Energy is often a big issue when you are recovering from stroke or brain injury. By the end of this post, you will have the tools to increase energy levels from today on. You will also learn about hormesis, an out-of-the-box way to increase energy levels (that almost no one knows about).
First, your brain is no longer working optimally. Your brain takes a lot of energy. And it takes even more energy when it repairs and recovers (1).
Second, your whole body is in fight-or-flight. Your sympathetic nervous system kicks in after brain injury and stroke, and usually does not settle down. That takes a lot of energy. Your energy factories, the mitochondria, are hugely affected. This affects your energy levels the most.
Your brain injury or damage also immediately affects your gut function (2,3). You see decreased gut function within an hour after stroke or brain injury. You even see damage to the gut wall. That is a big issue because a lot of your energy comes from optimal gut function (4,5).
You also need to compensate for lost function elsewhere. You recruit other systems for this. All that takes a lot of energy. This is why you are more tired.
Most think that tiredness comes from all the systems wearing you out, especially the adrenal glands. But research shows something completely different.
Most of your energy is produced at the cellular level. Research shows that the cellular energy factories malfunction after a brain injury or stroke. These energy factories, the mitochondria, are very vulnerable to any damage or inflammation in your body.
This malfunction makes the mitochondria shut down. This is the mitochondria’s stress response or cell danger response (6). They go from energy production to a protective mode. They repair themselves. They recharge again. But they do not produce energy, so you are fatigued and tired (7,8,9,10).
Several things have a big, immediate impact on your energy levels:
Toxins is the first of five items we will cover. You may know that toxins have a big impact on mitochondria, the energy producing cells that you have everywhere in your body. Toxins can cause the mitochondria to shut down energy production (13,14).
Sources of environmental toxins can include:
So, you must avoid these toxins, especially during your recovery. Remember, your cellular energy production systems are already less productive after brain injury and stroke.
To avoid toxins, you can:
Make sure your medications are at a minimum; they are toxic to your mitochondria in many cases. Discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist so you get the right medications you need.
The brain and gut have a very intimate relationship. They work together. There is a big highway that connects the gut and the brain. This highway is the vagus nerve or wandering nerve. There is a lot of messaging between the gut and the brain through chemicals and enzymes.
When a stroke or brain injury happens in the brain, the gut is affected. When the gut is affected, the brain is affected.
So, gut health has a big impact on your brain. It also has a big impact on the function of your mitochondria. Optimal gut health supports your immune system, reduces inflammation, and helps reduce brain inflammation.
How to improve gut function?
We start with the same habits we talked about with toxins:
But most of all, feed your good gut bacteria a lot of natural fibers. The good gut bacteria use them to produce end products that have a big impact on your brain.
What should you eat? Vegetables, vegetables, and more vegetables! If you are not used to that, slowly increase the amount and variety. More variety in your food means more resilient good gut bacteria and a more positive effect on energy production. It also means a more positive effect on inflammatory levels and brain health. So, increase the vegetables you eat (17,18) .
You can also drink bone broth, which has essential amino acids that repair your gut. If the gut lining is damaged because your brain is not functioning properly, bone broth can be beneficial. Supplements like L-glutamine can help with this as well.
Nutrition is the third item that can have a big impact on the mitochondria’s energy production. You need the building blocks of good nutrition to repair your mitochondria. You also need good nutrition for brain repair. Again, increase the good gut bacteria by increasing the amount and variety of vegetables you eat.
Omega-3s/ Good fats
You can also take supplements that enhance mitochondrial function, such as increasing DHA and EPA (found in omega-3s). DHA is found in natural krill oil derived from ocean krill. That will have a very beneficial effect on brain repair and brain function (19,20).
Omega-3s also affect blood-brain barrier function. The blood-brain barrier is often breached and damaged after a stroke or brain injury.
Research shows that increasing omega-3s also has a huge impact on energy production at a cellular level.
To increase omega-3 intake from good essential fats in your diet, you can eat:
These foods are all good for energy production in your mitochondria. They are beneficial for brain repair and optimal gut function.
