Happy Friday guys. It’s R.E.D. Friday again so thought I’d do a blog post that’s I think is of particular importance – Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in Veterans. Last week we went over gaining a Workout Edge during this whole lockdown thing.
I’ll be releasing a YouTube video version of this tomorrow, so be sure to look out for it if you follow my YouTube channel. If you’re not following it, go ahead and do that now.
SUPP UP. Special: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) In Veterans. [3 Health Tips]
After getting feedback from a poll I did on the SUPP UP. Instagram, the vote was in that you guys would like to hear more on the subject of Traumatic Brain Injury aka TBI amongst veterans. This hits home for me as well, which caused me years ago to research further into what exactly was going on, and how to work on getting things healed.
So let’s go over what TBI is, the effects of it, and sum up 3 health tips to take care of and protect your noggin’.
What is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
For a formal definition, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is when the brain incurs sudden damage cause by a jolt or blow to the head from blunt or penetrating trauma. The most common causes of this can include sports injuries [such as boxing, football (Guskiewicz et al, 2007), etc], motorcycle or car accidents/crashes, falls, and assault.
In the context of someone in the military profession however, this can also include your melon being shaken up due to handling high powered automatic weapons or being in close proximity to explosions.
Injuries can range from something as seemingly insignificant as a mild concussion, to more serious business like severe permanent brain damage. That being said, an example of low level brain injury can happen during something as simple as military training or non-intense duty, as outlined above in the previous paragraph.
What are the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
In order to understand how TBI affects the brain, let’s think of the brain like a sponge. Both your organs and your brain are similar to a sponge in that, when you squeeze a sponge, the water within shifts from one cell to the next.
Like I mentioned in both SUPP UP. No Bull, Whole Food Military Nutrition on The Go and SUPP UP. No Bull, Whole Food Military Nutrition at Home, while our bodies are overall made up of 60% water, our brains and muscles are made up of 75% water.
So similarly, like a sponge, the water in your brain and other organs does the same thing when fluids are shifted by a blow to your noggin’. This then causes trauma and a concussion, which in turn activates self-defense mechanisms to prevent further injury (Aviram, 2014).
The injury at the moment of impact is considered the primary injury, while the secondary injury is when the brain experiences delayed trauma through swelling. Due to the limited space in the skull, this reduces the flow of oxygen to the brain through blood restriction. Secondary injuries are more damaging than primary ones, more often than not (Kachmann & Horne, 2018).
Because your brain handles numerous complex functions, on a nervous system and hormonal level, you can see where I’m going with this.
Even sustaining a mild injury can affect brain health, so anything that affects brain health inadvertently affects hormone and reproductive health.
This can lead to hormonal dysregulation later on down the road (Zender, 2019), leading to things such as PTSD-like symptoms and major depression; both of which traumatic brain injury is known to cause.
So let’s focus on hormonal dysregulation.
If TBI causes a dip in hormone levels due to the brain regulating your hormones, things begin to get a little clearer.
Traumatic brain injury causing dysregulation means a dip in testosterone; a dip in testosterone can cause depression in both men (Westley et al, 2015) and women (Stanikova et al, 2019), despite women having 10x less T.
So from that basis, if we think of the percentage of military veterans that experience depression and either have suicidal tendencies or have committed suicide, you can see the link between TBI and veteran suicides, outside of the more well-known emotional trauma that contributes to suicide rates amongst military veterans. This includes those deployed and those having never been deployed (Reger et al, 2015).
What Are Some Good R&R Methods For Traumatic Brain Injury and Protecting Your Brain?
So you get it – TBI is no joke. As someone who’s amongst the many who have experienced it in the past, it does affect the brain in more ways than one. Therefore it’s absolutely critical you take care of your dome – take the initiative and do these things right now to protect and maintain your own brain health – don’t wait. All of the nutrients listed below you can find in my nutrition guides, both of which I explain in detail their other health benefits outside of just brain health.
1. NAC aka N-Acetyl-Cysteine
For my female subscribers, you’ll remember I mentioned this one in an earlier blog post. Well NAC is more than just a one-trick pony, kids. Aside from being an immune-system booster, it’s also a neuroprotectant, and has been shown to ease the effects of traumatic brain injury (Hoffer et al, 2013). I’ve been taking this for years now and I haven’t looked back since.
2. Healthy fats, Omega 3s, and DHA
The brain fucking loves fats – healthy fats that is. You’ll remember I did a blog post on this back in May, stating how healthy fats in pecans can help both the brain and heart. DHA in particular (found in fish oils), in high doses can help alleviate the effects of mild TBI (Bailes & Patel, 2014; Lewis & Bailes, 2011). Look for quality DHA, when supplementing.
When traditional Western treatment alone isn’t cutting it, acupuncture is another option to consider. How to promote neural repair following TBI has been an urgent and unmanageable problem for the medical community (Kochanek & Clark, 2016; Kline et al, 2016), but studies have shown acupuncture promotes the recovery of neurological impairment after TBI (Li et al, 2017; Wolf et al, 2015).
A little less straightforward to explain, like I mentioned earlier, when shock to the head occurs, it shakes your brain up inside your skull. This can cause bruising, bleeding, and shearing of the brain. Blood stagnation is a common symptom pattern following acute trauma, and stagnation patterns (often associated with pain) can occur through any energy decrease in the body.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) stance, blood stagnation can affect the liver. The liver, aside from just detoxification, also helps maintain function and structure of tendons in the body by maintaining proper blood flow (Wolf et al, 2015). Emotional stress can also affect the liver, which when compromised, can affect the spleen leading to other problems.
