Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries

Not all concussions occur on the football field or in the hockey rink. In fact, these traumatic brain injuries can occur from even the smallest impact to the head.  I’ve had elderly patients who have fallen and hit their head just enough to cause a concussion.  My sister accidentally smacked her head into a porch door, and you guessed it, was diagnosed with a concussion almost a week later.

            There is so much confusion as to what to do after a concussion, the most common form of traumatic brain injury.  The CDC recommends schoolteachers, nurses, and athletic coaches utilize the “Heads Up” program when evaluating and working with kids who have had a concussion. Although this can be helpful for students and athletes alike, it is still up in the air on what to do after a concussion for both youth and elderly.

            To understand proper supplementation and treatment of a concussion, it is important to understand what is going on in the brain.  When trauma occurs, the brain bumps into the sides of the skull, causing it to bruise and shear where it hit.  This immediate impact causes secondary injuries such as swelling, inflammation, brain neuron dysfunction, and more. These effects can occur hours or even days after the trauma.  Avoiding activity and taking NSAIDs may not be enough to stop these secondary damages, especially if you continue to have symptoms. This is why it is critical to monitor the symptoms post concussion.

            Recognizing these injuries and providing proper care as soon as possible is imperative for recovery, as secondary injury mechanisms can continue far beyond the original incident and symptoms can persist for months.

Suggested Therapies for TBI


The hormone progesterone has shown profound neuroprotective effects that improve outcomes and reduce mortality following brain injuries in both females and males.  Progesterone has been shown to reduce cerebral edema, diminish inflammation, decrease glutamate excitotoxicity, and protect mitochondria cells in the brain.

            25-50 mg transdermally or 100-200 mg orally for women

            10-20 mg transdermally or 50-100 mg orally for men 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Your brain is 60% fat, and DHA (a type of Omega-3 fat) makes up about 15-20% of your brain’s cerebral cortex.  Because your brain is built from Omega-3 fats, it makes sense to give high doses following an injury.  These fatty acids inhibit cell death, help reconnect damaged neurons, and decrease inflammation.

            3000-4000 mg/day (*dosage may need to be altered in those using blood thinners)

Vitamin D

Most of us know that Vitamin D is an important immune system and inflammatory regulator, yet up to one-third of the US population is deficient.  After a concussion, Vitamin D can help decrease inflammation, promote proper brain cell growth and connections, and help with proper neurotransmitter release.

            5000-10,000 IU/day 


If you use the spice turmeric, then you are using the important antioxidant called curcumin.  Curcumin has been found to reduce the damage in the brain, reduced edema, decrease cell death, and stimulate new growth and connections. The best way to get a high dose is curcumin suspended in a lipid with black pepper extract.  Black pepper increases curcumin absorption over 2000% and must be taken with fat (lipid) in order to be fully absorbed.

            2-4 g/day   

Low-Level Light Therapy

LLLT is a non-invasive, pain-free, light-based therapy that uses a combination of red and infrared light to stimulate brain cell regeneration, prevent tissue death, reduce inflammation, and much more.  The light is able to produce a particular wavelength that stimulates a biological response in the brain.  LLLT will have to be performed by a licensed doctor.  The treatment takes about 10 minutes and the light is placed directly on the head near the location most impacted.


There is all sorts of research showing the ketogenic diet to be beneficial for a multitude of neurologic conditions, such as: epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, hypoxia, ischemia, traumatic brain injuries, and more.  This diet is composed of 80-90% healthy fats, adequate protein, but limited carbohydrates. Instead of the brain using glucose for energy, it relies on the liver to convert fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies that serve as an efficient alternative fuel for brain cells.  Any athlete at risk of head injuries should be in ketosis as a preventative measure.

If you or someone you know may have suffered from a traumatic brain injury, make sure they get proper care by a trained doctor as soon as possible.