Is caffeine after brain injury safe?
Many people recovering from TBI want to reach for caffeine to eliminate the mental fatigue or “brain fog” that often accompanies brain injury. However, patients should proceed with caution.
Today’s article will discuss when TBI patients can start drinking coffee and other caffeinated drinks again after TBI. We will also show you some alternative ways to overcome brain fog without using stimulants.
Effects of Caffeine on the Injured Brain
The research is divided on whether or not caffeine is harmful after a brain injury.
On the one hand, coffee contains antioxidants that help the brain reduce inflammation and function more efficiently.
On the other hand, some studies show that caffeine blocks the release of adenosine, a neuroprotective agent that brings down inflammation and promotes brain healing. As a result, it could slow down the recovery process.
Finally, caffeine is also a vasodilator, which means it constricts the blood vessels in the brain, reducing blood flow. Without enough cerebral blood flow, the brain can’t get the vital nutrients it needs to repair itself.
Can You Have Caffeine After Brain Injury?
Returning to the original question, is caffeine after a brain injury or concussion safe? The answer according to most physicians is: yes and no.
Too much caffeine will irritate your already-sensitive brain and slow recovery, especially during the first few weeks after injury. Therefore, you should definitely cut out highly caffeinated energy drinks from your diet.
But consuming one or two cups of coffee a day will not severely affect you, since the caffeine content in coffee is not high enough to cause damage.
Still, if you struggle with mental fatigue after brain injury, it’s a good idea to avoid artificial stimulants altogether and seek out natural alternatives instead. Not only will you have longer-lasting energy, you also won’t have to worry about setting back your recovery.
How to Eliminate Brain Fog Naturally
Whether or not you’ve suffered a brain injury, try to avoid stimulants such as caffeine as much as possible.
The brain easily builds up a tolerance to caffeine, which means the more you consume, the less benefits you will see. You will need to keep drinking larger and larger amounts, just to feel any of its effects. That’s why it’s more effective to stick with natural alternatives.
Here are a few ways you can get rid of mental fatigue without relying on caffeine.
Fasting intermittently has many health benefits, including boosting brain function and reducing mental fatigue.
That’s because when you fast, your body converts fat into ketones and burns those for energy, rather than sugar, as it normally does.
This is especially great for brain injury patients because, after a TBI, the brain can no longer convert glucose into energy like it used to.
But the brain can still use ketones, which means fasting offers the brain another energy source to draw from. This is the principle behind the ketogenic diet for brain injury patients.
The ideal fasting length is sixteen hours without eating. For most people, this just means skipping breakfast in the morning and quitting food after 8 p.m.
Not everyone can fast safely, however. If you are diabetic, or recovering from surgery, don’t try it without permission from your doctor.
Eat Energy-Boosting Foods
Fasting won’t do you much good if you only eat junk food though. That’s why you need to be consuming healthy foods such as foods that heal the brain after a concussion.
These foods include:
- Fatty fish
In addition, make sure you stay hydrated. The more hydrated you are, the more you will flush out the harmful toxins that built up in your brain after the injury. This will also improve your mental clarity.
Exercising not only boosts endorphins, which make you feel more energized, it also increases oxygen levels in your blood and increases blood flow to your brain.
All of this helps your brain heal and gives you more energy throughout the day.
The best type of exercise for curing exhaustion is any kind of aerobic activity – such as swimming, biking, or yoga.
If you find it too difficult to exercise at first, don’t worry. You can’t expect yourself to run a marathon without practice.
Just start with a light and short workout, maybe ten minutes or less. Then, gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your exercise routine.
Eventually, you should start gaining enough energy and endurance to exercise regularly.
Get Healthy Sleep
If you find yourself constantly fatigued, it could be because you have developed a TBI sleep disorder that is preventing your brain from getting the rest it needs to heal.
One of the most common sleep disorders, besides insomnia, is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is disrupted. This leads to an excess amount of CO2 in the bloodstream, which can cause extreme fatigue.
An overnight sleep study will identify any sleep disorders you may have. Once you know what the problem is, a sleep specialist can recommend treatments that will give you a refreshing night’s sleep again.
Finally, too much stress on the brain will cause mental fogginess. That’s why it is vital to find ways to reduce stress after brain injury.
Relaxing activities such as yoga and meditation are great stress-reducing methods. In addition, art therapy can help you find a creative outlet for your stress and anxiety.
It’s also a good idea to create a space in your house where you can retreat from all the noise and distractions in your life. A place to recharge and regain mental clarity. This will keep you from experiencing sensory overload as well.
Caffeine After Brain Injury: Conclusion
In the end, drinking caffeine after brain injury is relatively safe, in moderation. Coffee and tea contain antioxidants many other health benefits, so stick to drinking those rather than caffeinated sugary drinks.
Too much caffeine, however, can harm your TBI recovery. That’s why it’s best to find natural alternatives to caffeine if you struggle with chronic fatigue.
Regular exercise and a good diet can give you longer bursts of energy with none of the negative side effects of caffeine. That sounds like a good deal to us.