Head Injuries: Why Rest and Recover Might Not Be Enough

Concussion and treatment for them continues in the news as the long term side effects have shown up in retired NFL players. Other sports such as soccer, ice hockey, rugby, boxing, wrestling, cheerleading, and volleyball also have high risk for concussions. While many of the concussion risks and prevalence coincides with childhood and adolescent sports, adult concussions from car accidents and falls are also very common, and blast injuries and head banging can also cause concussions. Concussions are traumatic brain injuries and can have more severe effects that people generally think they can. While avoiding concussions is ideal, the accurate assessment, treatment and brain support following a concussion can affect how severe and how long any side effects may be present.

It is also important to remember that concussions can occur anytime the brain is shaken in the skull, therefore it does not require a direct hit to the head to occur. The word concussion literally means “to shake violently.” Severe movement of the brain inside the skull can also cause concussions. In a small amount of cases CTE can occur. This is chronic traumatic encephalopathy which is brain degeneration from repeated head trauma. Symptoms include cognitive impairment, impulsive behavior, depression, speech impairments, difficulty motor planning, and even substance abuse and suicide ideation.

Head injuries that don’t result on a loss of consciousness often go unnoticed and untreated, but still cause brain damage. The general treatment for head injuries is rest and recover. While this is generally necessary to let the brain rest, supporting the brain from the inside out can help to restore cognitive function quicker. Lifestyle and nutrition for a healthy brain should be a primary focus in addition to rest and restore. Consider these brain booster ideas if a head injury should occur and if deficits from a past injury are still present, pay close attention to 2,3, and 4 in the list below.  

Detox with Water

Your brain is 80% water and dehydration will always slow healing. Take hydration seriously when it comes to healing the brain. The quality of your water is a key part of this as you do not want introduce more chemicals, medications, and heavy metals into the brain while it is healing. If at all possible, choose reverse osmosis or a purified water type you trust that is not stored in plastic.

Boost Immunity

Anytime healing needs to occur, more support needs to occur as well. More raw materials available for the stressed systems must be available. This is why simple antioxidant options like Curcumin, vitamin C, CoQ10 and even a quality multivitamin can support healing, decrease inflammation, and give the brain what it needs to heal. An easy way to support immunity and brain health is also with essential oils such as Copaiba, Frankincense, and Turmeric.

Feed The Brain

Every reaction and process in the body requires nutrition. We often take this for granted. When an injury has occured, supporting with extra nutrition is key. This means supplementing strategically the brain more brain building materials such as phosphatidylcholine, amino acids, digestive enzymes, magnesium, Alpha Lipoic Acid and NAC (N-Acetylcysteine). The quality and dosing of these extra nutrients for the brain is key in maximizing effectiveness. Over the counter supplements based on the label’s instructions will never give you the quality and potency needed to truly restore your brain power. Work with a qualified functional medicine practitioner to really do brain health right.

Eat Healthy

As said above, the brain needs nutrition to function optimally and especially to heal. Key elements of nutrition for the brain include quality protein, organic produce, nuts, seeds, and quality fats. Here are a few examples for each of these areas:

Quality Protein: The quality of meat is important for getting lower inflammatory response from eating meat. Choose grass-fed beef, pastured or organic chicken, wild caught fish, pastured eggs, and grass-fed collagen based protein powder

Organic Produce: If all fruits and vegetables cannot be organic, choose based on the current “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen” lists updated each year by the (Environmental Working Group (EWG.org))

Nuts and Seeds: Choose organic when possible, and limit portions of nuts to ½ – 1 cup daily if trying to lose weight unless on a low carbohydrate eating plan. Most nuts are better digested when soaked overnight and then dehydrated or roasted on lowest temperature in the oven. Soaking and roasting nuts improves bioavailability of nutrients. Seeds including chia, flax and hemp are good sources of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. They make great salad toppings or mix-ins to dairy-free yogurt bowls or protein balls.

Quality Fats: The types of fat you eat is extremely important for brain health. The types of fats can significantly increase or decrease brain inflammation. Choose olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil, avocados and grass-fed/organic butter or ghee most often

Take It Easy

Rest is best for brain injuries. You do need to take your doctor’s advice after a head injury by getting adequate sleep, avoiding high stress situations, and being careful of excessive brain stimulation from electronics. As you see from the previous four suggestions, resting is not the only thing you can or should do for recovering your brain, but it still is an important part. Take the rest, take the time off work, get help at home, and relax. Giving your brain the rest it needs to heal in the beginning, will speed up healing in the long run.

Working with a functional medicine team like the doctors at LifeWorks Integrative Health will further support this healing process. Taking general supplements for brain health or even proprietary blends for brain healing will not necessarily get you the healing you need since your physiological needs are different than someone else.

Also, widely sold brain blends are designed for general public use and often do not use therapeutic doses of the ingredients. In other words, they are just not as strong and effective as what a practitioner working specifically with your individual needs can offer.

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