Traumatic brain injury (TBI) effects about 1 in 10 Canadians yearly. Brain injuries contribute to a significant number of mental, emotional and physical disabilities as well as death. Put simply, that blow to the head may have more dire consequences than previously thought. The world of concussion management has certainly gained a greater respect and understanding for the consequences from something seemingly as "minor" as a bump on the head during hockey practice, for example. Mood disturbances, sleeping problems, fatigue and low libido are now recognized as being potential symptoms of a brain injury when seen alongside the obvious of having an episode of receiving a blow to the head. A 2013 study published in the journal, Nature shows that brain injury "...induces vascular damage, meningeal cell death, and the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS)...". In a nutshell, brain injury induces a list of inflammatory responses in the brain that can have far more long-term consequences than previously thought.
The most common symptoms of a TBI include:
- temporary memory loss (ex. unable to remember the incident or events just prior to or after the blow)
- confusion or disorientation
- blurry vision
- nausea and vomiting
The less common symptoms of a lingering TBI are now recognized to include:
- anger, increased irritability
- emotional lability
- long-term memory disturbances or inability to focus
- thyroid dysregulation
- sex hormone dysregulation
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
From my own clinical experience and what I've seen in the literature, it has become increasingly apparent to me how vital a team-based approach is for TBI support. From neurologists to physiotherapists to optometrists and functional medicine practitioners like a naturopathic doctor, the synergy between various health care practitioners can improve signs and symptoms of a TBI faster than monotherapies alone. All aspects of care need to be addressed in order for quicker recovery times and an improved quality of life.
From a complimentary perspective, brain tissue healing and decreasing neurological inflammation is incredibly important for long-term recovery from a TBI. There are a number of studies available, including the above-mentioned study published in Nature, supporting the use of powerful antioxidants like glutathione for use in brain injuries, showing a beneficial effect on decreasing brain tissue inflammation and improving overall signs and symptoms in subjects. And in addition to reducing neurological inflammation, complimentary medicine is also excellent at providing relief from symptoms associated with a TBI such as insomnia, hormone dysregulation and mood changes. But complimentary medicine can't function alone in treating brain injury. Just like re-building a motor on a car (my grandpa was a lover of cars so bear with me!), cleaning up the parts by taking all the gunk and rust off them is great but then they need to be put back together in order to work. Complimentary medicine is the de-greaser and health care practitioners such as optometrists, physiotherapists and neurologists put the parts back together. Each step is just as important as the next.