The SOFLETE life is real. We live it daily and are constantly pushing the limits of our own capabilities. That standard of performance is accompanied by risk, we we gladly embrace, because the reward of pushing past limitations is so great. Often, our efforts are successful. But sometimes we fail, and sometimes we get thrashed. Hard. That’s what this series of articles will address. Topic numero uno: Concussion/Traumatic brain injury (TBI).
If you’re reading this, chances are half the people in your life (including yourself) have gotten rapped hard on the head from an IED blast, thrown off a dirtbike, walked drunkenly into a pole, or have faced off against the biggest guy in the platoon with a pugil stick. In addition, if you really are embracing the Die Living lifestyle, you’re pretty much always at risk of a blow to the head on any given day. We’ve all been knocked the fuck out at some point. And yes, the horror stories of what it can do to your brain and the side effects are out there.
So lets start with the front line of what we can do to help ourselves since we know the VA will take 12 years to give us Motrin. There is research coming out about over the counter supplements. It’s promising. Here’s the rundown.
Omega-3 fatty acids are currently the main focus of discussion and research. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (think fish oil supplements) has been suggested, perhaps prematurely, by many to improve healing and symptomology following a TBI. Right now some new clinical trials are combining coenzyme Q10, magnesium, resveratrol, curcumin, melatonin, and riboflavin with Omega-3’s. The combination has already been shown to have potential beneficial effects for migraines, so we are fairly certain they have some effect on neural health.
In 2014, following marketing and sales by a number of companies targeting military members and young athletes, the FDA released a statement which basically said that none of these things worked. Was this premature? Probably. The logic was that there was no concrete evidence yet that the Omega-3 fatty acids would help, and there was concern that those with TBI’s would shorten their recovery time because they took some pills. The message from the FDA should have been more clear. But these are the same people who approve depression medications while telling us to call our doctor at once if we experience any serious side effects such as:
- Very stiff (rigid) muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, feeling like you might pass out;
- Agitation, hallucinations, fever, overactive reflexes, tremors;
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, feeling unsteady, loss of coordination; or
- Headache, trouble concentrating, memory problems, weakness, fainting, seizure, shallow breathing or breathing that stops.
- Drowsiness, dizziness, tired feeling;
- Mild nausea, stomach pain, upset stomach, constipation;
- Dry mouth;
- Changes in appetite or weight;
- Sleep problems (insomnia); or
- Decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm.
I’d definitely get more depressed if I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t cum. Good job FDA. So while some sources recommend an omega-3 supplementation regimen immediately following TBI, the FDA has yet to release a statement in support.
There is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) currently underway that is showing promise of having a good constructive model. The RCT is testing the effects of a CoQ10+magnesium+riboflavin+omega-3 supplement on the prevention and healing of TBIs. Because of the multiple ingredients in the supplement, it is hard to figure out which one , or which combination might be responsible for prevention and healing. But separately we already have evidence that these supplements have effects based on animal studies.
The basic premise of supplementation is to attempt to repair cell death caused by the release of calcium that occurs in a TBI. Grunt version of the results: always look for EPA and DHA in your Omega-3 supplements. Most importantly - In order for them to have any effect in defending against TBI you have to be taking them before it happens. There are a few distinct effects of concussion including cell death, genome instability, and an inability for brain cells to maintain normal function. Right now research shows that Omega-3 supplementation before a TBI can reduce the level of cell death. Post concussion Omega-3 supplementation has been shown to assist in the maintenance of genome stability and cellular homeostasis and thereby reduce the level of injury the brain sustains.
Current consensus among experts is that more research is required before a definitive statement can be made regarding the effects of Omega-3 supplementation or other compounds on concussion prevention and management. But we know this: all of the supplements discussed have known benefits outside of preventing or helping to heal from TBI’s. There is absolutely no reason not to be taking them.
What we don’t want is you guys jumping on the bike again thinking your recovery time was shorter because you took some pills. If you get knocked out, make sure you go through the concussion screenings properly and insist on it if your doc is half-assing it. We want you to crush life on the daily, and we want to give you the tools to bounce back when you face plant.
1.) Ashbaugh A, Mcgrew C. The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Sports Concussion Treatment. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2016;15(1):16-19. doi:10.1249/jsr.0000000000000219.
2.) Nichols J, Floyd C. Evaluation of a Catalytic Oxidoreductant in Reducing Oxidative Stress and Neuroinflammation Following Repeated Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2015;87. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2015.10.247.
3.) Vitamin Therapy in Concussion Management: A Randomized Control Trial. Home. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/nct02382679. Accessed August 18, 2016.
4.) U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Can a Dietary Supplement Treat a Concussion? No! http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm378845.htm. Accessed August 18, 2016.