How to Heal from Brain Injury
- Brain injuries are a major cause of disability in the United States with side effects lasting days or a lifetime, depending on the injury and treatment plan.
- Your brain is in a constant state of losing brain cells and rebuilding brain cells. The problem arises when your brain loses cells faster than it can regenerate cells which can be caused by a variety of health related issues.
- One remedy for brain injury is through brain mapping, a non-invasive quantitative electroencephalogram (EEG) that senses the electrical activity in the brain and records the data to determine areas of the brain that may not be properly functioning.
The recent events in the news surrounding brain injuries from athletics have highlighted very important issues in regards to brain health. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of disability in the United States and contributes to roughly 30 percent of all injury related deaths. The effects of TBI can last days or a lifetime, which is why understanding the brain and the various treatments available are critical in order to fully heal. More people are becoming aware of the dangers of brain injuries as well as seeking alternative therapies to help heal.
Like many parts of the body, your brain is constantly rebuilding itself. You are always losing brain cells (neurodegeneration) and you are always building brain cells (neuroregeneration). One of the main health concerns is when your body loses brain cells faster than it builds brain cells, which can lead to cognitive dysfunction as well as a myriad of other health problems.
Neurodegeneration is the term used to describe the progressive damage of nerve cells. Some of the most common causes of neurodegeneration are:
Think of your brain like an onion in a jar filled with water. If you shake the jar, what happens to the onion? You see, your brain does not have anything holding itself in place; it is an organ floating freely in fluid surrounded by your skull. When you shake the jar, the onion becomes damaged, bruised and impaired. This is similar to the effect on the brain, when your brain incurs blunt force it causes damage to the nerve cells, or neurodegeneration.
One might not think of blood sugar as having a damaging effect on brain cells; however, blood sugar levels play a very important role in the vitality of the brain which is why hypoglycemia is often referred to as “type 3 diabetes.” In fact, studies show that increased glucose levels lead to memory and cognitive deficiencies as well as cause the brain to shrink. It can also lead to small-vessel disease which restricts blood flow to the brain and if severe, can cause vascular dementia.
Mycotoxins are molds or toxins caused by yeast and other fungi that wreck havoc on your health and are unfortunately becoming increasingly common in our diet and lifestyle. Mycotoxins are found in our foods, particularly those sprayed with harmful chemicals and fertilizers, as well as our living environments. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that roughly 25 percent of the food crops in the world are affected by mycotoxins. There are a number of symptoms of mold toxicity like fatigue and weakness, headache, light sensitivity, poor memory, decreased cognitive function, shortness of breath, and joint aches and pains to name a few.
Infections of the brain can be caused by viruses, bacteria fungi or parasites. Researches from the immunology laboratory at UW Medicine South Lake Union commented that central nervous system infections are a “profound and growing burden to global public health.” Infections can cause inflammation of the brain leading to encephalitis and inflammation of the tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord or more commonly referred to as meningitis. Bacteria and other infectious organisms can reach the brain and surrounding tissues by the blood, by entering the brain directly from the outside (for instance, through a skull fracture or during surgery on the brain) or by spreading from nearby infected structures, like from the sinuses or middle ear.
Stress has a detrimental impact on the body, weakening the immune system and increasing inflammation. Moreover, chronic and unmanaged stress damages the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory. Studies show that prolonged elevated cortisol levels can even lead to hard-wiring brain pathways causing you to live in a constant state of fight-or-flight, further damaging the brain.
Neuroregeneration is the term used to describe repairing and rebuilding brain cells. A few of the best ways to help rebuild brain cells are:
Neurofeedback is a safe, non-invasive and drug free way to correct brain patterns. Neurofeedback is a quantitative EEG that measures the electrical brain activity to identify irregular brainwaves. It then modifies timing patterns in the brain in order to retrain the brain into normal patterns, resulting in an improvement in brain regulation and function.
LiveO2 is oxygen therapy that supercharges oxygen into the brain, restoring energy and vitality. More effective than hyperbaric chamber, LiveO2 therapy can be used to prevent or address health problems caused by poor oxygen delivery. By increasing the amount of oxygen in the body, you are boosting cellular energy that can repair damaged tissues as well as contains anti-aging properties and aids in weight loss.
There are a number of supplements that can help restore normal brain function by supporting the body’s natural healing pathways. Glutathione, for instance, is arguably one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body found within the cell. It is responsible for keeping the cells running smoothly as well as detoxifying and removing chemicals from the body in order to maintain optimal intracellular health.
Functional medicine is a more holistic way to evaluate your health by examining the body as a whole and finding the underlying root cause versus treating the symptoms. Nutrient levels like Vitamin D and anemia all affect body’s ability to repair and are critical components in optimizing brain function.
Neurology encompasses the central nervous system and can be used to help heal from brain related injuries. For instance, certain eye movement exercises can help teach the brain to start regenerating by identifying various pathologies of the brain.