Stress may be the biggest killer of your energy production. From the first day after your stroke or brain injury, you have to start reducing your stress. Involve yourself in daily routines to reduce stress.
Meditation and mindfulness
A lot of research out there shows that practicing some sort of meditation or mindfulness is one of the most beneficial things you can do to manage stress (21,22). There are lots of apps and books written on this topic; we will not go in depth into it here. But involve yourself in some form of mindfulness and meditation (23,24). This can even be prayer.
Very low-grade exercise such as Tai Chi has been shown to help after a stroke or brain injury (25,26). Low-level intensity yoga can be good, but you sometimes cannot do this in the beginning. Do the type of exercise that you can do. Start at a very low level. That is beneficial for your stress levels.
You can also listen to music or read if you enjoy that. You can be social if you are able. Be around people that give you energy and do not take your energy. This is so important!
I can tell you from personal experience: Avoid toxic people in your environment. These are people that take your energy. They do not give you energy. Do not get involved with people that do not give you positive energy!
Involve yourself with people who want to help you. This is essential for your recovery.
Please make sure that you start doing this. I cannot emphasize this enough.
The last and possibly most exciting item is hormesis. Hormesis is the opposite of what you think you need when you are tired. Hormesis is exposure to low-level stressors for a short time. It has shown the most impact on your mitochondria and cellular energy production (. Hormesis can be hugely beneficial after your stroke or brain injury, if you do not overdo it (27,28).
Some low-level stressors are:
These are easy habits that you can start implementing today.
Go outside, walk to the mailbox, get the newspaper and go inside, without putting a coat on. This is an example of cold exposure for a short time. I know this is uncomfortable at first. I do cold exposure myself with cold showers.
Cold showers are an even better way to use hormesis. Please do not try to do a full minute the first time. It will probably be too much. Start with a couple of seconds. Increase it every day. Alternate the days you do it. So, some days you do it and some days you do not. Otherwise, you get used to it.
Heat and getting sun are hugely beneficial for energy production if you are tired or have mental fatigue. But do not overdo it.
It is best to use infrared. It has a big impact on the energy production in your mitochondria and on the rest of cellular function. An infrared sauna is the best way to expose yourself to increased heat. You get a so-called heat shock effect in some of the proteins in your body. This effect is hugely beneficial for energy production.
If you can exercise, do high-intensity exercise for a very short time. Then rest after. Tabata exercise is one of the most effective (29,30). You do 20 seconds of exercise and 10 seconds of rest. Build up until you do 6 x 20 seconds of exercise and 6 periods of rest.
I understand that you cannot do this immediately after stroke or brain injury. But if you can walk, for example, start with what is intense for you. Walking can take so much energy that it is already high-intensity exercise for you. Walk for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds. Walk for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds. You get the idea. That is a very good way to do it.
Intermittent fasting can also increase your body’s resilience to stressors (31,32). In intermittent fasting, you do not eat over a longer time frame. For example, you do not eat from 6 p.m. until noon the next day. It sounds ridiculous. But I lost 6 kilos after doing this for 2 months.
This is a sure way to increase your energy if your blood sugar levels can take it. It also has a very protective effect on your brain and your gut.
Now that you know why energy is vital to recovery and have the tools, you can start improving your energy today. Remember, to increase energy levels:
You can also watch the energy mini masterclass on this topic by clicking here
Why does everything cost more energy
Brain injury affects gut function
Guts role in energy production
Cell danger response in mitochondria
Fatigue after stroke
Malfunction of mitochondria after stroke
Sleep and brain inflammation masterclass
The role of toxins on energy production
The effect of the microbiome on mental health
Best way to improve gut function
Role of omega 3 on energy production
Mindfulness and meditation effect on stress
link to mindfulness or meditation app
The effect of tai Ci after stroke
Ways to promote hormesis
Link to Tabata exercises
Intermittent fasting benefits
Energy mini masterclass:
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