WHAT IS TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY?
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a disruption of the brain’s normal function that is caused by a violent blow or jolt to the head. When a shattered piece of skull or some other object goes through the brain tissue, this is a penetrating head injury that is also a TBI.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON CAUSES?
In older adults and younger children falls are the main way people end up with a brain injury. Preventative measures can make a huge difference, like making sure all the rugs are “firmly in place” and aren’t a tripping hazard.
Car, bike and motorcycle accidents are well known for causing TBI. Even pedestrians near where the accident occurs can be at risk. These vehicles can be moving quite fast and pose an increased risk for injury. Accidents being what they make it a little harder to avoid or prevent this cause. However, if people never drove drunk or intoxicated that would certainly help. Sport’s injuries can cause a variety of health issues and injury to your brain (eg. Concussion) and can be at the top of the list of problems especially in sports like hockey, boxing or skateboarding. You know, any sport that is a little bit (or a lot) extreme. Sadly, domestic violence is also a cause of some cases of brain injury.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BRAIN WHEN YOU SUSTAIN A BLOW TO THE HEAD?
To put it simply “brain bounce” literally your brain bounces around inside the skull. The cells and nerves in the brain get twisted and stretched and it can change how the chemicals in the brain work for a time. This affects how the brain sends messages to the body. Depending on where the brain hits the inside of the skull different areas of function can be affected. Sometimes there is some bleeding caused by a bruise to the brain, this is very similar to the bruises you might find on your arms or legs, only way more serious. Brain swelling after a concussion or head injury may increase the severity of the injury. A strong blow to the head can cause a more serious initial injury to the brain. When the brain tissue bleeds and swells you have contusion, a fracture of the skull is another serious complication.
Okay, so your toddler fell backward over the chair and banged their head, your teenager had his head smashed into the boards playing hockey or your daredevil child did some fancy trick on their skateboard that just didn’t end well, what symptoms do you need to watch for?
- Nausea & vomiting
- Headaches or pressure in the head
- Convulsions or seizures
- Vision problems (blurry, double)
- Light sensitivity
These symptoms are pretty common to watch for after a possible concussion, remember repeated concussions compound the problem! A serious concussion or brain injury can be debilitating, so what treatments are commonly used to help the brain heal?
TREATMENT OF TBI
Treatment of TBI varies it really depends on the severity of the issue. It can be as simple as getting lots of rest, especially cognitive rest. This means don’t text, play video games, watch tv, use computers or do school work. Anti inflammatory drugs and pain killers can be used to reduce swelling and make the person more comfortable. Nausea is a difficult issue because the products used to combat this can often make you extremely lethargic, which is another symptom of TBI so these drugs are best avoided. For sports injuries you should gradually transition back to play, maybe start with practice and then move to games if you remain symptom-free.
Severe cases call for more invasive and often long-term treatment when cognitive processing is impaired. Initially the larger concerns are to support and protect the function the of brain and other vital organs, followed by managing pain and resting to heal and recover. Then further assessment is required to determine the proper course of treatment and determine if additional therapies or medicines are required. Chronic TBI can lead to depression, anger, poor judgement, memory issues, communication problems and even paranoia, this is only a partial list.
COMPLICATIONS OF TBI & THE NATURAL APPROACH
Naturopathic medicine is a system that uses natural remedies to help the body heal itself. For TBI the focus should be on treating the problem with natural anti-inflammatories, adaptogens, neuroprotective, neuro-regenerative agents and of course analgesics. Reducing inflammation of the brain short term and long term will help promote quicker healing, while other remedies are used to support the regrowth of brain tissue and improve function. Where needed, remedies will be used to help support and manage any changes to personality, behavior, and cognitive processing.
Even the food you eat can have an impact on your healing process during recovery and rehabilitation. Would you believe that some plant flavonoids (chemicals found in plants) can be used to help manage symptoms?
Improve nerve function & promote regrowth of Brain Tissue by adding these to your diet….
- Omega 3’s
So, we have talked about what you can put into your diet that might help you, but we have so much more ground to cover. It is truly unbelievable the amount of alternative, holistic options that there really are. Since I am not writing an entire book, I am going to add a couple of charts to help you see at a glance the different natural options that you have.
