Brain Injury Rehabilitation through Nutrition and Supplementation
This post was also used as a guest blog at JoshGitalis.com
Brain Injury Rehabilitation
People are often curious as to why I, a severe traumatic brain injury survivor, place so much emphasis on nutrition and supplementation during and after recovery. My name is Cavin Balaster. In 2011, I fell 20 feet from a rooftop water tower scaffolding. My head struck the steel scaffolding on the way down before crashing onto the concrete rooftop below. I was rushed to the hospital and put on life support. While in a coma, an MRI revealed a severe diffuse axonal injury (DAI), which is one of the most devastating types of brain injury. Statistically, over 90% of patients with this injury never regain consciousness, and those who do wake up will often remain in a persistent vegetative state. 1
After 12 days in a coma, I woke with severe brain fog, memory loss, breathing problems, and I was unable to eat, walk, or talk for months. An enormous amount of work and therapy played into my rehabilitation as I worked to regain everyday faculties… As I relearned how to live.
I would remain in a severe brain fog while I relearned normal abilities, until the results of a blood test about a year after my injury led me to an incredibly important realization. My protein levels were shown to be low, which was surprising to me, because I was eating meat with every meal and having a protein shake daily. My digestion was not delivering at least some of the nutrients that my brain and body needed, and the intensely difficult work I was doing to heal myself was not being properly supported. Like a house is unable to be built without materials, the brain is unable to heal without brain-building nutrients.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition caused by increased permeability of the intestinal wall, resulting in the inability to absorb many nutrients. It is a condition known to be common with many conditions including brain injuries 2, and brain diseases 3, as well as being very common with people who have been hospitalized and put on NSAIDs and antibiotics 4, 5.
Rebooting The Gut/Brain Axis
Nutrition and supplementation were cornerstone pieces in the process of restoring the communication between my gut and my brain; finally supplying the brain building nutrition that was needed to repair at least some of my brain damage. When looking at supplementation to support an injured brain, we first have to address inflammation in both the gut and the brain.
Some supplements that act as strong antioxidants and that are able to cross the blood-brain-barrier include transdermal glutathione, bioavailable turmeric, liquid resveratrol, and melatonin. Melatonin is a highly efficient free radical scavenger and general antioxidant, but TBI survivors exhibit reduced melatonin levels after an injury 6, 7. Luckily, we can supplement melatonin in pretty therapeutic doses.
I first had to heal my digestion so that I could absorb the nutrients for my neuronal health.
While these compounds can be used to reduce the inflammation, it is especially important to eliminate the source by cleaning up the diet. After removing packaged and processed foods, I removed common inflammatories. This included gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, refined sugar, soy, shellfish, and most grains.
While practicing an elimination protocol and supplementing to quell the inflammation, next we would look towards immune support. Supplements for this include emulsified vitamin D, liposomal vitamin C, colostrum PRP spray, and fermented cod liver oil (for fat soluble vitamins like A and D, as well as omega 3s). These compounds would help to boost my immune system, and, because about 70% of the entire immune system is found in the intestinal tract 8, they would also work to support my digestion.
Of course, we would also want to provide additional support to the healing process of my inflamed intestine. Supplementation would include several digestive enzymes, L-Glutamine, licorice root, aloe vera, marshmallow root, slippery elm bark, and more gut healing compounds, which are all included in this specialty compound by Apex Energetics. A less expensive option that I also like is Designs for Health – GI Revive.
There is certainly no cookie cutter approach to brain injury treatment, but there may be a common starting point for a successful recovery. One of the most pivotal realizations that I made surrounding my injury was that there are ways that I could nutritionally support my neuronal health at a cellular level, and thereby support brain plasticity, but I first had to heal my digestion so that I could absorb the nutrients for my neuronal health. I did so through nutrition and supplementation.
For guidance on how to use nutrition and supplementation to heal your gut (for better brain health), watch this free webinar about leaky gut from my friends at SCD Lifestyle. I worked as a researcher on this program, and we’ve become friends.
3 Reasons you Should Care about Nutrition if you Care about your Brain
Leaky Gut Image Source: JillCarnahan