Healing the Brain After Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Have you sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of a fall, military combat, competitive sports or car accident? 

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects 1.4 million people per year and can be caused by any bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain.  TBI is a more common occurrence than we realize and the number of TBI’s have increased dramatically over the last decade. From 2006 until 2014, the number of TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths increased by 53%.  In 2014 alone, more than 155 people died each day from injuries that included TBI!  

Classification of TBI

Falls, auto accidents, being struck by objects and violence are the most common causes of TBI. According to classification standards, the severity of TBI can range from mild to severe, with mild TBI resulting in brief loss of consciousness and alteration in mental status or memory.  Severe TBI is associated with longer periods of unconsciousness and greater impacts on the brain long-term. No matter the severity, ALL TBIs can result in serious, debilitating chronic health problems that can go on for a lifetime. Moreover, the help that TBI-sufferers need is often not received because many individuals are under-diagnosed and under-treated.  One population group often affected by TBIs and who fall into the under-diagnosed and under-treated categories are military veterans and current service members who have sustained blast injuries in combat. 

Downstream Effects of TBI

Post-concussion syndrome (PCS), the chronic effects of TBI, can linger for years to decades and is a leading cause of disability.  Common symptoms of PCS include headaches, vertigo, fatigue, brain fog, memory problems, insomnia, depression or other mood changes. Depression tied to traumatic brain injury is often debilitating and it has been shown that those who have suffered TBIs are two times more likely to commit suicide than those who have not.

The Hidden Connection Between “Leaky Brain” and “Leaky Gut”

TBI has also been shown to cause both acute and chronic neurodegeneration – from free radical build-up, damage to the blood-brain-barrier and death of brain cells.  Just like damage to the brain can cause “leaky brain” where large particles can easily cross from outside to inside the brain, research has also found a two-way link between TBI and intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut.”  The intestinal lining (the inside wall of your intestine) is crucial for absorption of nutrients and serves as a barrier, helping to keep food particles, bacteria, viruses and fungi out of the bloodstream, where they shouldn’t be.  It has been shown that those who have suffered TBI often experience chronic infections after their injury and this is likely due to the damage that is sustained to the intestinal lining after a brain injury. To make matters worse, these infections and resultant body-wide inflammation could actually exacerbate brain damage and chronic health conditions.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Can Heal the Brain

One treatment offered at Conscious Human Medicine that has garnered much attention for its brain-healing abilities is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT).  In TBI, the brain, and later the gastrointestinal lining, suffer an insult that usually results in an area or areas that become damaged and then hypoxic, or without oxygen. Without oxygen, those areas are not able to function like they were able to prior to the TBI.  Oxygen is VITAL to the health of the brain and gastrointestinal tract and without oxygen this begins a process called neurodegeneration — the process by which brain tissue literally starts to die. This is why those who suffer from TBI and post-concussion syndrome so often end up with memory problems, brain fog, personality changes and depression.  These are all signs that your brain is dying. In neurodegeneration, the brain becomes rigid and unpliable. The brain needs to be fluid and it likes to reorganize itself – creating new connections throughout the lifespan, a process called neuroplasticity. This causes strength and resilience of the brain to do more, respond better to demand and become more resilient in the face of challenges and even physical insults to the brain.  

HBOT uses the power of pressure to force oxygen into the lungs and body, flooding the bloodstream, cells and brain with nutrients and oxygen.  Simply put, more oxygen and nutrient delivery to damaged tissue results in healing. Using SPECT scans, an imaging modality used to look at blood flow in the brain, multiple research teams over the years have shown increased blood flow to the brain following HBOT in patients with varying brain conditions, including TBI, stroke and autism, to name a few.  The areas that originally were in deficit usually show up in blue or green, meaning there is little blood flow and/or activity taking place. After HBOT, the area LIGHTS UP in orange or red, showing a complete reversal of the damage done by TBI. This usually, if not always, translates to improvement in the symptoms of TBI and post-concussion syndrome, including memory loss, depression, brain fog, headaches, insomnia and fatigue.  

Intravenous (IV) Nutritional Therapy Restores Function in TBI

Another treatment that we use at Conscious Human Medicine to help reverse neurodegeneration and repair the brain after TBI is Intravenous (IV) Nutritional therapy.  IV Nutritional Therapy delivers nutrients directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the stomach and intestines.  If the intestinal lining, and it’s absorptive capacity become damaged, receiving nutrition is crucial to prevent malnourishment and overt vitamin deficiencies.  In IV Therapy, patients receive a high concentration of nutrients in the fastest and most absorbable manner into the cells. Many of these nutrients traverse the blood-brain-barrier and are able to go directly into the brain where healing takes place.

Each case of TBI is unique and we individualize our IV treatments depending on a patient’s needs.  As part of our nutritional IV regimen for TBI and other neurodegenerative conditions, we use intravenous glutathione.  Glutathione is one of the best known agents for helping to reduce free radical build-up in brain cells and has shown great promise in reversing many conditions associated with neurodegeneration and TBI’s.  It has been shown that blood levels of vitamin C are dramatically reduced following a traumatic brain injury and so we also often recommend high-dose intravenous vitamin C (IVC) to improve brain function and reduce free radical damage.  At Conscious Human Medicine, we also often use phosphatidyl choline, a fat-containing molecule that lines every cell, including brain cells, and that is crucial for healthy brain functioning and alpha lipoic acid (ALA) another potent free radical scavenger in our IV formulations.  

Naturopathic Approaches to Treat TBI

While HBOT and IV Therapy are just two of the amazing modalities that we offer people suffering from TBI and post-concussion syndrome, at Conscious Human Medicine we also offer many other modalities that have shown to be beneficial for TBI including Biofeedback and Biopuncture.  As naturopathic doctors, we also often take a deeper dive into our patient’s health history and run appropriate laboratory tests to determine how best to help our patients no matter the health concern they come to us with. Some of the tests that we investigate in TBI include hormones, inflammatory markers, lab tests associated with the health of the red blood cells, white blood cells, liver, brain and many more.  As a cornerstone of our work with TBI, we always attempt to reduce neuroinflammation, improve the body’s ability to recover from free-radical damage, heal the leaky blood-brain-barrier and gastrointestinal lining and provide patients with targeted, high-quality nutrients in an individualized manner. Using HBOT, IV therapy, biofeedback, biopuncture, customized lifestyle intervention and nutritional support we have had great success in helping those with TBI heal their brains (and guts!) and dramatically improve the quality of their lives.  

If you or a loved one are suffering from the effects of a TBI or post-concussion syndrome and are interested in a FREE 15 minute consultation to discuss how Conscious Human Medicine can help you, call us today! 

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