Treating Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Concussion

by Dr. Melissa Carr, Dr. TCM

June 25, 2019

Did you know that roughly 1.5 million Canadians have sustained an acquired brain injury (ABI)? ABIs are brain injuries that are not congenital, hereditary, degenerative, or caused by birth trauma, and they fall into two main categories: non-traumatic brain injuries and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). This article will focus on TBIs, also known as concussions. They are being increasingly recognized and diagnosed, but I have noted in my own practice that they are still too often missed and left untreated for far too long.

Concussions can cause a variety of short-term and long-term health concerns, some of which can be severely debilitating. If you or someone you know has sustained one or more concussions, read on to find out what a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is and how to go about improving brain health after a head injury.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury caused by an external force, such as a hit to the head, whiplash, or even a seemingly innocuous fall. The brain is composed of about three to four pounds of delicate soft tissue that can be compressed, stretched, and pulled. To keep this very important organ safe, it is encased by a hard skull and it is covered by three protective layers of membrane. Floating in fluid, anything that causes a sudden speeding up or slowing down of the head causes the brain to move violently within the skin, causing injury.

There a variety of incidents that can cause a TBI, including vehicle accidents, sports and recreation activities, falls, and assaults.

What are concussion symptoms?

Traumatic brain injuries can have a host of physical and psychological effects. Signs and symptoms of a concussion can appear shortly after the traumatic event or not until days or weeks later.

The following are general signs and symptoms of a TBI:

  • Persistent headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor balance
  • Increased sensitivity to light and noise
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Changes in personality or mood
  • Problems with speech
  • Short-term memory loss

If you have had a head trauma and notice any of the above symptoms or signs, you should visit a medical health care practitioner as soon as possible.

It’s important to note that while early signs of a concussion might include someone passing out after an impact to the head, neither loss of consciousness nor head impact are necessary for a person to suffer from a TBI.

In my own practice as a Dr. of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), I have assessed and treated several previously undiagnosed TBIs. One patient came in for back pain, but also presented with an altered mood and slowed speech after a fall in an exercise class (he did not hit his head). Another came in for headaches, fatigue, sleep problems, and mood changes after falling from his bike (he also did not hit his head). And another came in for extreme fatigue and headaches after a sport impact injury (tackled, but no impact to head). So, pay attention to signs like these and make sure to be assessed and treated.

What are some remedies for brain injury recovery?

When it comes to recovering from a brain injury, there are a variety of things you can do to speed up the process, including reducing screen time, limiting exposure to bright lights and loud sounds, staying hydrated, eating food rich in antioxidants, and getting plenty of rest.

Mikei and Reishi cultivationResearch has shown that reishi mushrooms may reduce inflammation in the brain, protect the brain from toxins and cellular damage, and even help foster nerve growth in the brain. Note that in order to get the full range of health benefits from Japanese red reishi mushroom, it’s important to use the whole mushroom, including the fruiting body, and not just the mycelium.

TCM also uses reishi mushrooms (called ling zhi) to calm the nervous system, helping improve restful sleep, providing much needed rest time to support the brain’s healing process. As an adaptogenic, this powerful mushroom helps the body to adapt to stressors while providing a feeling of more energy without overstimulation.

If you are looking for a natural remedy for brain injuries, Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) is an effective and safe supplement to treat concussions. These fantastic fungi contain a plethora of bioactive compounds, including sterols, polysaccharides, and triterpenoids that have a wide range of beneficial health effects.

Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology. In practice since 2001, Dr. Carr has a passion for sharing health information. She has been a nutrition instructor and a health consultant, lecturer, and writer for 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, Fraser Health Authority, UBC, and the David Suzuki Foundation, amongst others.


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