Until I got healthy fats in my diet, every improvement felt like a struggle

60-pct-fat-brainI’ve been thinking a lot about how things have changed for me and my TBI recovery, over the years. Thanksgiving is behind me, along with the anniversary of my fall in 2004. I’m now looking forward to 2016, looking back on my past and thinking about the future.

I have had some pretty amazing leaps forward, and now that I am in the process of finding a new neuropsychologist to work with, I am thinking a lot about where I am, relative to where I’ve been — and where I want to be. Truth be told, I have a long ways to go before I am where I really want to be. Maybe I’ll never get there. But I have my dreams. Likewise, I am so much farther along than I had been in the past. And the past year or so has seen a tremendous change in my mental state, my cognitive abilities, my resilience, and pretty much every aspect of my life. There are places where I am falling down and coming up short — memory issues, losing track of the big picture when all the details turn into many-headed hydras of problems, impulse control problems, and snapping at people (and internally) over nothing. But my ability to identify these things and deal with them is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was, just a few years back.

The thing is, at just about every turn in the road, even when I was making good progress, it felt like a struggle for me. Until the past year or so. Even when things have not been great for me, functionally, I’ve been more resilient, better able to handle the ups and downs, and I’ve learned. Lightning speed, compared to how I was before.

Coincidence? Just a fluke? Cumulative effects of good choices? I think nutrition changes have actually made the lion’s share of the difference. I mean, when I look at my life now, compared to prior years, there’s just no contest.

Today someone actually asked me about a ketogenic diet. I had toyed with the idea of that, some time back, thinking it would be helpful for me to “fine tune” my system and break my “addiction” to carbs and junk food. That was all very well and good, but it turned out to be a huge amount of work for me — I would have had to turn into a full-on zealot convert, to succeed. Plus, it turns out that the benefits can take a while to kick in. No thank you. I need to see results fairly quickly, or it just doesn’t keep my attention.

My bad, I know, but at least I know myself.

What I did do, however, is add healthy fats to my diet. The low-fat diet I was following was good, according to popular perception, but the more I read about the benefits of healthy fat — and thought about it too — the more sense it made to get some fatty goodness in my life.

And boy, am I glad I did!  If there is one thing I did that really tipped the scales in my favor, I believe it’s adding healthy fats to my diet. This is something my neuropsych would never tell me (because they’re not a nutritionist or doctor, so they don’t feel qualified to recommend these things – which is a shame). I had to find it out for myself. But if you think about it, it makes sense. We need protein and fats and good nutrition to keep our bodies nourished. A starving body has a hard time healing, and since saturated fat is one of the main components of brain (which is 60% fat, as it is), if you don’t have enough of the right kinds of fats, the brain just isn’t going to function at its peak.

I believe that’s what was happening to me over the years, and I suspect that’s what really delayed my recovery. Ten years seems like too long a time to recover from the fall I had — I know I have had a bunch of head traumas over the course of my life, but falling down a flight of stairs and hitting the back of my head doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that should nearly kill me and wreck my life for years on end.

I can’t help but wonder how things might have been, had I gotten more healthy fats in my system at the start. The brain, like any organism, needs help to heal. And by keeping my diet low-fat, I believe I was prolonging my recovery.

Not anymore.

If there’s one thing a person can do to help themself after a TBI/concussion, it’s get more healthy fats in their diet. Put a glob of Kerry Gold grass-fed butter in your coffee, instead of cream. Eat fish with high fat content — deep-water / cold water fish, especially — and foods with the good stuff, like avocados.

Drink your water. Get your exercise. Get plenty of sleep. Avoid stress.

And support your system with healthy fats, so your brain can heal faster and better.

Here’s a link to a site that gives you more information: http://greatist.com/eat/healthy-fats-best-foods-for-brain-health

Don’t be like me. There’s better information available, now. Give your brain what it needs to heal. Hopefully, you won’t have to be as patient as I have been, for as long as it’s been.

Onward.

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Going to get my taurine… and probiotics… and exercise

Gotta get some new stuff to work with
Gotta get some new stuff to work with

So, I’ve been listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast with Dr. Rhonda Patrick, and it’s pretty amazing stuff. Google it or search on YouTube. I’m not going to give you the direct link, because you should find it yourself – and beautiful things can happen when you start searching.

