How to boost brain health and reduce inflammation with foods and healthy habits?
Updated: Aug 8, 2022
If you are someone who is or has been suffering from depression, who has cognitive issues, who has had concussions, brain surgeries and wants to support the brain better, then I have put the below article together just for you.
I have been there myself. In 2001 I got from a concussion after I was literally ran over at a sports event. As an after-effect, I suffered from migraine head-aches and neck pains for months. But I recovered. Back then I did not know or think of learning how can I support my brain with recovery- instead I focused on writing my thesis as I was in my final months of graduating from the university. I managed, but there was a health cost to it.
In 2018 I fell from a balancing rope straight to the back of my head on the ground, after what I was for months in pain, pressure in the head, suffering memory loss, balance issues, loss of feeling in my right arm, anxiety, depression. After MRI in spring 2019, I was diagnosed with non-communicating obstructive hydrocephalus, which required me to have a brain surgery. I decided I put my focus on learning what's out there about the brain- and what it needs to heal and function well. Nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress management, environmental toxins were all important factors. Below is what I did.
Focus on diet and specifically on brain foods
One of the best ways to improve our brain health is to improve our diet. I had been on gluten and sugar free diet since January 2017, due to Lyme disease and to lower inflammation and pain in my body. Foods that are inflammatory to the brain are sugars, starches, gluten containing foods, bad fats (margarine) and refined oils (vegetable oils that come from seeds- canola oil, cottonseed oil etc), processed foods- these cause depression, dementia, behaviour issues. Our gut is our second brain, what we eat directly influences how our brain functions. So I made sure I did not consume any inflammatory foods in my diet. Make sure you read the labels and avoid foods with long ingredient lists and any ingredient you can't recognise as food.
Around 60% of our brain is made of fat, so it's crucial that we provide our brain health fats, by regularly eating foods that are rich in Omega-3. Below is what I include in my diet on a daily basis:
Fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines)
Walnuts and other nuts and seeds (like Brazil nuts, pecan nuts, linseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds)
MCT oil (derived from coconut oil) and coconut oil
Polyphenol rich foods (eat the rainbow of colourful vegetables, berries and fruits- green, blue, purple, red, yellow). Think blueberries, raspberries, beetroot, broccoli, paprika, lemon
Eggs- make sure you eat organic pasture-raised eggs as they are higher in nutrients, especially choline which is important for brain health
B-vitamin rich foods- dark green leafy vegetables
Turmeric- great anti-inflammatory food for the whole body
Green tea, which is calming to the brain. I consume matcha regularly, but not on a daily basis
Bone broth, which is calming and healing for the gut and has a body-wide anti-inflammatory effect
Dark chocolate- quality chocolate with higher than 80% cocoa content thanks to its flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
I also focus a lot on hydration- making sure I get an adequate amount of water. I have written a blog post on water, hydration, importance of electrolytes. Make sure you also filter your tap water as if they say 'if you don't filter, your body becomes the filter'.
Supplements I used and some that I continue using
When we are recovering from a concussion or brain surgery, it's good to incorporate additional supplements to support the healing:
DHA, EPA, which you get from a good quality fish oil or krill oil
B-vitamins, which help with nerve function, detoxification
Magnesium (bear in mind there are different types of magnesium. You can read my article on what foods contain highest level of magnesium and what types of magnesium is good to take for what condition
Mitochondrial supplements like CoQ10, L-carnitine- as our brains consume around 25% of the energy in our body, it's important to support the cellular energy function when your brain is healing.
Medicinal mushrooms- like Lion's mane, reishi, cordyceps
Gingko biloba- anti-inflammatory, energy and circulation boosting
Make sure you get adequate amount of restorative sleep
Sleep is very important to heal a broken brain. Your brain detoxifies at night, so making sure you don't eat close to bed time, don't drink alcohol, avoid blue light later in the evening- all these help with better sleep. Here is an article I go deeper into sleep and how you can improve it.
Regular physical movement is a must
Though I could not engage in the exercises I very much enjoyed after the head trauma and brain surgery, I did what I could. I spent and spend a lot of time walking in the nature. I also did moderate strength training and incorporated yoga on a regular basis.
Avoid environmental toxins
I lowered my toxic load, by using very little make-up and only on rare occasions. I also made sure I did not use any toxic cleaning products (vinegar, soda, essential oils like orange go a very long way). We used to buy bottled water, but stopped buying it and invested in water filters in our homes.
Incorporate stress management activities in your daily routine
Stress is something that affects our brain function at a high level- the stress often starts from the small muscles at the top of your head. There are different things you can do for self-care and stress management Very good activities to do on a regular basis are meditation and breathing exercises, which both help to drive more oxygen to your brain, therefore also increasing nutrients delivery to brain. But also journaling and listening to relaxing music or other activities like painting, drawing, cooking, spending time with family and friends.
I hope the above article gives a good start to think how you can take steps to improve your brain health, recover better from a head injury or brain surgery.
If you are looking to gain more energy, have less brain fog, don't hesitate to contact me for health coaching at email@example.com. Learn more about my health coaching program under Services menu.