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Are There Things That You Can Do To Improve Cognition?

I have recently recovered from a neurological condition known as IIH. According to some doctors, this is a relatively benign condition, but actually, it left me with an acquired brain injury (ABI) as proved via neurological testing at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. Fortunately, I lost the weight and the pressure returned to normal.

However, I was left with the ABI, which needed time to heal. They could give me no further information about how long it would take to heal, or even whether it would heal at all! I knew that I’d have to do everything in my power to help my brain to recover, or to at least compensate for the problems caused. Here’s what I did…

1.    Overhauled my diet
This is the first thing I did, and the most important I think. I cut out all processed foods and started to eat only healthy food. Here’s an example of a typical day:

•    Breakfast: a banana with almond milk smoothie. Almonds are very good for improving mood and so are bananas. The ABI can give you mood swings, so this is a good stabiliser. I’ll add a cup of tea of weak coffee on the side. This is enough to stimulate the brain, but not to overdo it.

•    Lunch: 100g of tomatoes (cherry tomatoes on the vine because they’re tastier and I believe better for you), 100g of cucumber, ham or avocado or tuna/mackerel, 1 slice of whole grain bread.

•    Dinner: 1 chicken breast, 50g (dry) couscous, vegetables (courgette, tomatoes, onions, peppers, chickpeas, garlic, carrot), and a vegetable stock cube.

•    Snacks: a treat food (packet of crisps, chocolate bar, popcorn, or something similar. The trick is not to deprive yourself completely), some seaweed (the iodine is excellent for brain health, but it tastes a bit awful), some nuts (normally almonds or pumpkin seeds because they’re best for brain health).

I will still occasionally treat myself. For example, I had McDonalds on Saturday night after a few drinks. However, I make sure that I keep this to a minimum.

2.    Took some carefully chosen supplements
I don’t want to rattle when I walk, but a few carefully selected supplements are a must. I take the following:

•    Cod liver oil capsules – high strength. I also combine these with a baby aspirin to help with any inflammation there might be in the brain. DO NOT USE BABY ASPIRIN UNLESS YOU’VE TALKED TO YOUR DOCTOR. It can be dangerous in some cases, so check before you take any.

•    NADH supplement this supplement purports to increase communication between brain nerves (neurons), which are slowed with ABI. NADH Supplement can help minimise foggy thinking, which was a huge problem for me.


3.    Took a 20 minute walk everyday
That’s all you need to do. You don’t need to do a heavy work out at the gym, which in my case can make things worse because it raises cerebral fluid pressure. Instead, a 20-minute walk can work wonders. It helps to bring your mood up, control melatonin levels, and improve muscle tone.

4.    Looked after my mental health
This is vital when you have a chronic illness. There are three things that I do here (as well as all of the above, which also contribute to good mood):

1.    Spend 10 minutes every two or three days practicing mindful meditation. I’m now at the stage where I can trigger it whenever I want, so on my walk I might meditate too.

2.    Spend time learning and practicing CBT with a trained specialist.

3.    Spend time reading the book “Hope and Help for your Nerves” by Claire Weekes. I don’t know if this will help you, or if I simply have an anxiety disorder on top of the IIH (anxiety/depression go hand in hand with chronic illness), but it works wonders for me.

I hope that you have found this article useful. Don’t be discouraged and assume you have to make these changes all at once. It took me an entire year to turn them all into habits. Research the “x-effect” for further help on habit forming.

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