You’ll probably find more info out there, than I can point you to, anyway. It’s all about initiative, focus, and follow-through. And if you’re like me, you’ll go off and start searching, find a bunch of stuff that is both more relevant and a total distraction… and then 30 minutes later, you’ll realize that you were really looking for that podcast, and you have to regroup and refocus.

Which is all good practice, anyway.

I’ve been listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast (Powerful JRE), and in between the talk about MMA and smoking pot (which I don’t, for personal reasons, as well as what I’ve seen long-term smoking do to friends), there are podcasts featuring really smart people who know a lot about how the human system gets damaged — and how to fix that damage.

Dr. Mark Gordon is one of those people. Dr. Rhonda Patrick is another one. And they’re all talking about head trauma, what it does to you, and how you can mitigate the effects.

And in the process of learning more, I’m finding other information. Like how the amino acid taurine helps you grow new brain cells. Apparently, it does a lot of helpful things – and if you don’t have enough of it, it’s not great for you. That’s bad, in fact.

I’m also getting confirmation from scientists on the JRE podcast who really know how to explain things to the rest of us, that’s confirming what I’ve read and believe – in ways that really stoke my determination. Exercise has become even more important to me, thanks to their on-camera talks, and more specifically, interval training is taking center stage. I’ve been more active in the past six weeks than I have been in quite some time, thanks to the fitness centers and the pool at work, and I’d backed off on my morning workouts. But now I’m back to them, especially on weekends, pushing myself harder than I have in quite some time. Just really making myself work does wonders for my mood and alertness, over the course of each day.

I’m a little out of it this morning (workout notwithstanding). I had a long and busy week, and then I was up late last night, getting some must-do items out of the way. I also woke up early, and I’m groggy and foggy. I’m not a big fan of feeling this way, but by this afternoon, I will be on a beach, probably lying down under the umbrella, just chillin’. I’ve got a week ahead of me to balance out a little bit of work with some major chill-time, so that’s something to look forward to.

The main thing is, I stay aware of my surroundings, I take care of myself, I don’t rush, and I just be deliberate about every.little.thing.

I can’t afford to have an accident or get hurt, and I’m sufficiently depleted and spacey, that it’s a definite risk. I also can’t afford to not do the things I need to do. I’ve got errands to run and bags to pack and vehicles to clean out, before I go, so…

The main thing with me, these days, is to keep safe and get healthy and strong. There’s a tradeoff, of course, because it’s tough to get really healthy and really strong without some element of risk … or stressing your system. If you’re pushing the envelope regularly, you’re going to develop in certain ways, and those ways will probably also be accompanied by stress. It’s tough to push yourself past your limits without stress — and a bit of damage.

So, the task at hand is to not back off and avoid stress and risk and situations that test me, but to figure out how to recover better, build myself back, and develop strengths rather than weaknesses.

Some people come up against challenges, and when they fall short (or feel like they do), they interpret it as meaning they’re deficient. And as they face one challenge after another, they keep confirming their suspicions that they’re not up to the task – or any task at all. And they block themselves in, building a wall around themselves that keeps the world out and also keeps them out of the world. Eventually, it keeps them from doing anything and everything that matters to them and gives their lives meaning. They’ve done it to themselves, but they think the rest of the world is to blame.

When I fall short, I take it as a challenge and important information about where I need to improve, in order to reach my goals. If anything, I want those experiences to tear down the walls and give me more access to strengths and abilities I never knew I had before. Sometimes you have to really take a hit, before you can access hidden talents and gifts.

But you don’t want all the hits to tear the crap out of you, so…

You’ve got to build back up. Recover. Be smart about things – which can be difficult, if you’ve gotten hit in the head a bunch of times. I’m lucky, in that I know that I have executive function difficulties, so I can make some really bad decisions, especially under stressful situations or when I am tired. It gives me pause. A reality check.

Speaking of reality check, I’m getting my raw DNA data sequenced online. I uploaded my raw DNA data from ancestry.com to the website promethease.com/ondemand, paid $5, and now I’m waiting for the results. It takes about 20 minutes to do it, so I’ll go get my shower and get ready for the day, then check back in.

Fascinating stuff. Largely recreational… and who knows what I’ll find. Hopefully, I’ll get some more data that will show me where I’ve got vulnerabilities, so I can do something about them. Finding out if I’m generically predisposed to Alzheimer’s will change things for me, I’m sure. After all the TBIs I’ve had, I need to know if this could be a problem. It’s always in the back of my mind, but why not find out what the data says.

Anyway, time to get moving. This day won’t move itself.

Onward!