Brain Food: Using Nutrition to Support Brain Healing
Brain Food: A foundation for healing trauma.
Not only do chronic stress, anxiety, fear, and trauma have a negative impact on mental health, they can also have a major effect on physical health. When experienced chronically, stress depletes the body of Vitamin C and causes inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain and digestive tract. (To learn how inflammation negatively affects brain health, readThe Link Between Brain Inflammation and Mental Health.) Additionally, thyroid hormones and cortisol levels are raised when a person is in “fight or flight” mode. All of this combined wreaks havoc on the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to catching more colds and other illnesses. Fatigue, brain fog, and emotional instability may also result.
Because trauma touches every part of a person, healing needs to be sought in all areas. It may be years before a child is ready or able to process the deeper emotional and mental wounds, but providing nourishing brain food is something that can begin right away.
Sometimes, the physical body needs to be stabilized before deeper healing work should be started. By ensuring your child gets a balanced, nutritious diet with consistent meals and snacks, you will set them up with the proper building blocks to begin the slower process of emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.
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What qualifies as Brain Food?
Vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients in rebuilding the brain. These are best found in fresh, whole foods:
- Salmon. Try replacing canned Tuna with canned Salmon. Salmon is higher in omega-3’s than tuna, and tuna fish has high levels of mercury (a neurotoxin) which can be harmful to the brain and affect children more than adults. (gotmercury.com)
- Eggs have the essential omega-3 fatty acid and B vitamin-like nutrients that support neurological health.
- Whole Grains cause less inflammation than white flour and release sugars more slowly, keeping blood sugars stable.
- Oatmeal is a good source of fiber and minerals. It’s a very nutrient-dense food and will keep your child full longer than highly processed, sugary cereals.
- Berries have many brain-health benefits. They contain several vitamins, including Vitamin C, and the seeds contain omega-3’s. Studies also report berries help reverse neurological damage.
- Beans are a high protein source, and Pinto and Kidney Beans have higher levels of omega-3’s than other beans, making them the smart “brain food” bean choices.
- Nuts and Seeds, especially raw almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds for their omega-3’s
- Colorful Veggies are superfoods packed with essential vitamins and minerals.
- Avocados are a rich source of healthy, brain-nourishing fat.
- Yogurt with live cultures is helpful to improve digestion and healthy gut bacteria (Probiotic).
- Water: Our brains are 80% water and our bodies need plenty of it to function properly. Dehydration can cause headaches, brain fog, and the brain to under-function.
- Vitamin C reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system.
- Magnesium combats inflammation, eases anxiety, calms nerves, and promotes better sleep.
- Fish oil capsules provide essential fatty acids.
- Probiotics help balance gut bacteria (The gut and brain are interconnected– A balanced gut can help heal the brain).
Foods to avoid as much as possible
- Refined Sugar
- Refined Flour
- Deep fried foods, chips, and processed junk food
- Artificial Food Dye
- Processed Meats
These types of foods are difficult to digest, cause inflammation, rob your child’s brain of nutrients, are linked to mental health issues, and add to the stress-load the body is already under.
The Importance of Planning
A little time spent planning healthy meals will make it much easier to implement nutrition as part of your child’s care plan. Putting recipes, shopping lists, and menus down on paper frees up mental space making it easier to stick to a nutritious and healing diet plan.
Also, when away from home, carry snacks to avoid having to resort to unhealthy “quick” junk-foods. Baggies of nuts or trail mix (without candy!) are an easy option.
Benefits of Brain Food
Providing 3 meals a day, plus a couple of snacks filled with nourishing brain foods will:
- help stabilize blood sugar
- promote emotional stability
- help rebuild neurotransmitters
- set the stage for future, deeper healing
If making all of the changes at once seems overwhelming, pick a few manageable options to start with, adding more as you’re able. It will eventually become routine, and the benefit for your child and the entire family will be worth it!
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or doctor. The information provided in this article is a result of my own reading/research, recommendations I’ve received from my chiropractor. and the physical and mental health benefits I’ve personally experienced for myself and my son through diet/nutrition. This article does not take into account possible food allergies or sensitivities. It is wise to do your own research and consult with your own circle of professionals when making any major changes to your child’s care plan.