Vitamins for stroke recovery can help boost brain health, but beware that no single pill fits all.
Supplements that enhance one person’s recovery from stroke may worsen recovery in someone else. To avoid this mistake, learn why some stroke supplements can be dangerous for you.
Then, we’ll share an updated list of the best vitamins to enhance stroke recovery.
Take Supplements for Stroke Recovery with Extreme Caution
Before we dig into the list of science-backed vitamins and supplements for stroke recovery, you need to proceed with caution.
It is imperative that you consult with your physician before adding supplements to your regimen. Some supplements can interfere with certain medications to worsen your health status and cause complications.
For example, ginko biloba is an herb that is used to help prevent ischemic stroke (the type of stroke caused by a clot) because it’s a natural blood thinner…
However, it can also put people with a history of hemorrhagic stroke (the type of stroke caused by a bleed) at an increased risk of suffering a second stroke. Additionally, complications can arise if you’re already taking blood thinning medication.
Other supplements that contain natural blood thinning properties include: turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, vitamin E, garlic, cassia cinnamon, grape seed extract, omega 3s, and bromelain.
Now, let’s dig into the list of the top supplements and vitamins for stroke recovery.
The Best Science-Backed Vitamins for Stroke Recovery
Based upon relevant clinical research, here are the best supplements and vitamins for stroke recovery:
1. Vitamin D
Research studies show that vitamin D is one of the best vitamins for stroke recovery.
Low levels of vitamin D are associated with worse outcomes after ischemic stroke, which account for 87% of all strokes in America. Furthermore, vitamin D deficiency is associated with the stroke risk factors like hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. (Source: Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care)
Fortunately, after supplementing with vitamin D, “there is a significant improvement in stroke outcomes after 3 months.” (Source: Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research)
Getting enough vitamin D can also provide neuroprotective, neuromuscular, and osteoprotective benefits which can reduce cognitive and functional impairments in individuals after a stroke. (Source: Current Drug Targets)
By getting your daily dose of vitamin D, you can reduce your risk of another stroke while aiding your brain’s recovery.
How to get vitamin D naturally:
Your body can produce Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, from daily amounts of sun exposure. As always, be cautious about your exposure during peak hours (generally 10am-4pm) when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
If you can’t get sun exposure due to medical restrictions (like heightened risk of skin cancer), then consume it through foods that are high in Vitamin D, like fatty fish, cheese, and egg yolks.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with poor outcomes after stroke, whereas daily supplementation is associated with better outcomes.
Probiotics aren’t a vitamin or mineral. Rather, probiotics are the “good” bacteria that comprise your microbiome, the 100 trillion microbes that live inside your gut.
The bacteria living inside your body serve an important role – they even have a nervous system of their own called the enteric nervous system.
Through this internal ecosystem, the bacteria in your gut communicate with your brain through the gut-brain axis. This connection is bidirectional, which means that it goes both ways. (Source: Annals of Gastroenerology)
Since gut health plays a key role in brain health, probiotics make the list of top supplements for stroke recovery.
How to get probiotics naturally:
Great dietary sources of probiotics include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, and miso.
You need “good” bacteria to support your microbiome, which influences brain health and function via the gut-brain axis.
3. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with a type of inflammation that damages the blood vessels. When blood vessels become damaged, excess deposits can develop and interrupt blood flow. If this happens to an artery in the brain, it can lead to a stroke. (Source: VeryWell Health)
Supplementing with vitamin B12 can enhance stroke recovery by boosting the function and development of the brain and nerve cells. (Source: Viatcheslav Wlassoff, PhD)
This encourages neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself, create new neural pathways, and rearrange existing ones.
How to get vitamin B12 naturally:
Vitamin B12 can be found in animal products like fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. If you have a history of stroke risk factors like high cholesterol or atherosclerosis, consume lean sources of protein such as fish or poultry.
Vitamin B12 provides essential support for both brain and blood vessel health.
4. Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, can encourage recovery of brain function after stroke for two main reasons:
First, niacin directly affects neuroplasticity, which is the primary driver of recovery from stroke. Secondly, niacin has been proven to improve “good” cholesterol levels, which are statistically low in stroke survivors. (Source: MedicineNet)
Although experts have yet to link “good” cholesterol levels with stroke recovery, reducing one’s risk of a second stroke is a significant accomplishment.
How to get niacin naturally:
You can find vitamin B3 in tuna, chicken, turkey, and salmon. For meatless options, you can find lesser quantities of niacin in peanuts and brown rice.
Vitamin B3 positively affects neuroplasticity, which is driving mechanism of stroke recovery.
5. DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is critical for healthy brains. While omega-3s are not vitamins, they still made the list for their positive effects on stroke recovery.
DHA is essential for brain growth in infants and maintenance of normal brain function in adults. Some studies suggest that DHA can reduce stroke risk factors like hypertension and atherosclerosis. (Source: Pharmacological Research)
Be aware that fish oil is contraindicated for some blood thinners, such as Warfarin. Check with your physician to see if this supplement is safe for you. (Source: Annals of Pharmacotherapy)
How to get DHA:
DHA is an essential fatty acid, meaning your body cannot produce it on its own – you must get it from your diet (or supplements).
Fatty fish, like salmon, contain healthy amounts of DHA. If you are on a strict heart healthy diet, then consider taking fish oil supplements to obtain your daily amount of DHA.
DHA can improve healthy brain function and must be consumed through diet or supplements.
6. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 is most famous for improving heart health – but it holds incredible benefits for your brain, too. This is why CoQ10 made the list of top vitamins for stroke recovery, even though it’s a nutrient and not a vitamin.
CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that provides protection from free radicals, which are toxic molecules associated with disease. Free radicals are believed to play a role in cardiovascular disease, which is a precursor to stroke.
By supplementing with CoQ10, you can improve your heart health and, therefore, reduce your risk of a second stroke.
Also, low CoQ10 levels have been associated with greater tissue damage to the brain during stroke.
How to get CoQ10 naturally:
CoQ10 can be found in most liver organ meats like heart, liver, and kidney. However, these meats also contain high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats that exacerbate cardiovascular disease.
Small amounts of CoQ10 can be found in spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. Due to this, supplementation may be more suitable for individuals recovering from a stroke.
CoQ10 can boost recovery from stroke by protecting you from damaging free radicals associated with cardiovascular disease.
7. Vitamin C
Vitamin C deficiency may be a stroke risk factor, especially in individuals with a history of hemorrhagic strokes (the type of stroke caused by a burst artery in the brain).
In a study from the American Academy of Neurology, 65 survivors of hemorrhagic stroke were compared to 65 healthy people. On average, those who suffered a stroke had depleted levels of vitamin C while healthy people did not.
Study author Stephane Vannier, MD, concluded that “vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke.”
How to get vitamin C naturally:
Although oranges are well-known for their nutritional benefits, other fruits and vegetables, like papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, and strawberries, contain higher amounts of vitamin C.
Dr. Stephane Vannier, from Pontchaillou University Hospital in Rennes, does not recommend supplementing vitamin C if you are not deficient.
People with a history of hemorrhagic stroke should pay attention to their vitamin C levels to promote overall health and wellness.
How to Get These Stroke Supplements without Breaking Your Budget
Consider obtaining these supplements through your diet as opposed to costly pills and herbal remedies.
Eat a variety of whole foods every day, especially foods that help stroke recovery, in order to avoid developing a nutritional deficiency. Prioritize meals with minimal processing, which can strip foods of essential vitamins and minerals.
If you are unable to consume these vitamins and minerals through your diet, then consult with your physician prior to adding supplement to your medication regimen.