Omega-3 Can Help After a Brain Injury

Although there is no known cure for a brain injury, there is an established Omega-3 Protocol for the management and recovery of brain health following an injury to the brain.

Omega-3s are essential to the development of the human brain. So it makes sense that following brain trauma, such as a concussion, providing omega-3s can help the brain begin to heal itself.

What are Omega-3s?

Omega-3s are unsaturated fatty acids that occur naturally in fish oils. Omega-3 is classified by the FDA as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). In fact, the FDA has stated that up to three grams of EPA+DHA per diem is safe for the average adult without fear of adverse events. (There are no known significant drug interactions with omega-3 fatty acids.) Omega-3s can be ingested as supplements or through food.

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), Omega-3s appear to prevent irregular heartbeat, reduce fatty plaques inside artery walls, decrease blood clotting, decrease triglycerides (blood fat), increase HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease inflammation.

Since many head injuries result in brain inflammation, and often, brain bleeds, the qualities of Omega-3s make them especially helpful for brain health after injury.

How can you add more Omega-3s into your diet?

It’s simple. Add more fish to your diet or take a high quality, pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement.

Here are the fish that are highest in Omega-3s:

  • Mackerel (4,107 mg per serving)
  • Salmon (4,023 mg per serving)
  • Cod Liver Oil (2,664 mg per serving)
  • Herring (3,181 mg per serving)
  • Oysters (565 mg per serving)
  • Sardines (2,205 mg per serving)
  • Anchovies (951 mg per serving)
  • Caviar (1,086 mg per serving)

There is an established Omega-3 brain health protocol, established by Dr. Michael A. Lewis, a member of the Brain Health Education & Research Institute.

  • STEP 1: Begin with a high quality fish oil supplement—Not all fish oil is the same

For Capsules: Each 1,000mg soft gel Omega-3 capsule should contain approximately 600mg of EPA & DHA omega‐3s combined.

You will need approximately 175 capsules for first two weeks.

For liquid concentrate Omega-3 oil: 1 ½ teaspoons (7.5 ml), containing approximately 3000mg (3gm) of EPA & DHA omega-3s combined.

  • STEP 2: Begin taking Omega-3 capsules as soon as possible following a brain injury:

WEEK 1:

Take 5 capsules (3 g of EPA/DHA) three times a day for 7 days

or 1 ½ teaspoons will provide approximately 3 g (3000 mg) of EPA/DHA. In most cases, five capsules of concentrated fish oil is sufficient.

WEEK 2:

Take 5 capsules (3 g of EPA/DHA) two times a day for 7 days.

  • STEP 3: Maintenance. Continuing a MAINTENANCE DOSE is important to maintain optimal brain health.

Take 5 capsules (3 g of EPA/DHA) a day.

This Brain Health and Research Institute protocol has been developed as a guideline. Since every patient and every brain injury is different, patients and their healthcare providers may wish to adjust the dosage to their needs. For example, if the injury is more severe or happened months or years prior, the patient may prefer to be on a higher dose for a longer period of time.

How can you tell that the Omega-3 protocol is helping your brain function?

Patients typically notice improvements within the first week, and often in the first several days. Depending on the individual and the injury, patients have described being able to think more clearly, more energy throughout the day, decrease headache frequency and/or intensity, and a sense of calmness.

Although this clinical protocol was tested following concussions and head injuries, some patients using the Omega-3 protocol following a stroke, or with ADHD symptoms, or depression, may also benefit from having more of the nutritional foundation of Omega-3s. Naturally, results will vary from person to person.

As always, every individual is different. Consult with your healthcare provider for the best advice for you.

What You Eat (and when) Dramatically Affects Your Brain Health

It may seem obvious to state that our brains need proper fuel to function effectively. We prove this to ourselves when we miss breakfast and find it hard to think clearly until we ingest some protein.

Protein is absorbed by our bodies and used by our brains, among other things, to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals released by our brain cells to communicate with each other. We make new neurotransmitters all the time so that we can pay attention, learn new skills, remember details, control our emotional reactions, and regulate mood.

At INDY Neurofeedback, we know that a well-balanced diet for our bodies will also significantly aid cognitive function and brain health.

Here’s how you can eat right for your brain:

When your stomach is empty, so is your brain. Starting off the day without eating protein sets the stage for impaired attention and concentration.

20 grams of protein must be consumed by lunch for effective brain function — with at least 10 grams ingested first thing in the morning.

A protein shake, a hard-boiled egg, Greek yogurt, bacon and cheese omelet, or organic peanut butter on whole wheat toast, all qualify.

If you eat a breakfast with no fat, little protein and a high glycemic index – such as sweetened cereal and milk or a bagel with fat free cream cheese — your blood sugar will skyrocket and you’ll get an energy boost. But – all too soon, your blood sugar level will crash, which triggers the release of stress hormones like adrenaline, that leave you feeling jittery, moody, and having difficulty concentrating.

When this is your child’s breakfast, no amount of medication, parenting, school intervention, or counseling will correct an attention problem that is caused by this nutritional deficiency. In a school classroom, this looks like ADHD to the teacher.

