Post Concussion Syndrome, Chronic “Mild” Traumatic Brain Injury
According to the Centers for Disease Control statistics1, 1.4 million people
in the United States sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. Of these,
50,000 die, 235,000 are hospitalized, and 1.1 million are treated and
released from Emergency Departments. Physical recovery is often rapid,
but emotional instability and slowing of the intellect seem to be more
long-lasting and very debilitating effects. The brain scans are normal,
but function is clearly not normal.
Sufferers experience significant physical, cognitive and emotional problems,
even from mild traumatic brain injury.
Physical symptoms may range from headaches and dizziness to fatigue, sleep
disturbance, light and sound sensitivity, sexual dysfunction, nausea,
vomiting, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and seizures.
Cognitive symptoms include poor attention and concentration, forgetfulness,
poor short-term memory, slowing of neural processing, disturbed complex
thinking and organization, word substitutions, word reversals.
Emotional symptoms may include easy irritability, low frustration threshold,
anxiety, depression, explosive temper, and sensation of easy overloading
by too much stimulation.
Recovery from traumatic brain injury
Rehabilitation, according to standard Western medicine, consists pretty
much of cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychotherapy and drugs to control
behavior, and “watchful waiting” until the condition heals
itself. In other words, “get over it” seems to be the message from
Is there no hope for those who are still having symptoms months to years
later? Does the brain really require pharmaceutical medications in order
to have a chance of healing? Do pharmaceuticals really help? Is there
no other way?
Indeed, there is tremendous hope… as long as we are careful about
first eliminating hindrances to healing (toxicities like certain foods,
heavy metals, organic pollutants, solvents), and second, providing the brain with specific
treatment to help restore its normal pathways. Beyond conventional medicine
and pharmaceuticals, there are many options available for both diagnosis
Blockages to healing
Food allergy or sensitivity is the first place to look. Chronic inflammatory reactions to the
gluten contained in wheat, barley, rye, and other gluten-containing grains can
cause tremendous brain dysfunction, with clear evidence of white matter
abnormalities even in the absence of abdominal or digestive symptoms.5
Genetics seem to play a role in healing as well. Apolipoprotein E4 genotype recover
from head injury less quickly than those with the ApoE3 or ApoE2 genotype.6,7
Nutritional status is important. Zinc deficiency can cause decreased survival from head injury,
and presumably by extension, impaired recovery.8 Significantly more inflammation
after brain injury was seen in zinc deficient rat brains than in those
whose zinc levels were adequate.9 Magnesium deficiency also has an impact
on brain recovery.10 The dietary supplement creatine may be protective
in the presence of brain injury. This protective effect seems to be related
to maintenance of mitochondrial function which is essential to produce
the energy needed for healing.11 Deficiency of iodine during intrauterine
growth is associated with marked brain dysfunction (called cretinism).12
body burden of toxicity is also significantly related to our ability to heal. Heavy metals like
mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead have a tremendous impact on our neurologic
function, starting with intra-uterine growth and continuing on into adulthood
and old age. The ApoE4 genotype has been used as a marker for mercury
toxicity, since people with that genotype are unable to excrete mercury
as well as the rest of the population. It is more than probable that mercury
and other heavy metals are also instrumental in delayed healing from head injury.
Even though the blockages to healing have been removed, and good nutritional
status has been restored, often the system has been sufficiently disrupted
for long enough that the symptoms are not yet completely relieved. Disorganization
of thoughts, problems with planning and short-term memory disturbances
continue to be an issue.
2 Fleminger S.
Managing agitation and aggression after head injury. BMJ 2003;327:4-5 (5 July).
3 Feeney DM, Gonzalez A, Law WA.
Amphetamine, haloperidol, and experience interact to affect rate of recovery
after motor cortex surgery.
Science 1982;217: 855-7.
4 Tateno A, Jorge RE et al.
Clinical Correlates of Aggressive Behavior After Traumatic Brain Injury. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci 15:155-160, May 2003.
5 Kieslich M, Errazuriz G et al.
Brain White-matter lesions in celiac disease: a Prospective Study of 75
6 Friedman G , Froom P.
Apolipoprotein E-epsilon4 genotype predicts a poor outcome in survivors
of traumatic brain injury.Neurology. 1999 Jan 15;52(2):244-8.
7 Crawford FC, Vanderploeg RD et al.
APOE genotype influences acquisition and recall following traumatic brain injury. Neurology 2002;58:1115-1118.
8 Young B, Ott L.
Zinc supplementation is associated with improved neurologic recovery rate
and visceral protein levels of patients with severe closed head injury. J Neurotrauma. 1996 Jan;13(1):25-34.
9 Penkowa M, Giralt M et al.
Zinc or Copper Deficiency-Induced Impaired Inflammatory Response to Brain
Trauma May Be Caused by the Concomitant Metallothionein Changes.
J Neurotrauma Apr 2001, 18;4:447-463.
10 Hoane MR.
Magnesium therapy and recovery of function in experimental models of brain
injury and neurodegenerative disease. Clin Calcium. 2004 Aug;14(8):65-70.
11 Sullivan PG, Geiger JD.
Dietary supplement creatine protects against traumatic brain injury. Ann Neurol. 2000 Nov;48(5):723-9.
12 Sandstead HH.
A Brief History of the Influence of Trace Elements on Brain Function.
AJCN 43: 293-98 (Feb 1986).