities geared towards brain function to aid in significant recovery.

Such activities include:

– Meditation (significantly improves memory and alertness)
– Exercise (significantly improves blood flow to the brain and decreases stroke risk)
– Listening to music (remember the “Mozart Effect”?)
– Routine activities, i.e. brushing your teeth, with your less dominant hand (challenges the brain and stimulates creativity)
– Play games! Start with simple children’s games and work up to more complicated ones.
– Web surfing (stimulates learning and reading comprehension)
Do you or someone you know have experience with traumatic brain injury you’d like to share? We’d love to hear your story and offer our support!

Author: Shelly Duell

  • bobl07

    Thank you Shelly for the health tips that seems all of us can use.