Proper nutrition is key to brain health as well as your family’s brain health. That’s why, at INDY Neurofeedback, we stress that healthy diets provide the building blocks for the brain to create and maintain neural connections.

Fad diets that dramatically reduce good and bad fats and carbs can actually be harmful to your brain! The best way to diet is to eat a balanced diet rather than completely cutting out (or dramatically reducing) important fats and carbs that your brain craves to function optimally.

Your brain needs lots of water to function effectively, too. Those eight, 8-ounce glasses of water you should consume daily help your brain think clearly every bit as much as it helps your digestion, circulation, elimination, and muscle health.

“Eat and drink wisely, for the sake of your entire body’s wellbeing,” says Leanne O’Neil of INDY Neurofeedback. “Eating healthily is as important to your brain’s effective performance as it is for your body’s. Make sure your diet is balanced with weekly servings of fish (the Omega-3 in fish is especially good for your brain health) and daily servings of brightly or darkly colored fruits and leafy vegetables.”

 

The Fascinating Brain-Gut Connection

As you eat your dinner, some pretty fascinating things are going on in your body that go well beyond filling your stomach and keeping your body fueled.

  • As you swallow, multiple enzymes in your gastrointestinal tract release the nutrients from your food into your bloodstream and deliver them to the muscles and organs in your body to give them energy.
  • You are also feeding the billions of bacteria at home in your gut. In fact, there are at least two pounds of them.
  • Interestingly, you are also actively feeding your brain, which requires a lot of fuel – and prebiotics.

Really? Your brain and gut work together? “Absolutely,” says Leanne O’Neil of INDY Neurofeedback. “That’s because what you eat doesn’t just feed your active body, it also profoundly influences your mental as well as physical health. Even more interesting, what your body can’t digest may be the biggest boon to your physical and mental well-being.”

Here’s why:

  • Every person’s microbiome is distinct, influenced by age, genetics, diet, and sex.
  • There’s a sort of secondary market for the indigestibles in your colon. This is where an incredibly diverse family of permanently entrenched bacteria feed on the enzyme-resistant carbohydrates you eat.
  • Prebiotics, types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, influence the production of gut bug-derived metabolites like short-chain fatty acids, compounds that play a pivotal role in gut-brain communication.
  • Your colon actually ferments these in ways unique to your inner gut biome. The composition of this unique microbiome influences such functions such as memory, sleep, appetite, vulnerability to stress, anxiety, depression, and lots more.

“In other words,” says O’Neil, “your gut may have way more to do with your brain than you ever thought possible.”

Recent studies show that it is prebiotics that curb your brain’s response to stress, dampening secretion of the hormone cortisol. Prebiotics also step up to regulate the way your brain processes emotional information, helping to keep it from depression.

What prebiotics can you eat to help your brain-gut connection?

Nondigestible carbohydrates (fiber), prebiotics act as fertilizer for specific strains of healthy gut bacteria.

The best-researched prebiotics are complex carbohydrates called FOS (fructooligosaccharides), which are found in fruits and vegetables.

GOS (galactooligosaccharides) are another helpful prebiotic strain, found in legumes.

New research has also discovered that polyphenol antioxidants in green tea, red wine, blueberries, and cocoa boost populations of beneficial bacteria in your microbiome. No wonder you get an emotional release after eating chocolate and consuming a glass of red wine!

The first few months of life and adolescence seem to be particularly important times for regulation of gut-brain health. This is because the diversity of the microbiome during that period will have lasting effects on the adult body, helping set the body’s stress threshold for life during certain sensitive periods of development, when the brain is growing especially rapidly.

Overall, says Leanne O’Neil, prebiotics are dietary components that can promote gut and brain health with links to physical health and mental well-being at any age. So eat – knowledgeably!

You might be surprised how little wine it takes to damage your brain

 

At INDY Neurofeedback, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, especially this time of year, but – contrary to what you may have heard, even one glass of wine a night is not a good thing – at least as far as your brain is concerned.

Many adults drink a glass of red wine a night with the understanding that it is good for the heart. And yes, studies have been telling us that moderate wine consumption may be better for your health than heavy drinking or abstaining from alcohol completely. But what does your brain have to say about it?

It turns out that even moderate alcohol intake (defined by researchers as seven to fourteen glasses of alcohol per week) may damage the brain over time. To reach this conclusion, researchers in the UK followed 550 people over 30 years, tracking:

  • weekly alcohol intake
  • cognitive, or thinking abilities, periodically
  • MRI brain scans at the end of the study

The results? A bit frightening, frankly. The more people drank, the more atrophy, or shrinking, was found in their brain’s hippocampal region. Since the hippocampus is an area involved in memory, this was significant. Even moderate drinkers were three times more likely to have hippocampus atrophy than people who abstained.

What about light drinkers? Those who drank less than seven ounces per week (about three-and-a-half glasses of wine,) didn’t have significant brain changes. But, importantly — and contrary to what we thought we knew — they didn’t experience any health benefits.

The most severe damage, not surprisingly, was found among heavy drinkers, or those who had over 30 ounces (more than about 15 glasses of wine) per week.