So we can say that judging by research, promoting blood circulation to remove blood stasis, phlegming resuscitation, and dredging the channel is the overall principle treatment for traumatic brain injury; and acupuncture could stimulate the surface acupoint and regulate the function of blood, organs, etc (Zhao et al, 2015).
Overall, acupuncture works best when used as a synergists to other treatments – physical, occupational, pharmacological, etc.
Most importantly, if you ever experience a blow to the head or concussion, or you’ve had either one in the past, your top priority should be to get a full hormone check blood test panel done (your doctor can easily do this) to ensure your hormone levels haven’t dropped. If they have, consult an interventional endocrinologist that’s trained to deal with TBI-induced hormone dysregulation and during the interim, use the 3 methods above until you get an appointment – WAF aka Warrior Angels Foundation is a good place to start.
All in all, your body is a complex, incredibly well thought out machine. It’s important to take care of it, just like you’d take care of that classic ride you’ve got sitting in your garage.
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Aviram, B. 2014. Krav Maga: Use Your Body as a Weapon. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
Bailes, J.E., Patel, V. 2014 The Potential for DHA to Mitigate Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Military Medicine. 179(11), pp. 112–116. Available from: https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-14-00139
Ghigo, E., Masel, B., Aimaretti, G., Léon-Carrión, J., Casanueva, F.F., Dominguez-Moralez, M.R., Elovic, E., Perrone, K., Stalla, G., Thompson, C., Urban, R. 2005. Consensus guidelines on screening for hypopituitarism following traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury. 19(9), pp. 711-724. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/02699050400025315
Guskiewicz, K. M., Marshall, S. W., Bailes, J., McCrea, M., Harding, H. P., Jr, Matthews, A., Mihalik, J. R., & Cantu, R. C. 2007. Recurrent concussion and risk of depression in retired professional football players. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 39(6), pp. 903–909. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e3180383da5
Hoffer, M.E., Balaban, C., Slade, M.D., Tsao, J.W., Hoffer, B. 2013. Amelioration of Acute Sequelae of Blast Induced Mild Traumatic Brain Injury by N-Acetyl Cysteine: A Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Study. PLOS ONE. 8(1), e54163. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0054163
Kachmann, M., Horne, D. 2018. Traumatic Brain Injury. Mayfield Brain & Spine. Available from: https://d3djccaurgtij4.cloudfront.net/pe-tbi.pdf
Kline, A.E., Leary, J.B., Radabaugh, H.L., Cheng, J.P., Bondi, C.O. 2016. Combination therapies for neurobehavioral and cognitive recovery after experimental traumatic brain injury: is more better? Progress in Neurobiology. pp. 142:45–67. Available from: https://doi.org10.1016/j.pneurobio.2016.05.002.
Kochanek, P.M., Clark, R.S.B. 2016. Traumatic brain injury research highlights in 2015. The Lancet Neurology. 15(1), pp. 13–15. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(15)00339-7.
Lewis, M.D., Bailes, J. 2011. Neuroprotection for the Warrior: Dietary Supplementation With Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Military Medicine. 176(10), pp. 1120–1127. Available from: https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-10-00466
Li, X., Chen, C., Yang, X., Wang, J., Zhao, M. L., Sun, H., Zhang, S., & Tu, Y. 2017. Acupuncture Improved Neurological Recovery after Traumatic Brain Injury by Activating BDNF/TrkB Pathway. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. 8460145. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/8460145
Rapoport, M.J., McCullagh, S., Streiner, D., Feinstein, A. 2003. The Clinical Significance of Major Depression Following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Psychosomatics. 44(1), pp. 31-37. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.psy.44.1.31
Reger, M.A., Smolenski, D.J., Skopp, N.A., Metzger-Abamukang, M.J., Kang, H.K., Bullman, T.A., Perdue, S., Gahm, G.A. 2015. Risk of Suicide Among US Military Service Members Following Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom Deployment and Separation From the US Military. JAMA Psychiatry. 72(6), pp. 561–569. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.3195
Stanikova, D., Zsido, R.G., Luck, T., Pabst, A., Enzenbach, C., Bae, Y.J., Thiery, J., Ceglarek, U., Engel, C., Wirkner, K., Stanik, J., Villringer, A., Riedel-Heller, S.G., Sacher, J. 2019. Testosterone imbalance may link depression and increased body weight in premenopausal women. Translational Psychiatry. 9:160. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-019-0487-5
Terrio, H., Brenner, L. A., Ivins, B. J., Cho, J. M., Helmick, K., Schwab, K., Scally, K., Bretthauer, R., & Warden, D. 2009. Traumatic brain injury screening: preliminary findings in a US Army Brigade Combat Team. The Journal of head trauma rehabilitation. 24(1), pp. 14–23. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1097/htr.0b013e31819581d8
Urban, R.J., Harris, P., Masel, B. 2005. Anterior hypopituitarism following traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury. 19(5), pp. 349-358. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/02699050400004807
Westley, C.J., Amdur, R.L., Irwig, M.S. 2015. High Rates of Depression and Depressive Symptoms among Men Referred for Borderline Testosterone Levels. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 12(8), pp. 1753-60. Available from: https://doi.org/10/1111/jsm/12937
Wolf, J., Sparks, L., Deng, Y., & Langland, J. 2015. Restoration of Function With Acupuncture Following Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: A Case Report. Global advances in health and medicine. 4(6), PP. 52–57. Available from: https://doi.org/10.7453/gahmj.2014.069
Zender, J.F. 2019. A New Paradigm for Traumatic Brain Injury. Psychology Today. Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-new-normal/201904/new-paradigm-traumatic-brain-injury
Zhao, Z., Zhang, W., Xing, J., Yan, X. 2015. Modern research progress regarding effect mechanism of acupuncture on post-traumatic stress disorder. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 35(10), pp. 1085–1088.
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