For many of us, a brain injury comes from something big: a car accident, a major fall or a sports injury. We don’t realize how common brain injuries are and how they can affect both our mental and physical health. In this week’s blog and podcast, I interviewed neuropathic physician and bestselling author Dr. Kabran Chapek about the relationship between head injuries, anxiety and other mental disorders, how to heal traumatic brain injuries and concussions, PTSD and brain injuries, natural treatment options, the importance of a holistic approach to brain injuries, and how it is never too late to heal the brain.
As Dr. Chapek points out, traumatic brain injuries, even minor ones, are a common cause of mental illness, even though people rarely talk about them; it is a silent epidemic. When it comes to brain injuries, every incident matters, both big and small. Why? When the brain is injured, there is not only the primary wound, or the immediate damage done to the neurons, blood vessels and so on, but also the secondary injury: the cascade of inflammatory responses to the primary wound. This secondary injury can last for months or years if not addressed, which is why early intervention is key. The sooner you intervene, the greater chance you have at stopping damage from taking root.
Traumatic brain injuries include concussions. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, nausea, irritability, and insomnia. This can continue for weeks and months, which is known as post-concussion syndrome. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), on the other hand, involves repeated small blows to the head that, over time, cause brain damage, which leads to major issues like the dementia or mental illness This is frequently seen in high impact sports like American football.
We don’t have to go to the ER and have a diagnosed concussion to have a concussion. Often, we can’t feel damage in the brain like we can feel a broken arm or injured foot. But that doesn’t mean it is not affecting us! This is why SPECT scans like the ones Dr. Chapek uses can be so useful, allowing us to observe damage in the brain, distinguish between emotional and physical trauma, and see what needs to be addressed and how.
But we don’t need a brain scan to start healing. In his new book, Concussion Rescue, Dr. Chapek notes how the best first aid kit for the brain after any injury is to create a holistic, supportive, healing environment in the brain as soon as possible after an injury. We can do this by focusing on our diet, taking supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids, MCT oil, vitamin C and D, hormone therapy, natural sleep remedies, correcting our structural integrity (through physical therapy, functional neurology and adjustments), regular exercise, brain training and learning. There is no magic pill or program that will just fix everything overnight, and healing will take time, but the good news is that it is never too late to heal. If we change our lifestyle, we can change our brain!
Taking a tailored, holistic approach to traumatic brain injuries is so important. I did this for 20 years in my practice in South Africa and saw amazing results. This includes people who were told they would never be good in school and then went on to get their doctorate (for more on this, see my book Think, Learn, Succeed and my research). The best way to help someone is to individualize the treatment to their specific context and needs—to get to know their story and where they want to go in life, and see how you can get them there. As Dr. Chapek points out, the question should always be “how can we get you better?”.
For more on overcoming brain injuries and mental health, listen to my podcast with Dr. Chapek (episode #187), and check out his book Concussion Rescue. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing! And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media (don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
2:14 Why Dr. Chapek tries to heal complex brain issues with the least invasive methods possible
5:09 TBI and the silent epidemic
12:01 Why we need to address mild and moderate brain injuries
13:40 What is a traumatic brain injury?
20:21 What happens in the brain right after an injury?
23:30 A first-aid kit for the brain
31:00 Hormone imbalance and TBI
34:15 TBIs and PTSD among veterans
36:30 Why is a holistic approach to healing brain injury so important?
44:00 How sleep helps us heal
46:13 What are concussions and how can we prevent or heal them?
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