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mTBI and Concussion Recovery

The name of the game in concussion recovery, whether it is a new injury or an old one, is to Stop Inflammation. Unfortunately, this is no easy feat.

As with any injury, inflammation begins immediately. If you sprain your ankle, it swells. That’s inflammation. In the brain, there are specialized cells called microglia that trigger inflammation. Normally, microglia stay active for about 2 weeks post-concussion. However, they can stay active longer for a number of reasons, which will lead to neuron death and perpetuate symptoms. Often symptoms will get worse over time or may not become apparent until sometime in the future.

During the initial injury phase (first two weeks), it is extremely important to give the brain the right environment to heal. Inflammatory foods should be eliminated. These include gluten, dairy, sugar, soy and corn. In addition; alcohol, caffeine, msg, aspartame, drugs and any toxins should be avoided as they can overstimulate the brain. Electronics, bright light, studying, heavy exercise can also overstimulate the brain. Mild exercise to oxygenate the brain is encouraged. Supplements like Vit D, resveratrol, curcumin, fish oil, and glutathione will facilitate healing and prevent further damage.

Given the right environment the brain will heal beautifully. However, if another injury occurs in the two week period it will likely take 16 weeks to heal. And if in that time period another injury is sustained, the brain may never heal.

What would prevent the brain from healing? Microglia, the immune cells of the brain, being over activated is the #1 cause. And how would that happen? It usually starts in the gut. Within hours of a concussion, leaky gut develops, meaning the intestines are no longer filtering properly. Rather than only very small particles of food getting through the intestinal lining and into the blood, we now have larger food particles along with the natural bacteria that live in the intestine infiltrating into the blood. Because those items do not belong in the blood, the immune system believes they are invaders, and wages war in the form of immune system attack. Immune system attack equals inflammation. Inflammation anywhere in the body over activates the microglia. Now you have perpetual inflammation in the brain causing to memory, emotional, learning, and autonomic nervous system problems.

In order to unwind chronic inflammation in the brain we must find and reduce all forms of inflammation. It may require a gut repair program, even if you’ve never had gut symptoms. Other sources of inflammation must also be assessed including blood sugar imbalance, toxins, anemia, hormone imbalance, chronic infections, stress response and nutrient deficiencies. These factors can be assessed through specific labs and/or questionnaires offered through a practitioner educated in brain repair. Medications may be helpful in alleviating symptoms but are not likely to help repair the brain.

Once inflammation is reduced and neurons are able to repair, brain rehabilitation exercises from a Functional Neurologist will help build new nerve pathways and restore optimal brain function.