Omega-3s & Concussion Management
We know that nutrition is very important for our health and wellbeing, and that it plays a key role in the recovery of many illnesses and ailments, so why not use nutrition to assist with concussion rehabilitation. There are many nutrients that play therapeutic roles in concussion rehabilitation, such as Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAS). Through their anti-inflammatory potential, N-3 PUFAS are one of the most researched and effective nutrients in mitigating concussion associated symptoms, and therefore speeding up the recovery process.
A concussion is a form of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), where an mTBI is defined as a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain (1). When an individual suffers a concussion, the resulting hematomas and lacerations cause a vascular response, and the morphological and functional damage of the brain leads to axonal injury, inflammation and increased intracranial pressure, which can persist for days to weeks, and even months following the initial injury (1, 2).
N -3 PUFAs are compounds that have a structural role in the nervous system and are essential for neurodevelopment (1). Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is one of the essential n-3 PUFA fatty acids and is highly enriched in fish, such as salmon and tuna. N-3 PUFA, primarily DHA is most concentrated in the brain and retina, and has long been known for it’s anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects which has led to the increased body of science evaluating the ability of n-3 PUFA to play a beneficial role on the nervous system before, during and after an mTBI. Research has demonstrated that supplementation with n-3 PUFA which contains a high dose of DHA, before and/or after an mTBI, can protect against reduced cognitive function, memory, learning etc., while preventing and/or reducing neuroinflammation and improving neuronal repair.
In order for the effects of N-3 PUFAs to be effective in assisting the brain to heal, the brain must be saturated with high doses of n-3 PUFA. The U.S Food and Drug Administration recommends the summed intake of (EPA and DHA) 3000mg/day, while the American Heart Association advises up to 4000mg/day can be used in concussion treatment (3).
The Brain Health Education and Research Instituted Founder, Dr. Michael Lewis suggests the following omega-3 protocol following a head injury:
1. First week following the injury: Take 3000mg (DHA plus EPA) three times a day (total of 9000mg/day).
2. Second week following the injury: Take 3000mg twice daily (total 6000mg/day).
3. Ongoing maintenance & prevention: Take 3000mg once daily as an ongoing maintenance dose and for prevention of head injury.
N-3 PUFAs are essential, meaning they cannot be made in the body, and therefore, must be consumed in the diet. Sources of N-3 PUFAs include:
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, chia seeds, flex seeds, etc.)
- Oil (canola, safflower, flax)
- Leafy greens