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  • Help After a Head Injury

    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.

  • Aching for Arnica

    Ah, summer weekends. They can be filled with exciting activities, but also with the potential for sprained ankles and bruised knees. Get ahead of the game with Arnica, one of the most common ingredients in pain-relieving homeopathic remedies.

    What is Arnica?

    Arnica (full name: Arnica montana) grows naturally in Europe, the northern U.S., Canada and eastern Asia, and has been used both topically and orally for centuries as a remedy for sprains and bruises. Arnica is also used at full strength in herbal formulations, but is diluted according to homeopathic principles in most over-the-counter preparations on the market today.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, the homeopathic approach uses “minute doses of a substance [such as Arnica] that cause symptoms to stimulate the body’s self-healing response.” The minute doses are created through a precise process in which a substance is diluted, usually with distilled water or ethyl alcohol, in varying amounts. Homeopathy founder Samuel Hahnemann believed that the more repetitions of the dilution, the stronger the potency, since the vital essence or energy of the substance would intensify.

    In arnica’s case, its herbal properties stimulate blood flow to the trauma—be it a sprained ankle, overworked joints or a bruised knee—and help the body work harder to heal itself. “Doctors are beginning to write prescriptions for arnica, especially before surgery,” says Bonnie Edmunds, homeopath at our La Jolla store. Arnica, she says, helps speed recovery and reduce bruising and swelling.

    Common uses

    For everyday bumps and bruises, Edmunds recommends the Arnica bonus pack from Boiron, Arnica 30C pellets, which are taken sublingually (under the tongue). “The pellets are helpful if the pain and bruising covers a wide area of the body,” says Bonnie. “They can be taken orally three times a day within the first few days, and the gel, because it’s not as potent, can be applied as often as needed.” Bonnie also loves Topricin, a cream that combines Arnica with homeopathic Rhus Toxicodendron and Ruta Graveolens and is very helpful for pain and inflammation.

    When summer activities lead to soreness and pain in the muscles specifically, Bonnie likes Recovery Rub by All Terrain, which combines the healing properties of Arnica with cooling menthol that soothes tired muscles. She also recommends a homeopathic formulation of Magnesia phosphorica, which is good for muscle recovery, or Hypericum perforatum if there’s associated nerve pain.

    For those bound for exercise this weekend, Boiron Sportenine can be taken sublingually before and after a workout. Sportenine includes Arnica, Zinc and Sarcolacticum to ease fatigue, soreness and cramps.

    “The beauty of homeopathy is that it can be taken safely by anyone from babies to the elderly,” says Bonnie. Because Arnica can be found in multiple strengths and preparations, Bonnie advises speaking with a licensed homeopath to figure out the best delivery method and potency level for your needs.

    To find out if Arnica or another homeopathic remedy might be right for your pain relief, speak with a homeopath at your nearest Pharmaca.

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