Image by Ewa Urban from Pixabay

June 24, 2019


Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, TBI, are real problems in modern America. The driving force behind TBI is some physically traumatic event that rattles the brain producing a significant inflammatory response that does not resolve appropriately leaving the sufferer with subacute or chronic negative symptoms .

There is a significant body of research looking at the effects of omega three fatty acids on the brain in relation to inflammation.

Omega three fatty acids are poly-unsaturated fats that are found primarily in cold water fish, wild naturally fed animal meats and plants like flax and chia seeds.

Dr. Bailes looked at the effects of DHA, an omega three fatty acid, on the traumatic brain of rodents over 30 days noting that there was a 5-fold reduction in axonal neuron damage. This is direct evidence that the fatty acid DHA can protect the brain's cells from damage post trauma. (Bailes et. al. 2010) Their group reversed the study to evaluate the protection from DHA before the injury occurred and found that protection was conferred. There was a 7-fold reduction in axonal neuron injury. (Bailes et. al. 2011)

In military active duty members, Dr. Lewis and colleagues looked at DHA levels in suicidal events and found that if the DHA level was low, there was a 62% increased risk of suicide versus controls. (Lewis 2011)

When they looked at active duty members in general, they found that at baseline they had extremely low omega 3 fatty acid levels in their system predisposing them to high risk neurological injury.

Based on this data set, it would seem prudent for humans to make sure that they are getting adequate volumes of omega 3 fats in their diet or to supplement with fish oil as directed by a healthcare provider versed in its use. (Lewis et. al. 2011)

What are some other neuroprotective products that protect the brain. The chemical sulforaphane from brussel sprouts and broccoli sprouts activates the gene NRF2 which protects brain cells from damage. Magnesium from leafy greens, beans and nuts help protect the brain by supporting the activity of neurotransmitters, methylation pathways and detoxification. Zinc is a necessary cofactor for cellular regeneration. Eating pumpkin seeds, nuts, beans, meat, fish and shellfish are great sources. (Linus Pauling Institute)

There is also emerging data that cannabinoid or CBD oil has the ability to increase a chemical in the brain called FAAH which in turn has the ability to reduce the production of pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid. CBD also competitively reduces NFkB levels further reducing post injury inflammation in the cell. (Benito et. al. 2008)

Other beneficial supplements for brain protection are N-acetyl cysteine, NAC, and co enzyme Q10, CoQ10. NAC is a precursor and rate limiting step in the production of glutathione which is a major chemical clearance mechanism in all cells. CoQ10 is a cofactor in the mitochondria and allows for more effective activity in producing energy.

If you or your child has suffered a traumatic head injury, consider talking to your physician about the above plan for recovery.

We are now recommending that all athletes that play contact sports consider taking fish oil. However, they should absolutely consume a diet that is loaded with fish, nuts, beans, seeds, leafy greens and sprouts for neuro-protection.

Dr. M

Bailes Journal of Neurotrauma Article
Bailes Journal of Neurosurgery Article
Lewis Journal of Clinical Psychiatry Article
Protect the Brain Site
Benito British J of Pharmacology Article
Sulforaphane Linus Pauling Site
Kumar J Traditional and Complementary Medicine
Lewis Military Medicine Article