First, we are going to look at some of the herbal products that are used for brain injury.
|Use for neuropathy – External application||St. John’s Work, chili peppers|
|To optimize circulation & reduce inflammation||Hawthorne, rosemary, linden, ginger|
|Adaptogenic Supports brain with neuropsychiatric symptoms|
|Nootropic/ neuroprotective effects||Huperzia serrato|
|Helps Relieve depression||St. John’s Wort|
|Supports central nervous systemUseful to manage neuropsychiatric symptoms||Skullcap, lemon balms, kava kava, bacopa monnieri|
Homeopathy is also very useful for helping with recovery and improving quality of life for people with TBI. A clinical trial done in 1999 by Chapman et al, focused on treating persistent MTBI (mild traumatic brain injury). It was a randomized double blind, placebo-controlled study. This means that the patient has no idea if they are receiving a standard treatment or a placebo and even the doctor doesn’t know. That way any sort of doctor bias is avoided when evaluating each patient. The reliability of clinical trial results are improved when this is the case.
The results? Without getting into all the complicated statistical information the results indicated a significant improvement that translated into clinically significant outcomes. The outcomes were good but need to be repeated with a much larger group in order to verify these results.
How do you know what remedies to look at? Check out the chart below for some concise information to help answer this question.
|HOMEOPATHICREMEDY||USE IT FOR|
|ARNICA||HEAD TRAUMA WHEN IT HAPPENS, GOOD FOR CONCUSSION AND BRAIN INJURY.GOOD FOR PEOPLE WHO INSIST THEY ARE FINE AFTER INJURY.|
|NAT SULPH||GOOD FOR HEAD INJURY WHEN THERE IS DIFFICULTY BREATHINGALSO USED FOR LONG TERM SYMPTOMS THAT INCLUDE PERSONALITY CHANGES|
|BELLADONNA||HEAT REDNESS THROBBING FULL FEELING IN THE HEAD|
|HYPERICUM||SHARP/SHOOTING PAINS, SPASMS OR SEIZURES AFTER A HEAD INJURY|
|CICUTA||FOR CASES WHERE SEIZURE FOLLOWS HEAD INJURY, OR HEAD INJURY IS SIGNIFICANT ENOUGH TO CAUSE MENTAL RETARDATION|
|HELLEBORUS||WHEN PERSON WITH HEAD INJURY HAS MENTAL DULLNESS AND MAY TALK VERY SLOWLY AFTER THE INJURY|
These charts are a good place to start when you are looking for help with concussions from sports or brain injuries from accidents or falls. They are by no means complete and are not meant to replace your doctor’s advice.
HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY FOR CHRONIC TBI
While busy researching what natural remedies could be used, I stumbled upon the idea of using Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy (HBOT) to treat neurological conditions that previously were given only palliative care. You heard me right hyperbaric chambers that were originally used in the 1930’s to treat decompression illness in divers are now being used to treat chronic TBI. Apparently there has been a lot of published works about human trials on this and the evidence supports how well it actually does work.
Big problem! There is no way to perform this test without actually doing it. So basically, all the patients would get the treatment and that is not valid in the scientific community, a control group is needed that doesn’t get the “real” treatment. That technicality aside, what do they say happens? HBOT’s primary mechanism is to temporarily hyper-oxygenate body tissues. It seems that many health issues can be helped as long as the treatment doesn’t happen for too long a time, because then it can be dangerous.
If a hyper-oxygenated state is maintained for long periods it will cause significant oxidative damage, but when it is “pulsed” for an hour it triggers a variety of healing processes without overwhelming the body’s anti-oxidant system. The currently known mechanisms include a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, reduction of edema, increased blood perfusion, angiogenesis, stimulation of the immune system, stimulation of endogenous antioxidant systems, mobilization of stem cells from bone marrow, axonal regrowth, and modulation of the expression of thousands of genes involved in the inflammatory response and various healing responses
Bruce I. Goderez, MD
Let’s just go ahead and simplify that a little. Shai Efrati a researcher and doctor at Tel Aviv University in Israel is a leading hyperbaric scientist says that these patients don’t have enough oxygen to heal the injured parts of their brains. Hyperbaric treatment massively increases the amount of oxygen available to the brain. Post concussion syndrome can be very difficult to treat because even when working normally the brain requires a lot of energy. It needs even more energy to heal. According to Efrati injured brain cells don’t just die they kind of hang around alive but not able to do their job; hyperbaric therapy can return them to full function.
We are not talking about miracles or cures here, we are talking about progress, recovery and a much better quality of life. Your brain is a very complicated biological machine that medicine and science are just starting to understand. We have a long way to go, but we have made great strides in treatment and recovery. Looking at all the options is always good, but talk to your doctor before you add anything to your treatment plan.
Chapman EH, Weintraub RJ, Milburn MA, Pirozzi TO, Woo E. Homeopathic treatment of mild traumatic brain injury: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Head Trauma Rehabil. 1999 Dec;14(6):521-42. doi: 10.1097/00001199-199912000-00002. PMID: 10671699.