Six Ways to Help a Brain Heal.

By Daniel T. Moore, Ph.D.
Copyrighted 2000

There are many ways a person can harm brain cells. Obvious ways are through automobile accidents, strokes, gun wounds, etc. Some people are born with neurological damage. Chronic stress, child abuse, and nutritional deficits are less obvious ways of causing neurological damage. Even the normal aging process results in the death of nerve fibers. However, there are things that can be done to help a brain to heal from damage.

Current scientific knowledge reports that when a nerve cell dies, it does not grow back. However, existing nerve cells can grow branches or arms called dendrites that can connect to living nerve cells. When your brain cells are reconnected, you obtain your previous level of functioning and that part of your brain is healed.

Growing dendrites is a normal healing process of the brain. It is also part of the normal learning process. When you learn a new complex behavior, the brain actually grows dendrites to make nerve connections more elaborate. A piano player or a skater actually grows additional dendrites to connect nerve cells with other nerve cells as they learn more complex music or maneuvers. As the nerve cells become more connected, the pianist's or skater's abilities improve. Using this knowledge can help you with helping your child to overcome many problems that are neurologically based. Below are six guidelines to get the process off to a good start.

  1. Nutrition. Just as plants become larger and greener with fertilizer (e.g., Miracle Grow), our nerve cells can grow dendrites faster and longer with proper nutrition. Just as salt takes nutrition away from a plant, certain foods cause a drainage of nutrition and energy from children. Good nutrition is important for healing and strengthening the brain.

    As a parent you should be aware of what constitutes good nutrition. There are many resources to gain needed information. Libraries, bookstores, and health food stores often provide rich information on good nutrition and health. You may want to learn how vitamins (e.g., B complex), healing herbs (contact your health food store or nutritionist to determine the best products to help the brain) and adequate rest help the brain to heal.

  2. Rest. As sunshine helps trees grow during the daytime, sleep helps dendrites grow at night. Whenever the body is sick, it needs much sleep and rest to recover.

    For some reason, most children resist going to sleep. They often think they will miss out on a fun activity. Parents often have to strongly require their children to go to sleep at regular bed times. Having the same bed time will help children get plenty of rest.

    Some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Anxiety Disorders have a difficult time falling asleep. A side effect of some medications is keeping children awake at night. By mastering relaxation techniques, children can learn how to fall asleep. Through books and therapy, parents can learn how to help their children master relaxation techniques to assist them in getting plenty of rest and overcoming the effects of stress.

  3. Stress-free Environment. Fig trees do not grow well in Michigan because the environment is too stressful for them. Some homes are too stressful for children to heal neurologically. Parents must take whatever steps necessary to make the home environment stress-free. Parenting classes, support groups, therapists, and domestic violence shelters are always available to help families learn how to develop a stress-free lifestyle.
  4. Structure within the home is one of the greatest contributors to a stress-free environment. Children feel secure when they know the rules and know that the rules will be enforces when they are violated. Having scheduled meals, bath times, family traditions, and other types of structure all contribute to a predictable and stress-free environment. Later as children mature, they may not need as much structure, by young and traumatized children do better with much structure.

  5. Stimulation. One miraculous fact about the brain is that it will grow dendrites if it is stimulated. If you want to increase your memory, you can learn and practice exercises that will increase your memory. As you practice, you are stimulating the brain and causing dendrites to grow.

    You can stimulate dendrite growth in your child that will increase their IQ, decrease impulsive behavior, increase memory, and many other types of desired behaviors. Books such as Brain Gym have been published on this topic. With a little research, you can obtain this information and make significant progress to help your child recover. Similar exercises are used by physical therapist helping stroke victims regain motor functioning.

  6. Exercise. Not only does specific exercise help the brain to heal, general exercise creates and environment within the body that stimulates healing. Our bodies need to move around to be healthy. Exercise helps the body rid itself of toxins and waste materials from cells and body organs. Exercise also stimulates circulation to provide nutrition to each cell. All too often, some children sit around entertaining electronics and really do not move around as much as they need in order to have a healthy body.

  7. Love and Nurturance. All of the above are helpful for brain development and healing. However, a home without love and nurturance is a stressful home and is like a desert to a Cyprus tree. Children with emotional problems need more love and nurturance than other children in order to heal faster. Children with hyperactivity also need increase love and nurturance at home because they seldom get it anywhere else.

    Parenting classes, support groups, therapy, spiritual guidance, and other resources can assist you in learning how to be more loving and nurturing. Some parents have difficulty being loving while providing a structured environment with consistent discipline. Skillful parenting is an art and every parent has room for improvement. Thus, we all have shortcomings that we can overcome. How we go about improving ourselves is important. We need to nurture ourselves as we go through this growth process. As you love yourself, your children will learn how to love themselves. Love and nurturance act as a catalyst that speeds up the healing process.

These are six ways to help the brain heal. Physical and emotional growth takes time, patience and consistent application of these principles. As you apply these principles you will see improved functioning in the same way that people with yards see the growth of their plants and trees. Change, growth and healing are normal parts of everyday life. We can assist nature in these processes.

If you have any comments or questions about this article, please send us an E-mail. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance to you or your loved ones.

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