Foods and Activities to Avoid with Intracranial Hypertension

Intracranial hypertension, also called pseudotumor cerebri, is characterized by a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid causing swelling in the brain and an increase in blood volume in vessels surrounding the brain. While most people with this condition can continue to engage in their normal activities, others may need to avoid certain sports activities or excessive sun exposure. Fats and salt should be limited in the diet, as well as foods rich in tyramine and vitamin A.

You need not avoid swimming if you suffer from intracranial hypertension. (Image: Rick Gomez/Daniela Pena/Integrity Productions/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Salt and Fats

Eating a wide variety of healthy foods is a good way to support your body if you suffer from intracranial hypertension. However, it is important to lose weight and limit your intake of salt and fats. Intracranial hypertension often occurs in people who are overweight, especially obese women. Too much salt causes water retention in the body and, together with excess fats that add calories, hinders the necessary weight loss usually advised for this condition.

Vitamin A and Tyramine

Consult your doctor if you need to limit foods that are rich in vitamin A or tyramine, which are thought to adversely affect intracranial hypertension. Your doctor may suggest that you limit your intake of foods such as beef liver and certain vegetables, namely carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and leafy greens rich in vitamin A. In 2007 the Grysbowski-Katz project received a grant from the Intracranial Hypertension Research Foundation to study the connection between the body's metabolism of vitamin A and the place it occurs in the body and the development of excess cerebrospinal fluid and intracranial hypertension.

Tyramine is a compound produced in the natural breakdown of tyrosine, an amino acid. Because tyramine can cause blood vessels to dilate, people with intracranial hypertension should limit eating foods that contain it. These include most aged and preserved, dried or smoked foods such as pepperoni, liverwurst, pickles and pickled foods, salami, aged cheese, beer and wine. All nuts contain tyramine, as do all fermented soy products, sauerkraut, olives and broad beans. Before following a special diet, get your doctor's okay.

Sun Exposure

The Association for Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus (ASBH) reports that intracranial hypertension can cause problems with body temperature control when there is overexposure to the sun and its heat on hot days. Avoid sunbathing and stay in the shade outside or in the coolest part of an indoor room to counteract this problem. Direct sunlight may also affect the spatial judgments needed to safely cross a street or judge the distance and speed of traffic.

Sports Activities

Although most people with intracranial hypertension can carry on with their normal activities, including sports activities like running, jumping and swimming, the ASBH advises against all twisting and stretching exercises for those with a lumbar peritoneal shunt surgically inserted to divert cerebrospinal fluid. Other activities to be avoided are somersaults, bungee jumping, negative G-force rides at amusement parks, judo and rugby.

Alcohol Without Water

If you have a surgically inserted lumbar peritoneal shunts and drink alcohol, you need to avoid drinking it straight and consume sufficient clear water with it to balance your alcoholic intake and avoid dehydration that can cause a headache. You should also avoid caffeine, which can cause rebound dilation of blood vessels after the caffeine is processed in the body.

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