Help After a Head Injury

July 12, 2013
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Brain-TraumaIt seems that more attention is being brought to the effects of head/brain injuries these days. Depending on the severity of the injury, the effects of this trauma can last for months or even years. That’s why it’s important to know how to give the brain the nutrition and attention it needs after a head injury.

Head injuries can happen in the middle of a sports game, from a car or bicycle accident, from a bad fall (a common occurrence in the elderly) or in the course of military combat. “Concussion” has been the long accepted term, but it’s interchangeable with mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) or minor head trauma. Though there is no one accepted definition for concussion, they are often described as a head injury with temporary loss of brain function, with or without temporary loss of consciousness.

Here, essentially, is what happens during a concussion. The brain’s soft tissue is protected by the bony structure of the skull and facial bones. When injury or trauma occurs to the head, the brain can be shaken within the skull, causing damage to the brain tissue that causes swelling and/or bleeding.

Depending on the severity of the brain injury, a variety of symptoms may occur: headache, brain fog, dizziness, vertigo, hearing loss, blurred or double vision, changes in the ability to taste or smell, fatigue, anxiety or personality change, confusion, emotional changeability, brief loss of consciousness, loss of memory, irritability, slowed reaction times, nausea and vomiting, and sleeping difficulties.

Where most symptoms subside within a few hours or days, some may last much longer. In general, the more severe the injury, the longer the duration of symptoms. Most people will recover within three months, though children tend to heal faster than adults, and especially more quickly than the elderly or those with previous head trauma or psychiatric or substance abuse problems. Lingering symptoms are often referred to as “post concussion syndrome.”

More severe symptoms such as coma, seizures, paralysis or weakness of an arm or leg suggest a more serious form of injury. Always seek medical attention with any of the following:

  • Drowsiness or decrease in alertness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion or amnesia
  • Fever
  • Blackouts
  • Slurred speech
  • Double vision
  • Irrational or aggressive behavior
  • Seizures
  • Numbness or paralysis

Extra medical attention is also necessary if the patient is elderly, taking blood thinner, has a bleeding disorder or has a history of drug or alcohol abuse.

Supporting brain recovery

Trauma to the brain can lead to injury or even death of brain cells. It’s also possible that cells can be chemically altered through a process called oxidation. The body‘s response to oxidation is a state of inflammation—and while inflammation is a normal part of the healing process, when it is prolonged or left to run out of control it can cause headaches, as well as problems in thinking, remembering, smelling or tasting. That’s why it is especially important, post-injury, to supply the brain with compounds that promote healing and prevent oxidative damage and inflammation.

Here are some suggestions for nutrients that can help support and protect brain tissues. (Note: Before taking any supplements for a brain injury, always discuss with a qualified health care provider to ensure there will not be interactions with current medications and that they are appropriate for your type of injury.)

Omega 3 Fatty Acids (fish oil containing EPA and DHA), 1-3 grams/day. Hopefully you are already aware of the benefits of supplementing with fish oil. Both EPA and DHA are anti-inflammatory on their own, and DHA is a major building block of the brain that’s critical for optimal brain health and function. Try Nordic Naturals’ Ultimate Omega, Pharmax’s Finest Pure Fish Oil or Pharmaca’s Ultra Fish Oil.

Coenzyme Q10, 100-300 mg/day. CoQ10 stabilizes cells, promotes general cell health, acts as an antioxidant (preventing oxidation) and provides energy to the cells. Try Pharmaca’s Coenzyme Q10, Pharmaca’s CoQ10 Ubiquinol QH or New Chapter’s CoQ10 Food Complex.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid, 400-800 mg/day. Helps to prevent oxidation and spares other substances in the cell for recycling so they may perform their natural anti-oxidation functions. Try Pharmaca’s Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Jarrow Formulas’ R-Alpha Lipoic Acid or Source Naturals’ Alpha Lipoic Acid Timed Release.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine, 500-1,000 mg/day. Utilizes fats for cellular energy production and is necessary for brain cells to communicate with each other. Try Source Naturals’ Acetyl L-Carnitine & Alpha-Lipoic Acid.

Homeopathic medicines can also be very effective in aiding recovery from symptoms of head injury or can be used preventively against possible longer-term effects. Look for potencies in the lower ranges (6c, 12c, or 30c).

Arnica Montana, to address and prevent shock and trauma associated with head injury and assist with swelling, pain and inflammation from injury. Even if the person does not feel much pain (because they are still in a state of shock), it can be helpful to take Arnica.

Belladonna can be taken when there is heat, swelling, redness, throbbing and fullness with the head injury.

Hypericum Perforatum helps when there are sharp or shooting pains, spasms or seizures.

Natrum Sulphuricum is useful when there are long-term symptoms lingering after the trauma, and/or when there is depression or personality changes after injury, such as irritability and confusion.

Ask a Pharmaca practitioner for help if you know someone with brain trauma or a head injury.

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