Since the movie “Concussion” was released, many conversations have been started or picked up again regarding traumatic brain injuries. The underlying theme of those conversations: We need to do a better job understanding and protecting our brains. This is something we believe strongly in and work hard for.
Along with understanding the symptoms of concussions and how to treat brain injuries, there is another important area to learn about: prevention. Brain injury prevention goes beyond whether you wear a helmet. Two people with the same injury can have two wildly different reactions—one mild, one debilitating—based on the health of their brain prior to injury.
Although we can’t control whether a brain injury happens from a fall, a car accident or a blow to the head, we can affect how well our brain copes with the trauma.
Brain health determines the response to a brain injury.
Inflammation is what makes the brain most vulnerable to increased devastation from a brain injury. Inflammation in other areas of the body (knee, ankle, etc) typically results in pain. An inflamed brain, however, does not hurt. Instead, a common symptom of brain inflammation is brain fog. People with brain fog complain that their thinking feels slow and disconnected. This is because the inflammation in the brain slows communication between neurons.
Other symptoms of brain inflammation can include memory loss, depression, anxiety and neurological disorders.
The factors that cause brain inflammation stem primarily from diet and lifestyle choices. One of the more common causes of brain inflammation is inflammation in the gut. If you have any digestive disorders—stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, gas, bloating, multiple food sensitivities—you may be at risk of brain inflammation.
Since the health of the brain determines the response to a brain injury, the effects of the brain injury will be much worse and more difficult to heal if inflammation is already a problem.
Common factors that inflame the brain:
- Food intolerances, particularly to gluten
- A diet high in sugar
- Blood sugar imbalances (low blood sugar, high blood sugar or diabetes)
- Leaky gut (a damaged gut wall that allows undigested food, bacteria and other pathogens into the bloodstream)
- Unmanaged autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
- Chronic inflammation elsewhere in the body
- Hormonal imbalances
- Poor blood flow and oxygenation (the brain cannot function well without a good flow of blood, which carries oxygen), factors that can hamper this include:
- Poor circulation
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Chronic stress
- High or low blood pressure
By knowing what symptoms to look for, you can improve your chance of a good outcome in the event of a brain injury.
The brain is an extremely malleable organ that is constantly being shaped by our environment, diet, experiences, thoughts and emotions.
More than 1.7 million people sustain a brain injury each year and more than 5 million people are disabled due to brain injuries.
The factors that support brain health are the same factors that support your body’s health. They include a whole foods diet rich in antioxidants and omega 3 fats, sufficient vitamin D, regular physical activity, enough sleep, healthy social activity, and avoiding foods and lifestyle factors that increase stress and inflammation.