Over the past decade there has been rising interest in the topic of brain concussions and traumatic brain injury, especially for the purpose of understanding potential links to neurodegenerative diseases, mortality and lifelong disability. With my personal experience in having a concussion earlier this year I wanted to share with all of you how a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI) can affect gut health. Previous research has looked at the benefit of ketones, branch chain Amino acids, Omega 3 fatty acids and zinc as part of the healing process all of which I included in my own personal journey. Nutrition is a big part of healing as you will see below how TBI’s affect our gut in several ways.  

Having a Traumatic Brain injury (TBI) can disrupt our intestinal barrier by increasing intestinal permeability. This in turn can lead to certain proteins being disrupted and toxins being released throughout the body.  When this occurs one can experience fatigue, myalgias, GI disturbances and headaches to name a few.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5019014/#!po=50.0000

A substance called TNF-a increases following a traumatic brain injury which leads to loosening of tight junctions and increased intestinal permeability. This increase in permeability leads to “Leaky gut” which causes nutrients to not be absorbed well. You can decrease TNF-a by doing vagal nerve stimulation. Activities that stimulate the Vagus nerve include splashing cold water on your face when you first get up in the morning, singing or humming.  Glutamine is a supplement that helps to lower TNF-a and also assists in gut healing. 

Our Central Nervous system plays a large role in regulating intestinal barrier through the gut brain axis. The Vagus nerve is the communication line between our gut and our brain. In the event of a TBI vagal tone can be decreased leading to decreased production of digestive enzymes which is a set up for dysbiosis, SIBO and pro-inflammatory gut conditions. Gut microbiota can also be disrupted leading to GI dysfunction, systemic inflammation and altered immune function.  Making sure you get in good fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha and probiotic rich foods are helpful to keep digestion optimal. 

Although dysbiosis, SIBO and other gastrointestinal disturbances are conditions that are addressed in a Functional Medicine practice without a brain injury component; but the added knowledge that brain injury can affect our gut via the Vagus nerve and central nervous system can help to prevent long term health issues.  Dr. Bredesen refers to many holes in the roof that can lead to cognitive decline and TBI is one hole and a reminder of how important it is to keep the gut brain connection optimal after a brain injury.

Additional Resources

https://blog.designsforhealth.com/node/758

https://blog.designsforhealth.com/si-42214/new-study-demonstrates-omega-3-supplementation-attenuates-microglial-activation-and-inflammatory-response-from-traumatic-brain-injury

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