Nutrition and Diet After Brain Injury
Ricketts on the Record: Battling Brain Injury
Anne Ricketts is the founder of Global Brain Injury Awareness (GBIA); a not-for-profit community interest company (CIC) she launched after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in July 2000.
The GBIA mission: To bring information and support to people in need after brain injury.
Here, in her debut blog marking Malnutrition Awareness Week (14 – 20 October), Anne highlights the pivotal role of nutrition in her own brain injury battle.
I cannot over stress the importance diet plays in brain injury recovery
After falling on my head in July 2000, and despite being diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), I fell through the medical net and received no support or help for almost four years.
The majority of my recovery was through trial, error and persistence, but was driven by a passion for helping others who also found themselves without medical support.
It culminated in April 2009 in the establishment of the @BIGlobalPicnic (an annual brain injury awareness day) and, then, the Global Brain Injury Awareness CIC.
The need for a new supporting website was clear from the initial stages of setting up the company and has motivated intensive research over the 18 months.
But, as with all good things, everything eventually started to come together. This research provided me with all manner of information about the biological and chemical effects a brain injury has on the body.
It is essential to update both our understanding and our thinking about food following a brain injury.
Although I had always enjoyed a healthy diet, I struggled enormously with all aspects of daily living for well over a decade.
I was unable to plan meals, know what to eat, organise shopping, or, follow recipes.
Despite being an excellent home cook before my TBI, I found that I struggled even with the basics and only really started to regain understanding about nutrition in 2014.
My failure to eat well, no doubt, exacerbated the symptoms and outcomes of my brain injury and, over the years, led to a deterioration in my general and central nervous system health.
By 2018 I was almost crippled with fibromyalgia and burdened with severe brain fog that was almost totally incapacitating.
With my pain levels, by this point, at a constant level 8 - distressing, I was barely able to sleep or to get out of the house.
One day, a neighbour saw me struggling to walk my dog and suggested I try black seed oil; dropping off a small bottle later that day.
Within two days, I noticed a marked difference. My brain was starting to work again, and my body was beginning to lose some of the severe stiffness associated with fibromyalgia.
I haven’t looked back. It’s fair to say that neither I nor the website would be where we are today without this intensely nutritious oil.
A BIG brain injury need: nutrients
With my brain back on board, I found that as each week and month passed the damage to my body and brain was beginning to heal and repair itself.
My executive functioning began to improve quite radically, and I was able to start absorbing and understanding all that I was learning about the biochemical changes and nutritional needs of my brain and body.
Science tells us that the biochemical changes following a brain injury deplete the body of its vitamin and mineral reserves quite radically.
The brain’s metabolism is altered and can increase well above normal levels, intensifying demands put on people. (1)
When we fail to meet these demands, there is a direct correlation between the management of symptoms and recovery from the executive and cognitive impairments sustained.
For me, black seed oil, packed with micronutrients, has helped meet those demands.
Research the options
There are hundreds of published research papers on the benefits of black seed oil, with many focused on the biochemical outcomes of a brain injury. (2)
It’s believed black seed oil works with the body in addressing these issues which are the root cause of many brain injury symptoms, such as fatigue, brain fog, headaches, depression and anxiety.
I found, however, that not all black seed oil is the same. It is the amount of the volatile component, thymoquinone, that is thought to be critical to its effectiveness.
When we feel hungry, most of us tend to think of satisfying this rather than understanding it is a message from our body that we need a nutritional top-up.
Think nutrients! Choose natural unprocessed and, for me, preferably organic foods at every mealtime.
More of Anne’s insights can be found at www.globalbia.org
Opinions and endorsements published by others on Krysalis Consultancy Ltd blogs or publications do not necessarily reflect the views of Krysallis Consultancy Ltd. If you are a brain injury survivor considering reviewing your diet and / or using nutritional supplements, it is recommended that you seek advice from your GP or a UK Registered Dietitian with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) before doing so.
- Brooks, George A and Martin, Neil A. Cerebral metabolism following traumatic brain injury: new discoveries with implications for treatment. s.l. : Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2015.
- Tahereh Farkhondeh, T, et al. The Neuroprotective Effects of Thymoquinone: A Review. s.l. : Dose-Response, 2018.