How to prevent a concussion with nutrition: 3 tips for food and supplements to protect your brain
Concussion nutrition is a super exciting field. As much as I help my clients heal their injury after it’s happened, I also want to prevent them and others from ever developing persistent concussion symptoms.
I’m a registered dietitian. I’ve also had multiple concussions. Nutrition is key for brain health. Research is showing that certain foods and nutrients might help make you and your brain more resilient to injury and concussion.
So here are 3 nutrition tips to show you how to prevent a concussion with nutrition.
1) Prevent injury by getting enough energy
When it comes to sports injuries, one common predisposing factor is simply not meeting energy needs. In other words, not eating enough to meet the demands of training.
If we’re training at a high volume and not eating enough, injuries might happen due to changes in hormones, lowered bone mass density, and other serious problems known under the term Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, or RED-S.
Although RED-S hasn’t been studied directly in relation to concussion, one military study showed that meeting energy needs decreased risk-taking behaviours and increased self-control.
I think it makes good sense to say that when you have enough energy to perform your best, this puts you in a better position to prevent any kind of injury.
2) Include foods from MIND
MIND is the most researched dietary pattern shown to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).
The best part is that it’s not a restrictive diet! It’s a way of eating that encourages certain brain-boosting foods.
- Green leafy vegetables, 6 or more times a week
- Other vegetables, 1 or more a day
- Berries, 2 or more times a week
- Nuts, 5 or more times a week
- Whole grains, 3 or more servings a day
- Fish, 1 or more times a week
- Beans, 4 or more times a week
- Poultry, 2 or more times a week
- Olive oil is the primary oil of choice
This is good news as it shows that adding more of these foods to your daily routine help to build a strong brain that can handle health challenges.
3) Focus on key supplements
Most research on how to prevent a concussion with nutrition has been on supplements. At the forefront is research on omega-3 fats.
DHA is a type of omega-3 fat that is important for both structure and function in the brain.
One study gave American football players an omega-3 supplement containing 2000 mg of DHA during the preseason and regular season. Compared to American football players who didn’t receive omega-3 supplements, those who did had lower blood levels of a marker for repetitive head injuries. This showed that the omega-3 supplement protected the brain.
Vitamin D is also important for preventing concussions.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in traumatic brain injury patients and affects recovery. In one animal study, vitamin D deficiency at the time of injury increased inflammation and exacerbated the injury. This leads us to believe that not having enough vitamin D before a head injury can make recovery worse.
It’s hard to get enough vitamin D through food. Although our body can make vitamin D from sun exposure, it’s generally not possible to make enough during the winter months. So a regular supplement is your best option.
Other supplements being studied in concussion prevention are creatine and curcumin.
Creatine offers the brain an alternative source of energy. Because a concussion causes an energy crisis in the brain after injury, creatine is thought to maintain energy balance.
Curcumin is an antioxidant that can help lower inflammation. After a concussion, inflammation is responsible for a secondary injury, which is thought to heighten prolonged concussion symptoms.
So providing energy and antioxidants might help blunt the initial injury and prevent persisting concussion symptoms.
How to prevent a concussion
Nutrition is one factor, but there are many important things to consider when it comes to head injury prevention! Rules in sports, heat illness, and equipment, just to name a few.
Check out Parachute Canada for more on preventing concussions and what to do if you think you have a concussion.
For clear, stress-free nutrition that helps heal your brain and nourish your mind, check out my website dedicated to nutrition for concussion: kjmnutrition.com
Best in brain health,
Krystal Merrells, RD