If you play sports, have been in a car accident, or hit your head during a fall you know that concussions and their aftermath can be debilitating. A concussion, usually referred to as traumatic brain injury (TBI), is an injury to the brain that results from a blow or jolt to the head, such as a car accident, collision with someone else, fall, or other hit to the head. The injury can range from mild to severe.
Most TBIs are mild and resolve within 3 months with no long-term problems. However, about 10% to 15% of TBI victims have symptoms that linger and this is known as post concussive syndrome. It is still unknown why some recover quickly with no long-term problems and others do not, but we do know that those who experience symptoms for a period of time after the initial injury are at an increased risk for psychiatric disorders and dementia.
Post concussive symptoms may include:
Memory, attention, and concentration problems
Military personnel are especially affected by TBIs. Compared to civilians, veterans are disabled for longer periods of time and more likely to experience additional symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain, and increased risk for suicide and substance abuse.
Brett Favre, an investor in Prevacus, Inc., was on Fox News Mornings with Maria (February 10, 2017) with Dr. Jake VanLandingham to discuss a new drug for the treatment of concussions. http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/5318517754001/?#sp=show-clips). Prevacus, Inc.1 is currently conducting clinical trials with its neurosteroid nasal spray Prevasol™. Prevasol™ is administered immediately after a brain injury and so far has been shown to reduce edema, inflammation, and oxidative stress, all three of which are tied to the development of post concussive syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder. One key ingredient in Prevasol™ is antioxidants.
So is there a way to protect yourself from the effects of a concussion if you ever experience one? It is well known that nutrition plays a key role in recovering from TBIs. There are research studies showing the nutrients glutamine, omega-3s, Vitamin D3, and the hormone progesterone may substantially improve recovery from a concussion. One integrative medical doctor routinely prescribes the nutritional supplements alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-l-carnitine, coenzyme B complex, methylated vitamins B12 and C, choline, curcumin, vitamin D3, DHA, lipoic acid, magnesium glycinate, MCT oil, melatonin, niacinamide, and oxaloacetate with successful recoveries. However, the benefits of these nutrients and hormones are still being researched.
But research does also show that nutrition can help concussion proof your brain. Dr. Michael Lewis, MD, MPH, MBA, FACPM, founder and president of Brain Health Education and Research Institute and a retired US Air Force Colonel, is considered a pioneer in the use of omega-3s for the prevention, management, and treatment of TBIs. Dr. Lewis finds that regular dietary intake of omega-3s may actually make the brain more resilient to trauma, thus helping to prevent the development of post concussive syndrome. This makes sense when you consider the brain is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which is what omega-3s are.
So, if you are concerned about your risk for concussion or just want to keep your brain in good health, consider eating fish at least three times per week or taking an omega-3 dietary supplement daily. Food sources of omega 3s are ALWAYS the preferred source for your nutrition because there are other compounds in that food that work with a specific nutrient making it beneficial to health. Foods rich in omega-3s include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Plant foods are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which the body converts to healthy components of omega-3s (DHA and EPA). Food sources of ALA include flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and canola oil. If you do take supplements, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved doses up to 4 grams daily for those with heart disease, but the correct dose varies from individual to individual. ALWAYS consult with your doctor or registered dietitian before taking any supplement, but especially with omega-3s as they thin your blood and may increase your risk for bleeding. And always buy a reputable brand of fish oil. Nordic Naturals is one brand that is considered a good quality fish oil. But remember, if you take a fish oil supplement and “burp” up a fishy taste, that means the supplement is old and the oil has gone bad. When an oil goes bad, or turns rancid, it may actually increase inflammation in your body negating all its good benefits. Either return it or throw it out.
Brain Health Education and Research Institute: http://www.brainhealtheducation.org
The Bart Foundation: http://thebartfoundation.org
“It’s Never Too Early: Omega-3s as Preventative Medicine”. Dr. Michael D. Lewis. 2016
No Stone Unturned: A Father’s Memoir of His Son’s Encounter with Traumatic Brain Injury. Joel Goldstein. 2012