A brain map is a non-invasive quantitative electroencephalogram (EEG) that senses the electrical activity in the brain and records the data to determine where the brain might not be properly functioning. Instead of treating the symptoms of neurological issues, brain mapping is a safe and drug-free way to identify the specific areas that need attention in order to teach the brain to respond differently.
To conduct a brain map, a cap is placed on top of your head, covering all areas. While you’re relaxing, an EEG captures the electrical impulses in the brain, providing an accurate recording of your brain function. This information is then uploaded to a database where it is contrasted against normal brainwaves to determine any irregular patterns. The findings are generated in a clear and concise report which is then reviewed to determine problem areas of the brain.
Foods to Help Support Brain Health
In addition to the methods previously mentioned, diet has a tremendous impact on brain and overall health and well-being. The foods we eat have a direct effect on brain health so it is important to make sure we are consuming nourishing foods that help stabilize our blood sugar and provide a wide variety of nutrients to the body.
First, let’s discuss the foods to avoid which would be the processed foods, anything made with refined flours and artificial sweeteners and preservatives. In addition, avoid all processed fats like hydrogenated oils, margarine and trans fats. These fats have been chemically altered and are detrimental to the body. Instead, choose wholesome foods that are in their most natural state like fresh fruits and vegetables, humanely raised meats and seafood, real fats, grass-fed dairy and properly prepared and unprocessed grains.
Below are the top six foods to help support brain health:
Fat is the preferred source of energy for your body, contrary to the popular belief that fat is bad. Processed fats like trans fats, hydrogenated oils and margarine are damaging to the body but healthy fats like grass-fed butter, ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds are all healthy fats that help boost brain function. In fact, your brain is made up of 60 percent fats! The best way to consume fats is by cooking your proteins in a healthy fat like ghee or butter as well as incorporating healthy fat foods into your diet.
A great way to start your day is by adding butter (yes BUTTER!) into your morning coffee, or more commonly referred to as Bulletproof Coffee. Not only does it taste amazing, but it helps stabilize your energy levels by providing the body with a healthy dose of fats to power through the day.
Turmeric, the vibrant yellow curry spice often used in Indian cuisine, contains many healing properties and has been used in medicine for thousands of years. Research has shown that certain compounds in turmeric can increase neural stem cell growth in the brain by nearly 80 percent. Turmeric also helps lower inflammation and aid in a wide variety of diseases ranging from neurological disorders to auto-immune disease.
Check out this nourishing Turmeric & Yogurt Braised Chicken recipe and this incredibly soothing Turmeric Tea (also known as Golden Milk) for more ways to incorporate this healthy spice into your diet.
Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids that are one of the healthiest foods for the brain. Over two-thirds of the brain’s fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in oily fish like salmon. DHA is essential for protecting your brain from injury and also helps produce neurotransmitters which relay messages to cells. The human body does not produce DHA on its own which is why it is important to make sure you’re getting enough through diet by eating wild caught salmon. Always look for wild caught seafood as opposed to farm raised because wild caught is much higher in nutrients like healthy cholesterol, Vitamin D, and omega-3’s.
One of the best and easiest ways to cook salmon is by slow roasting at a low temperature to preserve the omega3’s. Check out this easy slow roasted salmon recipe for perfectly cooked fish each time!
Bone broth is one of the healthiest foods you can consume for your body as it yields a variety of health benefits. Since the 80 percent of the immune system is located in the gut and the gut and brain are heavily correlated, it becomes even more important to support gut health. Many neurological diseases are being traced back to the gut like depression, anxiety, ADD and ADHD. Bone broth is full of gut-healing nutrients like collagen and l.glutamine that also help reduce inflammation. It also is a great source of protein and fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K that are critical for optimal brain health. Consuming broth on a daily basis is an excellent way to nourish the body, heal the gut, and boost the immune system.
Check out this blog post for more information on how to make your own nourishing broth.
Eggs are an excellent source of healthy cholesterol and fat, two significant components in optimal brain health. They are also high in choline, or essentially what your brain uses to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is critical in maintaining memory and communication among brain cells. Plus, eggs are an excellent source of protein as well as B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, iron and copper, making them an eggcelent choice for any meal or snack!
Speaking of snack, these Sausage & Bacon Egg Cups are perfect to have on hand for brain food in between meals or perfect for a grab-and-go breakfast idea.
Nuts are another great source of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts, in particular, are wonderful in helping boost cognitive function as well as contain a high level of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.They are great for a snack or taste amazing mixed in this delicious Brain Boosting Smoothie made with avocado, banana, blueberries, walnuts and protein powder.
There are a number of natural ways to heal brain injuries and support the body without the use of harmful medications that only treat the symptoms. With the increasing awareness surrounding brain injuries, it becomes even more important to take initiative in your health and restore your wellbeing.