Acquired Brain Injury and Nutrition 

Brain Injury may change the way you relate to food. For some survivors, memory problems may affect food intake. Damage to the brain can cause an inability to feel full or hungry, causing you to eat too much or too little without realizing it. You may have a changed or absent sense of taste or smell. This often happens in the earlier stages of recovery and may disappear as time goes on. This could also be a side effect of medication. The simplest way to manage many nutritional concerns is to create a meal plan and record what you are eating. 

This way, if you have problems remembering when you ate, or cannot tell when you are full, you can refer to the record you are keeping. 

Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating provides basic information of good nutrition, encouraging you to enjoy a variety of foods. Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating identifies the four food groups and recommends the number of servings per day required by healthy Canadians. Factors such as age, weight, gender, activity and medical concerns will influence how many servings are required from each of the four groups. Serving sizes can be adjusted to meet individual needs. 

Emphasize cereals, breads, other grain products, vegetables and fruit. Ensure that individual needs for energy, protein, and other nutrients are met. A nutritional assessment and follow-up by a dietician may be required. Your doctor can probably recommend a dietician for you to contact. When choosing foods, take into account any problems you have with swallowing or food allergies. A speech-language pathologist can assess and treat swallowing problems; a dietician can help with food allergies. 

Choose low fat dairy products, lean meat, and food prepared with little or no fat. If you are overweight, you may need to control portion sizes as well as fat content. If you are underweight or have increased energy requirements, you may need to eat higher fat foods and maintain a healthy weight. You can also achieve and maintain a healthy body weight by participating in regular physical activity. Keep in mind that you may be restricted in what you can do because of poor balance, poor vision, fatigue, or other complications resulting from your brain injury. Keep looking for something that you are physically able to do, that you enjoy, and that contributes to your therapy. Physical, recreational, or occupational therapists may provide advice on the kinds of activities most suitable for you. 

Limiting salt may help control high blood pressure and fluid retention if you have these concerns. Caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, some colas and chocolate, is a stimulant. Your ability to tolerate caffeine may be very limited, and it may be best to avoid all caffeine, especially in the initial stages of recovery. Even if the stimulating effect of caffeine is not a problem. Health Canada suggests having no more than four cups of brewed coffee (or the caffeine equivalent in other foods and beverages) per day. 

Eating well is an important part of recovering from illness and maintaining good health. Follow Canada’s Food Guide. If you are concerned about your nutritional needs, ask your doctor for a referral to an outpatient dietician. 

[Source: Alberta Brain Injury Network: Survival Guide (2003)]