Natural Help for Concussions
What is a concussion?
A concussion is an injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal brain function. The CDC estimates that 1.6 million to 3.8 million concussions occur each year. They also report estimates of 300,000 sport-related concussions occur annually.
The following are concussion symptoms:
- Prolonged headache
- Vision disturbances
- Nausea or vomiting
- Impaired balance
- Memory loss
- Ringing ears
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of smell or taste
Many times you will hear concussions called mild traumatic brain injuries or MTBIs. MTBIs can lead to changes in vascular regulation and other neuro-metabolic processes that lead to chronic consequences, most notably “second impact syndrome”.
At the time a concussion happens, excitatory neurotransmitters (like histamine) are released which result in cellular membrane (Blood brain barrier or BBB) disruption and ionic (sodium/potassium etc.) imbalances. Increasing amounts of energy are required in an attempt to correct these ionic imbalances. This then increases glucose metabolism (which can then lead to a secondary hypoglycemia). This combined with decreased cerebral blood flow, results in increased energy demands and decreased availability of nutrients.
There is no such thing as a “minor concussion.”
A second concussion soon after the first one, however, does not have to be very strong for its effects to be deadly or permanently disabling (second impact syndrome). Repetitive head trauma from participation in contact sports such as boxing, football and ice hockey can lead to a permanent decrease in brain function, including:
- Early Alzheimer’s disease
- Movement disorders such as parkinsonism
- Emotional disturbances
(Taken from www.mayoclinic.org)
Post concussive syndrome
Symptoms can include:
- Memory and concentration problems
- Mood swings
- Personality changes
- Excessive drowsiness
PCS currently has no standard treatment. (Taken from www. neurosurgery.ucla.edu) However, the treatment for PCS currently in the United States may be medications for headache, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and pain; electrical stimulation or acupuncture for nerve blocks, and rehabilitation for physical/cognitive symptoms. (Taken from www.brainconcussion.net) However, these do very little, if anything, to help the brain actually heal.
Standard Medical Treatment
The standard treatment for concussion is rest. (Taken from www.aans.org) As you will soon see, this not only is this not a great situation, it can actually be detrimental. There are several treatment guidelines used to monitor (not treat) concussions and currently, there is no consensus within the sports medicine community as to which set of guidelines is the most appropriate. Some of these guidelines were derived almost 30 years ago.
Inflammation and the Brain
The body’s tissue is primarily comprised of various proteins linked together. This includes the brain and the delicate tissue surrounding it. Whenever there is tissue injury, these proteins are the broken and become “foreign”, so to speak. These foreign proteins are extremely inflammatory and can take quite a bit of time to be broken down by the body. Especially if the circulation to the area is decreased to begin with; like with a concussion. When the brain is aggravated by any source-emotional stress, infections, trauma, stroke, poisons, or nutritional deficiencies-inflammation spurs the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. For each individual the inflammatory response can be unique. Individual, personalized understanding of inflammation and its contributions to the physiology of mood disorders is a critical, but often a neglected component of integrative therapies for depression secondary to a concussion. An increasing body of evidence implicates both brain inflammation and oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Brain inflammation is also being implicated as a factor in autism and autism spectrum disorders. As you can see, simply resting after a concussion can lead to this inflammatory process in the brain to go unregulated and can go from a small brush fire to a forest fire, so to speak, very quickly.
How is lymphatic circulation involved?
Scientists have recently discovered that the brain has its own lymphatic system comprised of nerve cells called glia. They have termed this the “glymphatic” system. In essentially all neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, protein waste accumulates and eventually suffocates and kills the neuronal network of the brain. If the glymphatic system fails to cleanse the brain as it is meant to, either as a consequence of normal aging, or in response to brain injury, waste may begin to accumulate in the brain (see proteolytic enzymes below). The glymphatic system then drains into the actual lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is the garbage truck of the body; taking bacteria, used protein, and other foreign metabolites to the liver to be excreted. If the lymphatic system isn’t working efficiently, the body can become what people call “toxic”. The cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, has an intimate relationship with the lymphatic system and when the lymphatics are “sluggish”, the brain will not be able to detoxify itself easily. Swedish-type massage can help the body’s lymphatic circulation, but the best way to help is through regular chiropractic care. Doctors skilled in Applied Kinesiology methods have ways to work directly with the lymphatic system to insure it is functioning optimally.
