Although brain injury symptoms may subside enough for you to return to daily life, trauma to the brain can continue to subtly wreak havoc on how your body functions and feels for month and even years later. For instance, many people notice their hormone function isn’t the same after a brain injury.
Your hormonal command center — the hypothalamus and pituitary gland — is in the brain. Although a head injury may occur in an isolated area, the vast networks of communication across the entire brain mean that damage to one area affects the entire brain. And because the brain runs the body, it only makes sense daily operations of the body take a hit too.
Estimates on how many people suffer from hormone disorders caused by brain injury vary, however, one study of 1,000 patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) found almost 30 percent had compromised pituitary function.
We’re learning what a vital role good gut bacteria play in immune health, brain health, mood, and, of course, gut health. We also know that the best way to beef up your good gut bacteria is through eating lots of different kinds of vegetables and fruits every day. But researchers have discovered yet another way to promote healthy gut bacteria: Regular exercise.
Our digestive tract is home to trillions of gut bacteria that weigh about three to four pounds all together, and are made up of over a 1,000 different species and 5,000 strains. Our body depends on these gut bacteria to:
- Metabolize nutrients
- Protect the intestinal wall
- Produce vitamin K and short chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are important for immune health
- Maintain health of the digestive tract
- Regulate immunity
- Prevent inflammation
- Promote good brain health and function
As our understanding of healthy gut bacteria evolves, so does the information on how to cultivate your own “microbiome” while inhibiting overgrowth of “bad” bacteria that are infectious and inflammatory. Initially, fermented foods and probiotics were thought to be the main recourse.
We’ve long been pitched canola’s health benefits. After all, Whole Foods uses it in all their prepared foods and many vegetarian and vegan products proudly promote it as a feature ingredient. But when scientists, who had shown the brain benefits of olive oil in mice, decided to run the same studies with canola oil, they uncovered a darker truth: Canola oil worsens memory and promotes amyloid plaques, a hallmark Alzheimer’s symptom.
In the olive oil study, researchers gave mice with Alzheimer’s Disease a diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil and found that compared to the control group, the mice experienced improvements in memory as well as a reduction in amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau, which creates the neurofibrillary tangles that degenerate the brain in Alzheimer’s.
They replicated the study with canola oil, one of the cheapest and most widely used oils in the world, to see what effects it might have on the brain.
There was a time many people — who are not yet that old — can remember when autism was relatively uncommon. Today it’s so common special education classes have exploded in numbers many parents have a child on the autism spectrum. Although we’d like to blame increased diagnoses, the fact is overall childhood brain development disorders have been skyrocketing in the last two decades and now stand at a shocking 1 in 14 children. These disorders include autism spectrum disorder, an intellectual disability, or a developmental delay
According to the National Health Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), rates of autism have been rising sharply:
2000: 1 in 150 children
2007: 1 in 91 children
2010: 1 in 68 children
2016: 1 in 36 children
Ours is a tricky culture in which to raise a child. We idolize thinness, shame the fat, yet live in a society that constantly begs — if not harasses — us to over indulge in sugary, fattening foods. Also, thanks to busy working parents, many kids are left to their own devices when it comes to meals and it’s no surprise they go for junk food and sodas. As a result, about 20 percent of America’s children are now obese and rates of type 2 diabetes among children are on the rise.
Children who are obese are more likely to be bullied. Research shows that not only does bullying impact a child’s mental health and self-esteem, it also further promotes obesity. The bullied kid eats more and is further sedentary in an attempt to cope with the painful emotions of being bullied.
The way children are spoken to, or in front of, by doctors and by their parents, as well as teased by family members, can also further promote obesity, according to research.
About one in four Americans suffer from migraines, or head pain that lasts four to 72 hours, in the United States and it’s a leading cause of disability. Fortunately, by understanding how metabolic disorders affect the brain, we can use functional neurology and neurochemistry to help many people with migraines find lasting and significant relief.
Many migraine sufferers feel they miss out on much of their lives. It’s hard to make commitments to social events, concerts, picnics, or other events because they never know when they’ll be felled by a migraine. Many migraine patients are also dependent on one or more drugs to function, and some of these drugs can cause rebound migraines!
When a migraine is coming on or hits, symptoms may include not only pain but also inability to tolerate light or sound, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, numbness and tingling in different parts of the body, visual auras, déjà vu, hallucinations, and more. These symptoms are important clues in functional neurology to help us determine which part of the brain is affected during the migraine. For instance, visual auras indicate an issue in the occipital lobe, which governs vision, while déjà vu signals a migraine affecting the temporal lobe, which plays a role in time perception.
Because women make up about 75 percent of autoimmune disease diagnoses, this means many sufferers of chronic illness are also raising children. It’s common for women to feel disappointed or inferior because they are not the kind of mom they had envisioned. But the perfect mom is an unattainable myth, and it’s possible your illness is even cultivating good qualities in your children. In fact, some of the world’s greatest functional medicine researchers and innovators who have helped countless numbers of people discovered their passion because of their mother’s autoimmune illnesses.
A chronic autoimmune illness means days when energy is low or non-existent, or when brain fog, pain, anxiety, or depression rule. Regular life may include long treks to other cities or states to see a doctor who understands your condition and can help. Your diet is restricted and the house is void of junk food and sodas. Weekends may be devoted to batch cooking meals for the week and your autoimmune disease may require you to delegate chores to your kids. But none of this has to stand in the way of loving your kids and it may even make them better people.
The first case of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, was identified in NFL player Fred McNeill and confirmed after his death in 2015. However, CTE, which causes brain degeneration and dementia, is not confined just to football players. Anyone whose body receives repeated blows is at risk. This includes boxers, wrestlers, MMA fighters, extreme athletes, military troops, and more. You don’t even have to receive a concussion for your brain to suffer injury and damage from repeated falls, crashes, and body slams.
A recent study of the brains of deceased NFL players showed 110 out of 111 had CTE disease, a bitter pill for a sport that is a staple of American culture.
CTE causes symptoms of depression, memory loss, confusion, anger, loss of impulse control, and overall decline and changes in personality. Many former NFL players succumb to chronic mood, behavioral, and pain disorders that devastates their personal lives. A number have committed suicide.
If medical marijuana has done anything, it has been to educate us about our own endocannibinoid system (ECS) — a system of receptors on cells that play a role in inflammation, appetite, pain, mood, memory, and even cancer prevention. These receptors have come to light because they respond to compounds in cannabis, or marijuana.
A functioning ECS, which is vital to good health, produces its own cannibinoids and doesn’t need them from cannabis. For instance, the cannabinoid anandamide is so powerful researchers call it the “bliss molecule” because of its role in happiness and higher thought processes.
However, researchers have discovered some people have a endocannibinoid deficiency in compounds such as anandamide. This can lead to chronic pain disorders, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and more serious disorders. Some suggest this deficiency may be genetic.
We are increasingly learning the effects of traumatic experiences on the brain, and now, newer research shows these effects can be passed on to children’s genes. Research of Holocaust survivors showed that compared to control groups, their children exhibited genetic changes that increased the likelihood of stress disorders.
Other research shows post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can be passed on to offspring.
Plus, most trauma survivors are coping with the neurological effects of PTSD as they raise their children, which greatly shapes a child’s environment and responses to stress.
In functional neurology, we frequently work with the neurological fallout of PTSD, which can include not only being triggered to re-experience the trauma, but also heightened stress response, sensitivity to light, sound, and crowds, emotional instability, depression and suicidality, anxiety and insomnia, disassociation and numbness, and addiction.