How to put this in perspective? Previous studies linking health benefits to moderate drinking may not have provided a complete picture. It is difficult to sort out – was it the alcohol is providing those benefits or were the people who drank only moderately simply healthier?

But, with researchers having tracked so very many people, over the course of so many years, revealing at least some evidence of physical and cognitive changes, at INDY Neurofeedback, we’re recommending that these study results should be taken (ahem) – soberly.

What does this mean for you? If you drink one drink per day during the week, and two drinks a day on the weekend, you have a higher risk of hippocampal atrophy, according to this study.

These findings contradict popular knowledge, previous studies, and the national recommendations on safe alcohol consumption. The study’s authors conclude that it “calls into question the current US guidelines.”

The bottom line: If you’re going to drink, limit yourself to one serving daily or less. Your brain will benefit from this discipline.

These common over-the-counter drugs can damage your brain

Across America, there’s a pill for just about every health issue you can think of. Americans don’t think twice about using them, either. If it’s available in a drug store, then it must be safe, right?

The problem is those pills almost always come with a lengthy list of potential side effects. And that is something you should pay close attention to, cautions Leanne O’Neil of INDY Neurofeedback, because quite a few of these side effects can adversely affect your brain.

In a new scientific study, scientists found that a class of medications called anticholinergic drugs have been definitively linked with cognitive impairment and increased risk of dementia.

What are anticholinergic drugs? They include a broad class of medications that are used to treat various medical conditions involving contraction and relaxation of muscles, such as overactive bladder, muscle spasms, breathing problems, diarrhea, gastrointestinal cramps, movement disorders, and the like. They work by blocking neurotransmitters in the brain, nerves, and nearby muscles and glands.

Though you have probably never heard of this scientific classification of drugs, you have most definitely heard of the medications themselves. They include:

  • Benadryl
  • Demerol
  • Dimetapp
  • Dramamine
  • Paxil
  • Unisom
  • VESIcare

Some are also prescribed for chronic diseases including hypertension, difficulty sleeping, cardiovascular disease, bladder control, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

What the studies found:  Using brain imaging techniques, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine found “lower metabolism and reduced brain sizes among study participants taking anticholinergic drugs.”

The IU School of Medicine study looked at 451 people with an average age of 73, sixty of whom were taking at least one anticholinergic medication. Researchers assessed the results of memory and cognitive tests, including PET scans and MRIs to determine brain structure.

The tests concluded that those taking anticholinergic drugs performed worse on short-term memory tests, executive function, verbal reasoning, planning, and problem-solving. The participants using anticholinergic drugs were also found to have reduced brain volume.

A related Indiana University study at the Center for Aging Research found that drugs with a strong anticholinergic effect could cause cognitive or brain impairment problems when taken continuously for as few as 60 days.

“Given all the research evidence, you may wish to reconsider taking any of these anticholinergic medications,” suggests Leanne O’Neil. “Ask your doctor to consider another medication whenever possible. The health of your brain needs to be factored into your medical treatment.”

Here are some helpful links to more information about anticholinergic medications including common brand names. At INDY Neurofeedback, we want to help you keep your brain as healthy as possible.

https://www.medicinenet.com/anticholinergics-antispasmodics-oral/article.htm

https://www.theseniorlist.com/list-of-anticholinergic-drugs/

https://www.healthline.com/health/anticholinergics

Eating for better brain health

It is true that ‘you are what you eat,’ especially when it comes to brain health and wellbeing. Surprised?

“Fine-tuning your brain to keep it alert and fog-free, disease-free, and operating as efficiently as possible, says Leanne O’Neil of INDY Neurofeedback, “starts with understanding what nutriments the brain needs to work most effectively. The number one thing you should be feeding your brain for mental clarity and optimum efficiency? Healthy fats,” O’Neil advises.

That’s because a robust 60% of your brain is composed of DHA and EPA. Both of these fatty acids are critical for supporting brain function, mood, regulating your body’s metabolism, and preventing inflammation. So providing your brain with omega-3 fatty acids found in things like fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and even algae, makes good sense.

Why is inflammation so important to avoid when it comes to brain health? Inflammation is linked to the progression of diseases which can prematurely age the brain such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Eating more healthy fats doesn’t mean to go on a super high-fat diet. Instead, pair healthy fats with low-glycemic plant foods that are rich in nutrients and fiber and do not interfere with blood sugar.

Healthy plant foods:

  • asparagus
  • avocados
  • blackberries
  • blueberries
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • dark leafy greens
  • mushrooms
  • nuts
  • olive oil
  • onions
  • peppers
  • radishes
  • seeds

Eating healthy fats along with these foods also helps you absorb more of the essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. There lots of delicious ways to do this, including adding more whole, real foods from high-quality sources, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Additionally, you can add some healthy saturated fats, like coconut oil and grass-fed meat. Your brain will absolutely benefit. Oh yes, and drink lots of pure, clean water!

What should you avoid? Highly processed and hydrogenated oils, which contribute to brain inflammation, including:

  • canola
  • corn
  • grapeseed
  • soybean
  • sunflower

At INDY Neurofeedback, we work with our clients so they understand how to achieve better brain health and overall wellbeing.