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Brain Injury and Vitamin B12: How This “Brain Vitamin” Can Help Boost Your Recovery

daughter helping father with vitamin b12 and brain injury

It’s no secret the brain requires food and nutrients to function properly, especially after a brain injury. One of the most essential vitamins to add to your diet after a brain injury is vitamin B12.

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of taking vitamin B12 after brain injury and where it can be found. Be sure to consult with your doctor or specialist before adding vitamin B12 to your diet.

Understanding the Link Between Brain Injury and Vitamin B12

After traumatic brain injury (TBI), many of the neural connections suffer damage and impair functions like movement or speaking. 

However, the brain is resilient in forming new neural pathways to help you regain affected functions. Vitamins provide the brain with the tools necessary to form these new pathways, and vitamin B12 may be the most essential vitamin your body needs after a brain injury.

Vitamin B12 is also needed for the function and development of the brain and central nervous system, which helps improve cognitive function and processing speed in TBI survivors.

This “brain vitamin” can help boost your recovery by promoting the regeneration of neurons (brain cells) and allowing for better communication between the brain and body. It is also needed, especially after brain injury, to improve cognitive function, processing speed, and overall health of the brain and central nervous system.

B12 is also used for the production and maintenance of myelin sheaths, which are an insulating layer of protein and fat around your nerves. The myelin sheaths protect the nerves of the central nervous system and allow messages to travel efficiently.

Additionally, B12 helps with the formation of neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers that transmit messages along nerves. Neurotransmitters make it easier for your brain to communicate with the nerve cells and allow your brain to heal and repair the damage more swiftly.

How Vitamin B12 Promotes Axonal Growth

illustration of healthy nerve cells boosted by vitamin B12

Besides boosting overall brain function, vitamin B12 also helps promote axonal growth after a traumatic brain injury. Axons are the part of a neuron that connects it to other neurons. Think of them like bridges that allow neural messages to travel back and forth. 

Without axons it would almost be impossible for the billions of neurons in your brain to communicate with each other. Consequently, one of the main causes of cognitive and physical decline after TBI is axonal damage. When the neurons cannot communicate with each other, the brain cannot function properly.

Luckily, vitamin B12 assists in repairing damaged axons and regenerating nerve cells, which is essential for TBI survivors.  

Best Sources of Vitamin B12

The human body cannot produce vitamin B12 so it must be consumed through diet or supplementation. The recommended intake varies depending on age, gender, and other factors, but it’s usually about 2.4 mcg for healthy adults. 

Vitamin B12 is found in animals and other sources. The following examples can be added to your diet to boost to your recovery after brain injury:

  • Fish and shellfish: rainbow trout, clams, salmon
  • Dairy products: low-fat milk, Swiss cheese, yogurt
  • Red meat: beef, lamb, steak
  • Poultry: animal livers
  • Eggs: egg yolks in particular

While animal products are the main natural source of vitamin B12, there are vegan or vegetarian options available for those who would rather avoid meat and dairy products.

  • Fortified soy-milk or oat-milk
  • Nutritional yeasts
  • Fortified cereals

Lastly, there are supplements to help you increase your vitamin B12 dosage. A popular supplement is methylcobalamin. It contains vitamin B12 that is easier for your body to digest.

It’s especially important for individuals who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or any other health condition to double check with a doctor when adding B12 or consuming any of the products mentioned above. Be sure to consult with your doctor before adding any new supplements to your diet after a traumatic brain injury.

A Popular Vitamin B12-Rich Diet For TBI Survivors

fish and vegetables on plate to provide vitamin b12 after brain injury

Many of the foods that are rich in vitamin B12 are the same foods found in a ketogenic diet. This is a low-carb, high-fat diet that triggers the production of ketones, which can be used for energy. 

The brain usually uses glucose as its main source of energy. However, after a brain injury, it may not process glucose as efficiently as it did before. This makes a ketogenic diet ideal for TBI survivors since ketones can be used as the brain’s main source of energy.

Initial animal research shows promising results that ketones “decrease oxidative stress, increase antioxidants, and scavenge free radicals.”

As with all diets, there are certain risks. For example, a high-fat diet is not recommended for individuals with high cholesterol or atherosclerosis, so be sure to talk to your doctor before making any major dietary changes.

Brain Injury and Vitamin B12 Intake

Food and nutrients are key for maximizing recovery after a brain injury. Vitamin B12 is especially important for preserving brain and nerve health by promoting nerve repair and function.

Though best consumed naturally from animal products, supplements can boost Vitamin B12 levels as well. Still, whatever source(s) you choose to add to your diet, consult with your doctor or specialist to ensure they don’t interfere with any medications or preexisting medical conditions. 

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in your brain’s function and healing, and we hope this article inspires you to add healthy amounts of it to your diet for a helpful boost in your TBI recovery.

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