Physiologic motion of the skull, made up of 8 bones, is very important in normal health. Many people, including some doctors, perceive that the primary purpose of the skull is to protect the brain and provide a place for the eyes and ears. While this is correct, there is much more to understanding the cranium and its association with the nervous system. Within the cranium there are “tension membranes” filled with cerebrospinal fluid and anchored to the cranial bones. These tension membranes provide support to the brain, cushioning it within the cerebrospinal fluid. There is a dynamic integration of these membranes within the minute movement of the eight bones of the skull, known as the cranial respiratory system.
There are many reasons why proper motion of the skull can be disturbed. Disruption of this subtle cranial motion, as a result of head injuries, can reduce the circulation around the injured area. This can dramatically increase healing time. Utilizing applied kinesiology methods allows doctors to assess the movement of the cranial-respiratory system and determine where the imbalance lies.
Cerebrospinal fluid is controlled and distributed to the nervous system by the gentle pulsing action of this cranial respiratory system. Scientists have known that CSF plays an important role cleansing brain tissue carrying away waste products and carrying nutrients to brain tissue through a process known as diffusion. CSF is in direct communication with the lymphatic system and consequently, the rest of the body.
The problem with “giving it time”
As you can plainly see, simply giving a concussion time to heal may not be the best idea. “Giving it time” implies that the body’s ability to heal is optimal to begin with. This is not always the case. Prior health imbalances, including prior injuries, have a cumulative effect on the body and in essence, can inhibit the body from healing efficiently. No wonder some people, especially athletes, are never the same after head injuries.
As of the writing of this post, the NFL is seeking to dismiss more than 140 consolidated concussion lawsuits that include more than 3,300 former players. If an estimated 300,000 sports-related head injuries occur every year, the amount of athletes in general, especially professional, that are dealing with PCS has to be staggering.
What you can do
We can all learn great lessons by observing animals in their natural environment. If an animal is injured, what does it do? It finds a hole or some other place to hide until it feels better. It does nothing. So, conventional treatment of rest is right on. However, neurological injuries can take large amounts of time to truly heal; if ever.
Let’s look at the word inflammation again. Inflammation is a chemical process. What are the only chemicals we are (generally) putting into our body? Food and drink, right? Food and drink can be anti-inflammatory or extremely inflammatory. There are many “anti-inflammatory” diets out there and they all have great aspects. The big things to avoid are food additives like MSG, artificial colors, and artificial sweeteners. White sugar, for a person who has just had a concussion can be VERY detrimental. NO SUGAR…period. Sugar, for any injury, but especially a brain injury is extremelyinflammatory.
Nutritional supplements can help immensely. Here is a list of Dr. Todd’s top nutrients for MTBIs.
- proteolytic enzymes like trypsin and alpha chymotrypsin.
o These enzyme “chew up” foreign proteins and allow them to be excreted. These enzymes can literally cut healing time by 50%. I have seen it first-hand.
- Superoxide Dismutase (SOD).
o This has a high level of anti-oxidant activity and is highly effective at reducing high levels of inflammation in a short period of time, especially in the brain and spinal cord.
- L-Glutathione and N-Acetyl L-Cysteine
o Some of the most powerful antioxidants known
- Vitamins A, C, E, zinc, and selenium
o These are all basic anti-oxidants and work on a multitude of levels in the body.
- B complex vitamins
o These are crucial. The brain uses more energy than any other organ in the body and the B complex vitamins are used in every energy pathway the body has. However, please see the prior blog post below in relation to choosing B vitamins.
There is help for not only concussions, but also post-concussive syndrome. The key is to find a doctor that is skilled in analysis of the body as it functions day to day. He or she should not only be skilled in basic neurology, but also how the nervous system functions as a whole. Be sure that they are well versed in nutritional therapy as it happens in a clinical setting. Optimally, the doctor of choice should be someone who can understand and analyze ALL of this…at the same time. Search out doctors skilled in the art of applied kinesiology.
Concussions are not to be taken lightly. Being proactive can have life-changing results.