Can taking extra vitamins for brain injury boost your recovery?
The short answer to this question is yes! Vitamin supplements can help heal the brain after an injury.
Of course, that naturally raises the question: which vitamins should you take?
That’s why today we are covering seven of the best vitamins for brain injury recovery.
But first, we need to talk about how you should use vitamins during recovery.
How to Use Vitamins for Brain Injury
But sometimes it is not possible to get enough of food that fuels your brain, especially after a brain injury, which often causes a decrease in appetite.
That’s where vitamins come in. They can help your brain get the tools it needs to heal and function at its best when you feel like you can’t eat the right amount on your own.
However, they won’t do anything if the rest of the food you eat isn’t healthy.
If you are eating junk food, no amount of vitamins or supplements will be able to reverse the damage that does to your body.
Simply put, you should use vitamins as a supplement to a healthy diet, not a replacement for one.
Best Vitamins for Brain Injury
Now that we got that warning out of the way, we’re ready to look at which vitamins you should take to promote your recovery.
The following are a few of the best vitamins for brain injury.
Omega-3 fatty acids are great for improving overall brain health. They improve cognition and memory, and boost the production of BDNF, which helps your brain grow new nerve cells.
Omega-3 is most commonly found in fatty fish, but there are lots of over-the counter supplements available.
For the most benefits though, you should try to only consume natural fish oil supplements.
These are the closest alternative to real fish and have the highest concentration of omega-3. Plus, natural fish oil has lots of other fatty acids that help your brain absorb omega-3 efficiently.
2. Vitamin B12
All B vitamins are good for your brain, but B12 is the most important.
Your body uses B12 for the production of myelin sheaths, an insulating layer of protein and fat that forms around your nerves and allows electrical impulses to travel quickly and efficiently.
It also helps your brain cells produce energy, which is crucial for the brain’s healing process.
When you are choosing a B12 supplement, go for methyl B12. This type of B-12 is more stable and easier for your body to use than other types of B-12.
However it’s also more expensive, so if money is an issue the other types of B12 will get the job done just fine.
3. MCT Oil
MCT, which stands for medium-chain triglycerides, is a type of fat that is rapidly broken down and converted into ketones.
Ketones, unlike regular fats, can cross the blood-brain barrier, making them a great alternative energy source for the brain. (ordinarily the brain uses glucose for energy)
Since after a brain injury the brain requires extra energy to function, this makes MCT another good supplement to help with your TBI recovery.
You can get MCT through certain foods such as coconut oil and dairy products, or you can use MCT oil.
MCT oil is a highly concentrated source of MCT and is more easily absorbed than coconut oil.
Some evidence suggests that it may have neuroprotective properties and help improve cognition and memory!
4. Antioxidants (Vitamins C, E and Beta Carotene)
After a brain injury, your brain will obviously have a lot of inflammation of its tissues and cells.
The best way to fix this is to increase your consumption of antioxidants.
The antioxidants found in vitamins C, E, and beta carotene help counteract free radicals (unstable molecules that damage your brain cells) and reduce inflammation in your brain.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a crucial vitamin that helps strengthen your bone cells, improve your immune system, and manage fatigue.
It also plays a huge role in brain function.
The hippocampus (the area of your brain that controls memory) is densely packed with vitamin D receptors, which suggests that vitamin D is important for memory retention.
It also stimulates the production of neurotransmitters which improves communications between neurons.
Vitamin D is normally produced by sunlight, but unfortunately getting enough sun is not always easy, especially when you are recovering from TBI.
All of this makes vitamin D supplements an important vitamin for brain injury patients.
Most people associate probiotics with digestive health, but did you know they can also help your brain?
The brain and gut are linked through biochemical signaling between the enteric nervous system, the nervous system that is located in the digestive tract, and the central nervous system. The main connection between the brain and stomach is the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body.
This explains why some people get nauseous when stressed.
The gut also produces a lot of the same neurotransmitters that the brain does, such as serotonin.
Since the brain and stomach link so closely together, it makes sense that the good bacteria that help your gut may also benefit brain function and neurotransmitter production. Which is exactly what several new studies are showing!
The research on probiotics and brain health is still ongoing, but it may be worth adding some probiotic supplements to your diet. At the very least, it will help keep your stomach healthy!
7. Acetyl L-Carnitine
Finally, one of the best supplements for brain injury patients is probably acetyl l-carnitine.
Acetyl l-carnitine is an amino acid naturally produced by your body and a powerful antioxidant.
But what makes acetyl l-carnitine so great for brain injury is that it plays a huge role in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is crucial for supporting healthy memory, computation, perception and several other cognitive functions.
All of this makes acetyl l-carnitine a must-have supplement for brain injury.
Supplements for Brain Injury
Before wrapping this post up, we just want to reiterate what we said at the beginning:
Be sure to use vitamins only as a supplement for your diet, not a replacement. You should still focus on eating the natural sources of these vitamins as much as possible.
By eating a healthy diet and taking these vitamins, you are laying a solid foundation for both your brain and body to heal and giving yourself the tools you need to make a great recovery.
Featured image: ©iStock.com/Stas_V