Everything is food, food, food
Everything is food to go
Everything is food for thought
Everything you knead is dough
It is food
Everything is food

popeye_flickr_ccThe bizarre lyric quoted from the likewise bizarre 1980 musical, Popeye, would seem to serve no other purpose aside from the superimposition of Wimpy’s defining characteristic upon the entire community of Sweet Haven.  The song in which it appears seems to come out of nowhere, and it does nothing to forward the nebulous plot of the film.  However, the song’s message carries inherent relevance in a story about a heroic sailor who gets his superpowers from eating spinach.  To Popeye, everything is food; and that food is also everything to the people he defends.

Good nutrition, furthermore, is not just for tattooed roughnecks with unorthodox pronunciation.  Everyone can benefit from a balanced diet, including those who are not about to deck a several-times-larger behemoth in defense of a spaghetti-shaped female.  Among those who may profit the most from good nutrition are the recent victims of traumatic brain injury.

The rate and thoroughness with which such injuries heal is, in fact, based on many factors.  However, the simple measures taken to support the body’s own efforts at repair should not be neglected.  For those on the mend from brain injury a few easy procedures can make a significant difference:

1.      Prevent severe nitrogen deficiency and promote healing.

A dramatic increase in metabolism is known to accompany low ratings (between three and eight) on the Glasgow Coma Scale, which measures a person’s level of consciousness following a traumatic brain injury.  This ramping up that constitutes the body’s response to head trauma is extremely draining on the body’s reserve of resources and demanding of even the energy it takes to maintain a healthy stasis.  While nutrients are being diverted to the site of injury, the rest of the body runs the risk of sustaining harm of its own as its supply is cut off.

An element that is in high demand throughout the body is nitrogen.  Nitrogen is particularly crucial to the body in recovery because it is used to synthesize proteins for the growth and regeneration of various tissues—i.e., healing.  Since tissues are always being grown and replaced, nitrogen is needed on a fairly constant basis; however, a traumatic brain injury may use up as much as 15% of nitrogen during hyper metabolism, leaving other areas vulnerable.  To prevent further wear and tear, eating the right food is vital.  The best source of nitrogen is vegetables, in particular leafy greens and legumes.

2.      Repair/prevent further nerve damage with omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids, much like you would expect, are a terrific source of “good” fat.  But how does the body use this “good” fat, and why is this important in the case of a traumatic brain injury?  In fact, there is a very direct link between omega-3 fatty acids and the central nervous system; and this link is surrounded by myelin sheaths—the lipid casings that wrap around nerves to speed impulses along and to preserve the nerves that carry those messages.  In a traumatic brain injury, the nerves are in an especially exposed state and will likely need more myelin-building material to perform the necessary repairs.  Omega-3 fatty acids provide this material.

While it is commonly known that fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, it is less widely recognized that walnuts, flaxseed, and canola, olive, and soybean oil also provide this invaluable nutrient to those who, may have allergies to seafood or other dietary restrictions that forbid its consumption.

3.      Stay hydrated to keep healthy brain structure intact.

A 2011 study detailed in Human Brain Mapping found that dehydration (another side effect of hypermetabolism) can cause “shrinkage of brain tissue” and that “reduced water intake may adversely impact executive functions such as planning and visuo-spatial processing.” While many of the dehydrated text subjects were able to perform the same functions as their well-hydrated counterparts, they required the mobilization of a greater number of neurons in order to do so.  Because the brain under [re]construction is already multitasking, water intake should equal the task.

The consequences of inadequate nutrition following a traumatic brain injury may be very serious:  a 2008 study of 800 patients in the Journal of Neurosurgery found that “patients who were not fed within 5 and 7 days after TBI had a 2- and 4-fold increased likelihood of death, respectively.” More striking still, “every 10-kcal/kg decrease in caloric intake was associated with a 30–40% increase in mortality rates.”  Clearly, refueling is of vital importance to the brain injury victim on the mend.

The simplicity of this dramatic contributor to healing should come as some relief.  However, this measure is more powerful when the measures preceding it have been taken with due care and diligence.  If you have recently sustained a traumatic brain injury or are the caretaker of someone who has, you may experience difficulty in dealing with insurance companies and/or the framers of an accident before you even get to this stage.  Yet, the successful recovery of a brain injury victim depends on the effectiveness of the first care they receive before a great deal of time has elapsed.

For those who are in the unfortunate predicament of tending to a brain injury without the needed cooperation, a traumatic brain injury attorney can equip you with the tools to speed the process along.  Unlike your insurance company or the author of a car accident, a traumatic brain injury attorney has every incentive to see that you are compensated fully and given the best possible care.

To contact a personal injury attorney about the possibility that you are owed more than you have access to, call Christensen & Hymas at (801) 506-0800.  Without a fee or the promise of retainment, Christensen & Hymas offer sympathy and sound legal advice.  Don’t wait for the situation to worsen.  If you need help, the time to act is now.

Image Courtesy of Kevin Dooley