Dr. Heather’s Top 5 Nutrients for TBI

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As we learned from last week, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are not to be taken lightly. In 2013, about 2.8 billion TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths occurred in the US, and almost 330,000 kids were treated for sports and recreation-related TBIs (1). Repetitively traumatized brains exhibits similar characteristics to an Alzheimer’s brain; and increasing our risk for dementia (2). Knowing the mechanisms that occur in brain injury allows us to intentionally intervene.  

Here are my top 5 nutrient recommendations for TBI:

  1. Turmeric has an active ingredient called curcumin which is a powerful antioxidant.  Supplementing with curcumin after a TBI dramatically decreased the oxidative damage and decreased cognitive impairment (3).  Supplementing with curcumin following a TBI protects your nervous system (4).

  2. Resveratrol is a plant compound that acts like an antioxidant and is found in red wine, grapes, some berries and peanuts (5). Brains that undergo trauma have oxidative stress that causes nervous tissue death. Resveratrol intervenes in this process, protecting the tissue from dying (6).

  3. Magnesium is a potent calcium channel blocker. It is believed that excess calcium entry into the cells is the biggest threat to brain damage, because this leads to increased ROS, tissue breakdown, cell death and inflammation. Low levels of magnesium leads to increased calcium in the cells. Administering magnesium post-TBI can potentially reduce swelling, improve neurological outcomes and help prevent lack of blood flow to the brain (7).

  4. Omega-3 fatty acids are most abundantly found in fish and are present in all our tissues, particularly the retina of the eye and brain. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation after a TBI can potentially restore the survival of nerve cells. The possible support offered by omega-3 FA’s include: nerve cell survival, reduction in neuronal cell death, reduced ROS, and aiding the brain in adaptation (8).  

  5. Zinc is a required element for many proteins and acts as a signaling messenger in the nervous system (9). Zinc supplementation during TBI recovery may improve associated cognitive and behavioral deficits. After head injury, TBI patients excrete zinc through the urine for weeks following the accident, resulting in reduced blood levels (10). So use zinc supplements to prevent against deficiency.  

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