Please note: I am not a medical professional and the below information is based on my own research and experiences only. You need to seek professional medical advice if you have concerns about brain damage or any other health issues.
How brain damage affected me.
I can only really talk based on my own experience of brain damage, which was caused by the radiotherapy treatment I received (which was targeted but not stereotactic, so perhaps did more damage than the latest treatments) and, whilst somewhat life changing, is probably nowhere near as severe as that suffered by some other brain tumour sufferers.
Radiotherapy affected my memory, brain efficiency and concentration levels. I went from being someone who absorbed information with little effort, and had a high IQ, to someone who is now forgetful, slightly deaf, and often unable to view things with the clarity of mind I once had. The main area of my life that was affected was that of employment. You will find that many employers are only sympathetic to a point. Perhaps I am being too cynical but I find that, particularly private sector based, employers will only go so far as to be mindful of the law, and no further, when it comes to making the lives of their disabled employees easier. There are organisations that can help however. I talk about this more on the Employment page:
In later years I have also started to lose some of my hearing, again a consequence of the radiotherapy, and I now wear hearing aids.
Aids to Improvement
The only advice I ever received medically in relation to counter-acting the damage was to practice brain training online using programmes like Lumosity.com, which works on various aspects of your brain capacity. Did this help? I think it did, as my brain did improve to a point, and they do say the brain is a muscle, so it gets stronger with practice.
A good and varied diet will always help your brain. Oily fish is full of omega 3, and eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables always helps. Individual foods that are believed to particularly help the brain include:
- Tomatoes – They contain lycopene, which is a powerful anti-oxidant. Cooked tomatoes release even more lycopene but cause a decline in some other benefits, like vitamin C.
- Blackcurrents – One of the best sources of vitamin C, which is thought to help brain agility.
- Whole grain foods – Wholegrain foods such as wheatbran, certain cereals, wheatgerm and wholewheat pasta contain vitamin B12, folic acid and vitamin B6. A study found that women who increased their intake of such vitamins, showed an improvement in recalling information, compared to women who were not taking the supplement.
- Oily fish – Particularly oily types of fish include salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, kippers and pilchards, and they are filled with omega-3 fatty acids.
- Blueberries – These are believed to be beneficial in relation to short term memory.
- Brocolli – A good source of vitamin K, which enhances cognitive function and improves brainpower.
- Sage – Clinical trials found that healthy adults who had taken sage oil capsules performed significantly better in memory tests. It is thought to protect the chemical messengers which carry information in the brain and are essential to memory.
- Nuts – Lots of nuts are filled with vitamin E, which helps your brain to be sharper. Walnuts are believed to be particularly beneficial, as they have significantly high concentrations of DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid.
- Seeds – Another great source of vitamin E. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil (available in capsules), sunflower and pumpkin seeds are believed to be particularly beneficial.
Studies have confirmed that exercise can improve brain function after radiation damage. Exercise stimulates the brain to form new brain cells and, according to one article I read, these new brain cells are located in the area of memory and learning.
Learning to live with and accept brain damage
This is something I have struggled to do for the last 7 years, but I’m slowly getting better at it. I used to get so angry and frustrated about the fact that my brain is no longer as efficient as it was, and I now accept that this is not a healthy attitude to have. Getting annoyed at yourself because you can’t do something as efficiently as you once did, or are unable to understand things as easily as you once could, is not a good way to deal with brain damage. Learning to accept the new person you have become and adapting to the change is, in my view, definitely the best way forward. Saying that, it can be easier said than done, and I still have my moments. I am slowly learning to deal with things differently by, where possible, seeing some humour in the situation. Recently, for example, I started a new job (which is challenging in itself) and, further to going to make a cup of tea in a fairly large office, I got completely lost on the way back from the kitchen. As my eyes welled up with tears of frustration, getting at myself about how forgetful I have become (my usual reaction being either anger or upset), I managed to see the stupidity and, therefore, the amusement of the situation. I calmed down, eventually found my way back, and then made a joke of it with my new colleagues. A number of times in the past, especially in work situations, I have had to rush off and lock myself in a toilet cubicle because I have become so infuriated at myself for making a silly trivial mistake or I can’t remember what an employer instructed me to do half an hour earlier. I eventually learned that I had to learn to live with it and, after several years, I began to accept my new ability levels and adapt to my new situation. I began to set reminders on my computer, I wrote everything down, I bought an A-Z note pad so that I could write down details of new procedure, which I also typed out onto my computer.
Yes, I still have moments of exasperation, but I have learned that it is futile to bully yourself about something that you cannot immediately control and is not your fault. You are who you are, be kind to yourself.
BORING DISCLAIMER BIT
THE MATERIAL ON THIS SITE IS INTENDED TO OFFER INFORMATION ABOUT POTENTIAL ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS AND HEALTH IDEAS THAT ARE AVAILABLE. THE ADVICE ON THIS SITE, AND IN ALL OF MY PUBLISHED WORKS, ARE INTENDED SOLELY FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES AND NOT AS MEDICAL ADVICE. THE STATEMENTS IN THIS WEBSITE HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY A RELEVANT GOVERNMENT BODY. I CANNOT PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THE SUCCESS OF THE PRODUCTS AND PRACTICES DISCUSSED. PLEASE CONSULT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR MEDICAL HEALTH. BY READING THE ARTICLES AND STATEMENTS WITHIN THIS SITE YOU AGREE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THESE TERMS.